Institute of Agriculture Welcomes New Leader
Jul 13, 2022
With almost 25 years of experience in federal and state government and public higher education, Castille has developed a reputation as an expert in natural resource management and an advocate for agriculture and rural issues. Her long career in public service speaks to her deep commitment to making a lasting difference for communities and people across the country.
“Growing up in a small, rural town surrounded by agriculture, I could see the value and importance of the industry every day. I focused my career on agriculture because it is so critical to our economy and to the health and well-being of the people we serve,” Castille said. “The UT Institute of Agriculture is ready to surge ahead in agricultural innovation, educating our next generation of scientists and leaders, and serving the needs of farmers, ranchers, families, and communities across Tennessee. I’m honored to lead UTIA.”
Castille reports to both the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, chancellor, and the UT System president. The position oversees and provides leadership to the Herbert College of Agriculture, the College of Veterinary Medicine, UT AgResearch, and UT Extension and is the university’s chief advocate on issues of agricultural policy in support of the state. Castille is fully responsible for the administration and management of the institute’s units, including Extension offices in 95 counties, three regional Extension offices, four 4-H Centers, and 10 AgResearch and Education Centers.
“Dr. Castille’s leadership and expertise will help UT push the boundaries of agricultural innovation and meet the needs of one of Tennessee’s oldest and most important industries,” said UT Knoxville Chancellor Donde Plowman. “I look forward to working with her to grow our workforce by graduating more students, advancing the university’s agriculture research, and supporting communities across the state.”
When Castille’s appointment was announced in March, UT System President Randy Boyd noted the importance of agriculture and the role of the senior vice chancellor–senior vice president. “Tennessee’s number one economic driver is agriculture, so with a presence in all 95 counties, UTIA is a crucial asset to our state. Dr. Castille’s extensive and varied background in teaching, research, and Extension will be invaluable as we look for innovative ideas to build on the impact UTIA already has on the lives of all Tennesseans,” Boyd said.
For Castille, the role represents a return to academia. She began her career as an assistant professor and agriculture and natural resource cooperative Extension leader at Louisiana State University. She left academia for roles in government, first on the state level as associate commissioner and science advisor to the commissioner for the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry. Next, she began a series of Presidential appointments within USDA, joining as state director for Louisiana Rural Development in 2017 before being named the Mid-South (Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Missouri) regional coordinator for USDA’s farm production and conservation mission area in 2019. She was appointed director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture in January 2021.
In 2010, Castille was appointed by USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to the National Agriculture Research, Extension, Education, and Economics Advisory Board, a position she held through 2017. During that time, she served as chair of the advisory board and was a delegate to the Association of Public and Land-grant University’s Council for Agriculture Research, Extension and Teaching. She was also a consultant at the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture Research Foundation and the USA Rice Federation.
Castille replaces Linda C. Martin, who has served in an interim capacity since August 2021. Martin was recently named interim chancellor of UT Southern.
A native of Louisiana and a first-generation college graduate, Castille holds a Ph.D. in renewable natural resources with an emphasis on environmental and public policy from Louisiana State University (LSU), a Master of Science in environmental studies from LSU, and a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from the University of Louisiana (UL) at Lafayette. In 2017, she became the first woman to be inducted into UL Lafayette’s College of Engineering Hall of Distinction.
Castille is expected to begin her service to UTIA with a series of visits with faculty, students, staff, and stakeholders across the state. She invites everyone to follow her on Twitter @UTIALeader.
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