COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Undersecretary of Agriculture Elsa Murano has been named to the joint positions of vice chancellor and dean of agriculture and life sciences at Texas A&M University and director of the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station, effective Jan. 3.
The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents at College Station formally appointed Murano to the key agricultural positions during a telephone meeting after naming her as the sole finalist last month to succeed Ed Hiler, who is retiring.
“We are obviously pleased that Dr. Murano is returning to Texas A&M and will lead our agriculture program,” said Regents Chairman Lowry Mays. “We are confident she will effectively build on the program’s strengths, providing the leadership that will further enhance its reputation for excellence in teaching, research and service at the state, national and international levels.”
Prior to being appointed undersecretary for agriculture for food safety by President George W. Bush in 2001, Murano was a professor in the department of animal science at Texas A&M and holder of the Sadie Hatfield Professorship in Agriculture. She joined the Texas A&M faculty in 1995 and was director of the Texas A&M Institute for Food Science and Engineering-Center for Food Safety from 1997 until being named to the key USDA post.
At USDA, her responsibilities include oversight and direction for the management of the Food Safety and Inspection Service, which has an annual budget of $905 million and 10,000 employees.
“It has been a privilege and an honor to serve President Bush as his undersecretary for food safety at USDA, and in this way, to give back to my adopted country, which has given me so much,” said Murano, who was born in Cuba. “The last three years have afforded me a tremendous opportunity to enhance food safety in this country. I can leave Washington knowing that we have made a significant difference in improving public health through the application of science in all policy decisions.
“At the same time, I am very excited to be coming home to Texas, and to once again be part of the Texas A&M family. I am looking forward to the opportunities that lie ahead, and to working with the faculty, staff, students, and many stakeholders within Texas agriculture, which will ensure that our research, teaching, and extension programs excel, in total fulfillment of our mission as a land grant university,” she added.
Murano’s husband, Peter, also will return to Texas A&M as associate professor in the department of human nutrition and food science researching obesity and policy, she said. He currently is with USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service.
Texas A&M President Robert M. Gates applauded the regents’ decision, citing Murano’s “stellar credentials” in the academic and governmental arenas. He pointed out that her appointment will add a new dimension to the university’s emerging homeland security programs.
“We welcome Dr. Murano back to Texas A&M and look forward to working with her and benefiting from her varied experience in food safety and related areas,” Gates said. “We have every confidence that she will provide both vision and insightful leadership as vice chancellor and dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.”
G. Kemble Bennett, vice chancellor and dean of engineering and search committee chair, said the panel performed an “exhaustive review of the country’s finest agricultural leaders, and we fully support the appointment of Dr. Murano. She is an impressive individual with a strong background in both academia and the federal government, experiences that will serve her well in this important leadership position.”
Murano was assistant professor in the department of microbiology, immunology and preventive medicine at Iowa State University from 1990 until her appointment to the Texas A&M faculty.
Her bachelor’s degree in biological sciences is from Florida International University, awarded in 1981. Her master’s in anaerobic microbiology and doctorate in food science and technology are from Virginia Polytechnic Institute in 1987 and 1990, respectively.
While serving as a professor at Texas A&M and Iowa State, Murano was involved - as principal investigator or co-principal investigator - in research projects totaling more than $8.7 million, most while she was at Texas A&M. She has been widely published, as author or co-author of seven books, book chapters or monographs, and scores of scholarly papers, abstracts and related endeavors.
Texas A&M’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and its related agencies rank among the largest and most respected agricultural teaching, research and extension programs in the nation.
Kathleen Phillips is a writer for Texas A&M University.