Nineteen years of teaching courses on soil and crop management
systems at CSU has paid off for Gary Peterson. In July, he was
appointed the new department chairman for the Department of Soil
and Crop Sciences, beating out the 20 other applicants from across
Peterson said he applied for the position because he “decided
that at this stage in my career, I would like to try to have an
impact on people and I thought this would be a good way to try and
improve our department’s outreach to the state of Colorado.”
Marc Johnson, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences, said
Peterson was chosen because of his excellent research and teaching
record, his communication skills, and his leadership
“His display of leadership skills has been superior for a long
time in major multi-state projects as well as what he revealed
during the interview about his thoughts on leadership qualities for
managing the faculty and student group,” Johnson said.
He is confident that Peterson will succeed in his new
“He is very faculty- and student-centered in that he wants to
create an environment where faculty and students can succeed. He
has a very stable and mature personality in his approach to
handling issues. He’s got a stable hand,” Johnson said.
Jack Fenwick team-teaches two courses with Peterson and
commended him on his attitude.
“He has this reputation of being very conscientious and
concerned about the success of agriculture in general and soil and
crop sciences in specific and he has a lot of skills that are
needed to lead diverse faculty members in a direction we need to be
going,” Fenwick said.
Johnson said the department chairman has many responsibilities,
including managing facilities such as campus and field labs,
leading the department’s faculty and staff, and also managing the
“In these times, budget management has become a very tricky job.
We’re asking department heads to the leader of their department in
fundraising and grant mentoring in faculty because these days,
growth and funding has to come from our own initiative as opposed
to public grants,” he said.
Peterson said his most immediate goal as the department’s
chairman is to help the department adjust to this year’s budget
“The main thing we need to do is improve the focus of our
department,” he said. “We have a really tight budget and we can’t
do everything we’ve always done so we need to refocus and pick out
the things that are most important for us to be doing for CSU and
the state of Colorado.”
Peterson’s expertise lies in the area of soil water conservation
and erosion control. His most recent research has been in water
conservation in dry-land agro-ecosystems; he recently helped
develop a plan that yields more crops while saving water.
However, Peterson said his most prized accomplishment is not his
research but his teaching career.
“I’ve taught a lot of undergraduate students and I feel that
I’ve made contributions to lots of individuals over time who are
now serving the public. My work with students is my number one
contribution,” he said.
His teaching career spans nearly four decades; Peterson taught
for 17 years at his alma mater, the University of Nebraska. He came
to CSU in 1984 because of the challenge of creating a new
“I changed my research emphasis a little bit and I was able to
start a new program they didn’t have at CSU,” he said.
Peterson, 63, has a wife and two married daughters, along with
four grandchildren. He enjoys skiing and weightlifting.