Texas Tech University

Professor Wins USDA's National Teaching & Student Engagement Award

Norman Martin

November 11, 2021

Erica Irlbeck

Erica Irlbeck is a professor in the Department of Agricultural Education & Communications.

Erica Irlbeck, a professor of agricultural communications within the Department of Agricultural Education and Communications at Texas Tech University, has been named one of two recipients of the National Teaching & Student Engagement Award. The award, presented by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Excellence in College and University Teaching in Food and Agricultural Sciences national awards program, celebrates university faculty for their use of innovative teaching methods and service to students.

“I am completely humbled by this award,” Irlbeck said. “It is so rewarding to watch our students develop into excellent agricultural communicators. Great students and supportive co-workers make the job so fulfilling, and to be awarded in this way is one of the great honors of my career.”

Created to honor faculty members with a 75% or greater teaching appointment, the award recognizes a recipient's impact on student development within his or her discipline, interaction with students and implementation of a research-based approach to improve teaching. Irlbeck was selected by a committee of her peers from universities across the country because of her significant positive effects on students inside and outside the classroom.

“Dr. Irlbeck has a passion for what she does,” said Cindy Akers, interim dean for the College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources (CASNR). “She brings great commitment and enthusiasm to her students.”

Since joining Texas Tech's faculty in 2009, Irlbeck has taught students video production in agriculture, agricultural communications campaigns and professional development. Her research interests include risk and crisis communications, agriculture in television media and agricultural communications campaigns. In 2020, she received a Chancellor's Council Distinguished Teaching Award, one of the highest faculty honors in the Texas Tech University System. The award recognizes those who demonstrate excellence in teaching, service to the teaching profession, service to students, professional growth and scholarly activity.

Also that year, she was one of 90 individuals across the nation completing the national Leadership for the 21st Century (LEAD21) leadership-development program for faculty, specialists, program and team leaders, research station and center directors, district and regional directors, department heads, chairs and others in leadership positions in colleges of agricultural, environmental and human sciences.

Other recent honors for Irlbeck include the Texas Tech University President's Excellence in Teaching Award (2018); Association for Communications Excellence Award of Excellence-Academic Programs Learning Community (2016); and the Non-Land-Grant Agricultural and Renewable Resources Universities' Young Educator Award (2015).

She serves as faculty supervisor for Picador Creative, a communications service center established in 2014 by the Department of Agricultural Education & Communications. Picador Creative provides scholarships and hands-on experience to students while filling a much-needed role for agricultural organizations, businesses and individuals in the Lubbock and South Plains communities.

Prior to her academic career, Irlbeck worked in agricultural television news, farm radio, public relations and advertising. She received her doctorate in agricultural education from Texas Tech. Her bachelor's degree in agricultural communications is from Oklahoma State University and her master's degree in agricultural communications is from Texas Tech.