ALEC Ph.D. Student Prepares for Role as Assistant Professor

Annie Graphic

By: Mollie Lastovica

Her passion for agriculture and communications led her to study more than 1,000 miles away from home. Come May, that same passion will transport Graduate Assistant Annie Specht 800 miles north of College Station as she begins her new position as Assistant Professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Specht grew up on a dairy farm in Northeastern Ohio. She attended Ohio State University and obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in agricultural communications and a Bachelor of Arts in English in 2008. With a desire to focus more on agricultural communications, Specht stayed at Ohio State and obtained a Master’s of Science in Agriculture and Extension Education in 2010. Enter Texas A&M University to the picture, where Specht began her ALEC Ph.D. program in July 2010.

“I enjoyed being in a big school and that is what made me first consider Texas A&M,” Specht said. “I didn’t intend to get a Ph.D., it just sort of happened. I met with [former assistant professor] Dr. [Traci] Naile and she convinced me to come here for my Ph.D.”

Specht encourages students who are interested in or unsure about graduate school to weigh their options before committing to a program.

“I stayed at Ohio State because I knew I wanted to get another degree in agricultural communications,” Specht said. “You have to weigh if what you will get out of it is worth taking the extra time and resources and you really have to enjoy research. Make sure it fits  your lifestyle and future.”

During her time in College Station, Specht has served as a Teaching Assistant for a multitude of agricultural communications and journalism courses, a task she thoroughly enjoys.

“I have gotten to lead teach for the first time in AGCJ 307 and have been able to design a couple of classes,” Specht said. “I taught a feature and magazine class one summer which was great and I have TA’d a lot of classes in things that I did not have a lot of experience in.”

She feels as if her experiences at Texas A&M have prepared her for the new position and even told the committee interviewing her for the new job that she had been able to do pretty much everything except officially advise students as a graduate student in ALEC. She will use these experiences as she begins her 75 percent teaching, 25 percent extension appointment on July 1.

“The Nebraska program relies a lot more on their school of journalism,” Specht said. “I will probably be teaching strategic communications and crisis communications, but they have not set the course schedule yet, so that is up in the air.”

Specht was drawn to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for both its Midwest feel and agricultural roots.

“I have enjoyed living in Texas, but I am ready to get back to the Midwest … I miss it,” Specht said. “It is a lot like Texas A&M with a good ag program and ag tradition which was really important to me. It seemed like a good fit.”

Her final semester at Texas A&M is in full swing as Specht prepares to graduate in May. She will defend her dissertation in March and is looking forward to experiencing Aggie traditions such as getting her Aggie Ring in April.

“I have a lot of hard work ahead, but also a lot of fun,” Specht said. “It has been a tough, but enjoyable two years.”

While she is excited for what lies ahead, Specht is appreciative for her time in Aggieland.

“I will miss the enthusiasm Aggies have for their school,” Specht said. “The Aggie Spirit is a really and crazy thing. I am going to miss that for sure.”

She is especially grateful for the department and people within it.

“I am really going to miss a lot of the people,” Specht said. “This is a big department, but it is like a really, crazy family. I am really going to miss the folks in ALEC. It has been a really rewarding experience and I am going to miss it.”

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