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NMSU alum Rod McSherry returns to College of ACES as Gerald Thomas Chair

Traveling full circle is nothing new to New Mexico State University alum Rod McSherry. He has gone from Deming, New Mexico, and back to Deming, and from Washington, D.C., back to Washington.


Man in black sweatshirt next to young boy
Rod McSherry, New Mexico State University Gerald Thomas Chair for Global Agricultural Initiatives, is seen next to a boy while assigned to Afghanistan during his career as Foreign Service Officer with the USDA. (NMSU courtesy photo)
Three men standing in front of airplane
Rod McSherry, New Mexico State University Gerald Thomas Chair for Global Agricultural Initiatives, welcomes U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry (left) and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack (center) to Afghanistan. (Courtesy photo)

He has come full circle once again.

McSherry received a master?s degree in international agriculture from NMSU in 1986 and has returned to the NMSU College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences as the Gerald Thomas Chair for Global Agricultural Initiatives. His position is that of an endowed chair that honors former NMSU President Gerald W. Thomas.

After receiving a bachelor?s degree in animal science from NMSU in 1984, McSherry was one of the first students to receive a master of agriculture from NMSU.

While working on his master?s, he took part in a cooperative with the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service in Washington, which led to a 28-year career as a Foreign Service Officer. Following a stint in Washington, he headed to Moscow for his first assignment with the USDA in 1989.

He would not be assigned to U.S. soil for another 22 years.

From 1989 to 2011, McSherry had assignments in Moscow, Mexico City, Caracas, Bangkok, Baghdad, London and Afghanistan. He had the responsibility of assessing the local agriculture situation in terms of global food security.

?My objective was to analyze and report on what was going on in those key partner countries regarding agriculture,? McSherry said. ?We wanted to know what they were producing, what they were consuming, what they were putting on the market and what they were taking off the market. Was there an opportunity for U.S. agriculture, for exports??

While assigned to non-conflict countries, McSherry?s job was to determine whether there were events that would affect agricultural production in the United States, such as policy decisions, legislation, increases in productivity, changes in land policy or changes in water access.

?I needed to know what was going on in that country that would have an impact on the American ability to export food, agriculture, beverages, anything made of agricultural products, to that country,? McSherry said. ?Conversely, what were they doing in that country that might mean trade flow was coming to America??

McSherry?s responsibilities also included international trade policy. He worked closely with the World Trade Organization to ensure countries were transparent in what they did agriculturally.

However, priorities shifted for McSherry when assigned to war zones or post-war zones.

?When I arrived in Iraq and Afghanistan, it was different; it was more of a reconstruction job,? he said. ?There was an immediate food security need. In a conflict or post-conflict situation, all trade mechanisms are disrupted, so we were trying to figure out if there was something immediate we needed to do to make sure that food was flowing, despite wars going on.?

McSherry?s final assignment was in Washington, where he remained for a year to wrap things up before leaving his Foreign Service career in 2012.

He returned to Deming, where he helped manage his family farm, ranch and feed lot.

After expressing an interest in helping NMSU on an international level, McSherry received good news from College of ACES Interim Dean Jim Libbin.

?The associate deans got together and we decided having Rod with us would be a great use of the Gerald Thomas Chair,? Libbin said. ?Gerald always supported internationalization and agriculture on the global level, and if he were here today, I know he?d be very happy.?

Libbin said Cornell Menking, associate provost for NMSU?s International and Border Programs, is already doing great things for the university regarding internationalization, and he is confident McSherry will add to those efforts.

?Rod?s efforts will concentrate on agricultural development and institutional capacity building projects, an emphasis that will complement, rather than compete with, the great efforts of NMSU?s Office of International and Border Programs.?

Branding and identity is a priority needed to get the NMSU name in front of appropriate donor organizations so that the Colleges of ACES will be called on for assistance, according to McSherry.

?For instance, it would be very important for global security if there is economic stability in a certain country,? McSherry explained. ?Agriculture may be very important, but who?s going to implement those ag projects? Part of it, without fail, involves ag research, ag education, some sort of extension, food and nutrition, which takes us straight back to the ag college at NMSU.?

In such a scenario, McSherry said NMSU personnel would assist that particular country?s researchers with a crop conducive to its environment.

With new ideas being put into action, Libbin said McSherry already has made an impact on NMSU and the college.

?He understands what we?re trying to accomplish, and he has already turned out great ideas and made great connections,? Libbin said. ?The fact that Rod has come back to NMSU speaks volumes about his loyalty and his desire to give back.?