University of Tennessee System President Randy Boyd and University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Chancellor Donde Plowman announced plans to recommend Carrie Castille as the new senior vice chancellor/senior vice president for the UT Institute of Agriculture at the next UT Board of Trustees Executive Committee meeting. Pending an affirmative vote of the board, Castille’s start date will be July 1. She will replace Linda C. Martin, who has served in an interim capacity since Tim Cross retired from the role in August 2021. Martin will return to her full-time position as the UT System’s vice president for academic affairs and student success.
A Louisiana native, Castille has championed agriculture and rural issues for more than 20 years. Currently serving as director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, she is a senior leader in the US Department of Agriculture. During her 14 months as NIFA director, 168 people were hired into or promoted from within the understaffed agency, employee satisfaction measures dramatically increased, and the agency resumed its national leadership role in 4-H.
Castille quickly scaled the ranks within USDA, joining as state director for Louisiana rural development in 2017 before being named the mid-south coordinator for USDA’s farm production and conservation mission area in 2019. She was appointed to her current position in January 2021.
Before joining USDA, Castille was appointed by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to the National Agriculture Research, Extension, Education, and Economics Advisory Board from 2010 to 2017. During this time she served as the board’s chair and was a delegate to the Association of Public and Land-grant University’s Council for Agriculture Research, Extension and Teaching.
“Tennessee’s number one economic driver is agriculture, so with a presence in all 95 counties, UTIA is a crucial asset to our state. Dr. Castille’s extensive and varied background in teaching, research, and extension will be invaluable as we look for innovative ideas to build on the impact UTIA already has on the lives of all Tennesseans,” said Boyd.
The senior vice chancellor/senior vice president reports to both the UT Knoxville chancellor and the UT System president. The position oversees and provides leadership to the Herbert College of Agriculture, the College of Veterinary Medicine, UT AgResearch, and UT Extension, and serves as the university’s chief advocate on issues of agricultural policy in support of the state. The SVC/SVP is fully responsible for administration and management of the institute’s units, including Extension offices in 95 counties, three regional Extension offices, four 4-H centers, and 10 research stations and educational centers.
“Dr. Castille will be a dynamic leader for the exceptional faculty, staff, and students at UTIA. I look forward to working with her to grow the number of students we graduate to support Tennessee’s agriculture economy while advancing agricultural sciences and translating that research to help Tennesseans,” said Plowman. “Dr. Castille’s expertise in higher education, state service, and the USDA makes her uniquely qualified to even further advance the culture of excellence and service that exists in our UT Institute of Agriculture.”
With the support of an executive search firm, a 19-member committee began the search process in December 2021. The committee narrowed the field to two candidates, who toured the state to meet with members of Tennessee’s agricultural community in February.
“Growing up in a small rural town surrounded by agriculture, I could see the value and importance of the industry every day. I focused my career on agriculture because it is so critical to our economy and to the health and well-being of the people we serve,” Castille said. “The UT Institute of Agriculture is ready to surge ahead in agricultural innovation, educating our next generation of scientists and leaders and serving the needs of farmers, ranchers, families, and communities across Tennessee. I’m honored to be selected to lead UTIA, in partnership with the UT System and stakeholders, to the endless opportunities ahead.”
In addition to her work with USDA, Castille previously served as associate commissioner and science advisor to the commissioner for the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry and as an assistant professor and an agriculture and natural resource cooperative extension leader at Louisiana State University. She was also a consultant at the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture Research Foundation and the USA Rice Federation.
Castille has been recognized by USDA with the Secretary’s Award of Excellence in 2003 and the Secretary’s Award for Excellence in Rural Development in 2018. In 2017, she became the first woman to be inducted into the University of Louisiana Lafayette College of Engineering Hall of Distinction.
A first-generation college graduate, Castille holds a PhD in renewable natural resources with an emphasis on environmental and public policy from Louisiana State University, an MS in environmental studies from Louisiana State University, and a BS in industrial engineering from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
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