The current interim department head, Audrey McElroy, Ph.D., was named head of the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Department of Poultry Science, effective Nov. 1.

Audrey McElroy, Ph.D., was appointed to lead the Department of Poultry Science. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Sam Craft)

McElroy said she is passionate about, excited and honored to lead the department from which she graduated.

“We already have a strong legacy and reputation, but I want this to be the best poultry science department in the country,” she said. “Every decision I have made since taking the interim position has been rooted in creating opportunities for faculty, staff and student success, because their successes build upon each other. I look forward to creating more opportunities in service of our collective research, education and outreach missions.”

Jeffrey W. Savell, Ph.D., vice chancellor and dean for Agriculture and Life Sciences, expressed his appreciation for McElroy’s continued leadership.

“Dr. McElroy is the right leader at the right time. Her career has been spent mentoring students, conducting cutting-edge research, and helping the poultry industry solve critical issues through her extension efforts,” he said. “The outstanding leadership that Dr. McElroy demonstrated during her time serving as the interim head of the department was such a great indicator of her commitment to Texas A&M University and the Department of Poultry Science. I look forward to continuing to serve with her now that she has been named the permanent head.”

Meeting the mission as a servant leader

McElroy said the department is well-aligned among other national poultry programs but positioning it as the worldwide leader in poultry science research, education and outreach will take effort and investment.

As department head, McElroy said she is committed to servant leadership by putting the needs of others first, sharing ideas for strategic decisions to advance the department, and helping all perform to their best potential.

Her primary goal is to provide a productive environment for faculty, staff and students. This will require a commitment to excellence and purposeful stakeholder engagement, including partnerships with the poultry industry, state and federal policy makers and agencies, as well as commodity and professional groups.

To support this goal, she is dedicated to recruiting and retaining the best faculty and students as well as conducting facility renovations. McElroy believes a commitment to facility improvements will enhance student and faculty recruitment efforts and deliver better learning and research impacts.

As interim head, McElroy led various recruitment efforts and facility improvement projects, helping procure almost $6 million in donations from individual and corporate donors in support of department initiatives and infrastructure. 

A new intestinal health facility at the Poultry Science Research, Teaching and Extension Center is nearing completion. The facility is the first among poultry programs in the nation and will provide opportunities for cutting-edge research in support of poultry science.

The department has filled three faculty positions, including a lecturer, instructional assistant professor, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service program coordinator and is actively seeking a tenure-track assistant professor position for sustainable technologies in poultry production.

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McElroy said new faculty and state-of-the-art infrastructure will lead to more public and private investment in the department to support research, teaching and extension programming.

“I believe having the right facilities and people goes hand in hand when it comes to our ability to be the leading poultry science program,” she said. “Recruiting faculty is critical for us to increase our impact for stakeholders and our ability to grow both our undergraduate and graduate student numbers. And I think improvements to our infrastructure on campus, our research labs as well as our research facilities at the poultry research farm, are incredibly important in service of both.”

Embracing collaboration, facing challenges

The department has completed strategic planning to ensure its direction aligns with the land-grant mission and priorities for Texas A&M AgriLife Research, AgriLife Extension and the state of Texas. Similarly, McElroy said she is eager to collaborate with the department heads within the College to embrace the increasingly collaborative environment that could expand mutually beneficial teaching and research opportunities across the university.

Meeting the scientific needs for the spectrum of poultry production necessitates cross-discipline collaborations supported by a strong poultry science foundation, McElroy said. Increased and continued collaboration and engagement with stakeholders will strengthen the department’s dedication to such an important part of the global food supply.

“Technology and production are advancing rapidly in the poultry industry and all of agriculture, including implementation of remote sensing and artificial intelligence,” she said. “We have to adapt how we train the next generation of professionals and produce scientific outcomes that provide a sustainable path forward for our stakeholders, whether that is the commercial industry or someone with a backyard poultry flock.”

McElroy’s path to department head

McElroy’s career has always revolved around the heart of the land-grant mission – research, teaching and outreach – and she hopes to utilize that experience as department head.

She split her time between research, teaching and extension while at Virginia Tech before arriving at Texas A&M as a professor and AgriLife Extension specialist.

She has served as the chair of the Poultry Science Undergraduate Curriculum Redesign Committee, which redesigned the undergraduate degree program course content and outcomes.

McElroy has been a student advisor for more than 30 graduate students during her career while teaching and mentoring undergraduate students in the classroom and through major research projects. She is an advisor for the Aggie Poultry Ambassadors and Texas A&M Poultry Club.

Her research focuses include intestinal responses to common flock diseases like coccidia and necrotic enteritis and ways to minimize the impact of these enteric challenges on growth and performance in commercial broilers through dietary management. McElroy’s work in poultry has been published in hundreds of research and Extension publications.  

She is a member of the World Poultry Science Association, Poultry Science Association, Southern Poultry Science Society and American Association of Avian Pathologists. McElroy has received a number of professional awards, including the Novus International Scholar Award and the Poultry Science Association International Teaching Award.

McElroy earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in poultry science and her doctorate in poultry physiology from Texas A&M. She is excited about the future of the department and building on its rich history.

“I am most excited about continuing the legacy of this department,” she said. “That is a legacy of having world-renowned researchers and graduates who are in high demand and viewed very positively within the field. It’s a legacy of providing high-impact outreach programs that benefit our stakeholders, and it will take a collective commitment to excellence to build on that legacy and take the department to new heights.”