Former K-State assistant dean takes office as Kansas Secretary of Agriculture

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She is known for being a K-Stater through and through; claiming to “bleed purple” while wearing purple almost daily. In addition to these notable traits, Jackie McClaskey, adjunct faculty, will now be known as the Kansas Secretary of Agriculture.

Today, McClaskey takes office.

The announcement was made last week that McClaskey would succeed former Kansas Secretary of Agriculture Dale Rodman. The appointment of McClaskey by Gov. Sam Brownback did not come as a surprise.

“It was important to us that we have a smooth transition,” McClaskey said.

McClaskey, who had been acting as assistant secretary, has been with the department since 2011. Prior to this, McClaskey was assistant dean to the College of Agriculture.

McClaskey grew up the daughter of an FFA adviser and was raised on her family’s farm. The enthusiasm McClaskey said she feels toward agriculture was fostered through agriculture being an aspect of everyday life growing up.

“My dad instilled a love and passion for agriculture,” McClaskey said.

Additionally, McClaskey said that while she credits her dad first and foremost in inspiring her to work in agriculture, it was Barry Flinchbaugh, professor of agricultural economics, who definitely influenced her to pursue agricultural policy as her career path.

“It is important for students to recognize that a professor or even a single class can develop a drive to work in a select field,” McClaskey said.

Jordan Hildebrand, senior in agricultural communications and journalism, is a student who has been directly impacted by McClaskey herself. Hildebrand met McClaskey when she was running for a Kansas State FFA office. McClaskey facilitated the process of gathering the candidates for interviews and gave pep talks and advice throughout the process. According to Hildebrand, McClaskey “generally helped us to be better candidates.”

“Jackie always encouraged me to be the best version of myself,” Hildebrand said. “I’ll never forget when I wasn’t elected to a State FFA office, she pulled me aside gave me a huge hug and told me, ‘If you ever need anything, please just give me a call.’ That small gesture was exactly what I needed, and it really showcases who Jackie is. She cares so much about people, especially the young people in agriculture, that she works with and she will bend over backward to help you succeed.”

Hildebrand said that the few interactions she has had over the years with McClaskey have had a huge impact on her.

“She is the perfect person for this position. She is so intuitive, but yet she is caring in unexpected ways,” Hildebrand said. “Sometimes I think she knows me better than I do. She is one of the most brilliant people I have ever met, but she is entirely dedicated to bettering Kansas agriculture. KDA, and the Kansas agricultural industry, is lucky to have her.”

McClaskey said she will continue to be adjunct faculty for the university as long as K-State wants her.

As of now, McClaskey signs a contract each year to be an adjunct faculty member and continues to be a volunteer adviser for the K-State Blue Key Senior Honorary. The faculty position allows McClaskey simple staff privileges such as having a key to a building.

“She [McClaskey] cares about Blue Key a great deal,” Reagan Kays, Blue Keys president and senior in agribusiness, said. “We [Blue Key members] are not worried about her move to secretary [effecting her role as adviser] we are excited.”

The K-State position has allowed McClaskey to also be more engaged with students, even with being second in command at the KDA. This alliance will continue to offer an opportunity for McClaskey to be available to students.

During summer 2014, the main office of the Kansas Department of Agriculture will move from Topeka to Manhattan. With the agency being adjacent to K-State, students will have the chance to have a more hands-on experience within agriculture in relation to government and its effects on the state.

McClaskey said that the agency is better able to serve as a model for students, specifically agricultural students, with its closer proximity. With McClaskey’s appointment, she said she hopes to increase the connection between individuals from her agency and K-Stater’s.

The movement of the office and coalition between the college of agriculture could include ample opportunities for students.

McClaskey said she hopes that more agency members are able to become adjunct faculty for the university, even if just to teach one class.

“We can always use more teachers and they are a qualified group of people,” Don Boggs, associate dean of the College of Agriculture, said.

Boggs also said that with the close proximity of the department to K-State there could be a possibility of joint facilities in the future. While there are no set plans for this currently, the agriculture departments may still be able to utilize one another’s resources.

“We have had students do a lot of internships during the summer [through the department]” Boggs said. “The move makes it easier for students to do them during the school year.”

McClaskey said there is no way she would have ended up where she is today if it were not for an internship she had with Brownback when he was the Kansas Secretary of Agriculture.

“It opened my eyes to [what I wanted] to do and influenced my choices toward ag policy as a career,” McClaskey said. “It is interesting what an internship can do for a student.”

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