Leadership and mentors of the Science Influencers program maintain the shared focus of equipping students to become effective scientific communicators and thought leaders.
Holli Leggette, PhD
Dr. Holli Leggette has over 10 years’ experience teaching communications, professional skill development, and research; she is well-known for publishing with undergraduate and graduate students. She received her professional association’s Early Career Scholar Award in 2017, Texas A&M AgriLife’s Early Career Research Award in 2019, and North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture Bob Gough Teaching Tip Award in 2021.
Gary Wingenbach, PhD
Dr. Gary Wingenbach has over 30 years’ experience in agricultural science research and education. He has mentored over 1,000 undergraduates in research, education, and extension experiences in the past 10 years. He has received the college and university awards for Distinguished Achievement in Teaching Undergraduates at Texas A&M University.
Barbara Gastel, MD
Dr. Barbara Gastel has over 30 years’ experience in teaching science writing and coordinating science communication internships. She is author of the books Presenting Science to the Public, Teaching Science: A Guide for College and Professional School Instructors, and Health Writer’s Handbook. She has been awarded the Texas A&M University Distinguished Achievement Award in Extension, Outreach, Continuing Education, or Professional Development.
The Advisory Board was established to represent scientific and public communications’ perspectives from industry and stakeholder groups. Advisory board members assist with programming ideas and may serve as mentors to undergraduates.
John Chivvis, M.A.
Virtual Engagement Specialist
John Chivvis (BA, MA Speech Communications, Texas A&M) is a Virtual Engagement Specialist for Texas A&M AgriLife and an Assistant Lecturer for the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications. Building on a 30-year career in marketing, branding, communications and education, John is passionate about learning, technology and the power of communication across traditional and new media. You will typically find him planning, producing or livestreaming events and seminars or teaching and training students, faculty and staff on topics ranging from hybrid event engagement to podcasting.
Whit Weems, Ed.D.
Whit Weems is the director of Organization at Texas Farm Bureau and is responsible for the young farmer and rancher, leadership development, educational outreach, youth outreach and urban outreach departments. Under his leadership, the division has expanded content, promotion, and efforts to reach agricultural and urban audiences. Weems began his professional career as a county AgriLife Extension agent and later went on to serve as an assistant professor in the Agricultural and Consumer Sciences department at Tarleton State University. He received a bachelor of science in Agricultural Services and Development, a master of science in Agricultural Education from Tarleton State University and a doctorate of education in Agricultural Education from Texas A&M University and Texas Tech University.
Vandana Suresh, Ph.D.
Senior Science Writer
Vandana Suresh has a diverse academic background, from a master’s in astronomy to a PhD in neuroscience. She is also trained in science writing and is currently the senior science writer at the College of Engineering at Texas A&M University. In her current role, Vandana leverages her academic training to write science-based articles on topics that include 3D printing, smart technology, self-healing materials and novel genetic engineering tools. She is also passionate about science outreach and mentoring students interested in a science journalism career.
Blair Fannin, B.S.
Blair Fannin works for Texas A&M AgriLife in executive and internal communications as part of Texas A&M AgriLife Marketing and Communications. He has been with the Texas A&M University System for more than two decades and is a Vice Chancellor’s Award recipient. He has served in a variety of roles within Texas A&M AgriLife involving news, media relations and public affairs serving the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and Texas A&M AgriLife Research. He has written extensively about agriculture and natural resources programming in agricultural economics, animal science, foreign animal diseases and production agriculture. He has a bachelors of science in journalism from Sam Houston State University.