Hector Zapata, professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness, has been named interim associate vice chancellor for International Programs, a joint appointment between the LSU AgCenter and LSU A&M. He replaces Lakshman Velupillai, who will retire from that post on June 30.

“The AgCenter wants to express our gratitude to Dr. Velupillai for his dedication and phenomenal success in growing our International Programs office into a world leader,” said LSU AgCenter Chancellor Bill Richardson.

Velupillai has led the international effort in the AgCenter since 1993. During that time, more than $30 million in funding, much of it from the U.S. Agency for International Development, has been brought in. Major projects have been in Ukraine involving Extension agricultural education for farmers for $8 million and in several countries in Eastern Europe and Africa in food industry development to promote safe food processing for $10 million. 

Velupillai, a native of Sri Lanka, came to the LSU AgCenter in 1985 as an assistant professor in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering. His area of specialty was postharvest technology and processing of rice.

He has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Sri Lanka, a master’s degree in biological and agricultural engineering from LSU, and a Ph.D. in engineering sciences from LSU.

He rose to the rank of professor and in 1988 was appointed assistant director of International Programs for the AgCenter. He reported to H. Rouse Caffey, who then was chancellor and also directed the international education and development effort.

In 2008, the AgCenter’s and LSU A&M’s international program offices were combined, and Velupillai was promoted to associate vice chancellor.

Zapata, whose appointment as interim was effective May 15, has been in the agricultural economics department since 1987. He was appointed the William H. Alexander Professor in the department in 2006 and the Past Presidents of the LSU Alumni Association Alumni Professor in May 2012.

Zapata, a native of Honduras, received his B.S. and M.S. degrees in agricultural economics from LSU and his Ph.D. in agricultural economics from the University of Illinois in 1987.

“Dr. Zapata is highly regarded by and will work very well on both campuses to advance the operations of international programs,” said John Maxwell Hamilton, LSU A&M provost.

“Dr. Zapata’s experience working with international students and initiatives brings the leadership necessary to grow the reach of our international effort,” Richardson said.