Oct 212003
Authors: Lindsay Robinson

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

the nation.

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.




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