James L. Herbert Executive Seminar Series Resonates With Students

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Agricultural Industry Leaders Provide Invaluable Perspective and Experience

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Momentum continues to build for the popular James L. Herbert Executive Seminar Series that brings top agricultural leaders into a classroom in the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture. The course provides students with an opportunity to learn from each executive’s experiences and perspectives and glimpse a range of professional possibilities.

Topics discussed in this course are driven by real-world matters and are taught by leaders at the forefront of agricultural issues, industries and policies.

Despite a year of COVID-19 challenges, more than half of this year’s speakers joined face-to-face, and the rest joined via Zoom. Students were given the same option, and those attending in person were able to do so safely with no instances of virus transmission.

Speakers for the 2020 seminar series included:

  • Tim Cross, senior vice president and senior vice chancellor, UTIA
  • Valerie Bass, executive director of the Tennessee Beef Industry Council
  • Wade Smith, vice president of OSI Group
  • Robert Brown, president and chief forecasting officer of Robert Brown, Inc.
  • Kent Kilpatrick, owner of the Apple Barn and Cider Mill
  • James Herbert, founder and former CEO of Neogen
  • Jeff Cole, president of Tenkoz
  • Keith Barber, vice chancellor of Institutional Advancement, UTIA
  • Alison Franklin, Corteva Agriscience, national accounts leader, crop protection
  • Donnie Smith, former CEO of Tyson Foods and UT Board of Trustees member
  • Peggy Smith and Sue Conley, founders of Cowgirl Creamery
  • Bill Johnson, president and CEO of Farm Credit Mid-America
  • Jerry Estes, lawyer and former Tennessee district attorney general
  • Rhedona Rose, Tennessee Farm Bureau executive vice president
  • Letti McKay, Tennessee Farm Bureau regional field director

The course is offered by the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics and cotaught by associate professors Chris Boyer and Karen DeLong. The seminar series recently benefitted from a generous endowment by alumnus James L. Herbert that will be used to enhance one-on-one time with speakers and to help recruit speakers for the class. “I was aware that our students needed to be exposed to C-Suite executives, both to give them opportunities to learn about different agriculture-related professions, as well as to speak and interact directly with the executives. Hopefully, the series provides a learning environment that benefits all parties – guest and students,” said Herbert, 1962 agriculture graduate and namesake of the Herbert College of Agriculture.

“It is rare for many students to interact with industry partners and leaders, but this class made that a weekly occurrence,” said Herbert College of Agriculture student Shelby Mainord. “This class afforded us a front-row seat to the wisdom and advice of these individuals, as well as exposure to their companies or industry. The ability to share space in person or virtually with these types of leaders will give us an edge over other students in our field and afford us knowledge that cannot be gained from a textbook.”

The AREC 395: James L. Herbert Executive Seminar Series will be offered again in fall 2021.

Through its land-grant mission of research, teaching and extension, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture touches lives and provides Real. Life. Solutions. utia.tennessee.edu.


Tina Johnson

Agricultural and Resource Economics


James L. Herbert