Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Deborah Dunsford

Texas A&M University professors are here to help their students learn, but in the process they may gain a bit of knowledge themselves. This is the case for Dr. Deborah Dunsford, a senior lecturer and academic advisor for agricultural communications and journalism in the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communications (ALEC), who is also doing research in issues management.
Dr. Deborah Dunsford, known by her students as “Dr. Deb,” said she became interested in issues management when she took her first faculty job at Texas A&M in ’94. She said her area of interest involves how agricultural food commodity groups use issues management as a public relations strategy.
“Do they use methods that would help them identify potential issues to their organization as part of routine activities?” she said. Dr. Deb said her reason for researching issues management was because it is part of public relations.
“The idea is that agriculture for years has thought it didn’t need public relations,” she said.
Using eggs and cholesterol as a prime example of issues management she said, “Eggs, for many years, had the reputation of being high in cholesterol, and research later showed cholesterol in our bodies is naturally occurring and [the] egg producers took the heat for something they had no control over.”
“That’s something that really interested me,” she said. “Did food commodity groups have in place a mechanism for being on the lookout for issues, for things that might come up and might potentially cause them problems, before they got to the point of being a crisis?”
Dr. Deb said over time there have been many issues with food products.
“Are there ways these groups could be paying attention to stuff that might come up, hints of what’s out there so they can be more ready to deal with the issues that are going to come with it? Are we ready for this? How can we respond?” she said. It seems almost impossible to imagine Dr. Deb doing anything other than teaching but her professional experience extends beyond the classroom. She has worked freelance for agricultural newspapers, city and daily newspapers and national magazines. She worked for a top-10 public relations firm and an advertising agency as director of public relations. She has also worked with clients including yacht companies, agriculture chemical companies, banks, state agencies and auto body paint companies.
Dr. Deb teaches the following courses for the ALEC department at Texas A&M: – Introduction to Agricultural Communications – Theory and Practice of Ag. Public Relations – Theory and Practice of Ag. Publishing – Advanced Ag. Public Relations – Ag. Media Writing I – Ag. Media Writing II – Editing for Ag. Media – Electronic Media for Print – Writing for Professional Publication
Dr. Deb said if she were not a professor she would probably be working for a non-profit, or some kind of state agency in a communication specialist position.
“I had an opportunity to work at a hospital as a public relations person,” she said “and I think I would have enjoyed that.”
Despite her other opportunities, we are so glad Dr. Deb chose Texas A&M and so is she. “It’s what I love best about what I do—seeing when the student gets it, seeing the light come on. When a student you know has been struggling with something, suddenly it clicks and they get it…that’s the most fun,” Dr. Deb said. Her passion for educating students reminds us why we hold our faculty in such esteemed respect and at the same time so dear to our hearts.

Comments are closed.