Debbie Reed describes her role as senior program coordinator in the School of Animal and Comparative Biomedical Sciences as “more behind the scenes.” Her colleagues would respectfully disagree.
Reed received one of two Agriculture, Life and Veterinary Sciences, and Cooperative Extension Outstanding Staff Awards in the spring of 2022 for her energy, dedication, and creativity in supporting ACBS faculty, students, extensionists, and external stakeholders.
“She is the most professional, capable, talented, and competent person that I have ever had to support my extension efforts in the 29 years I’ve worked … at three different state universities,” ACBS professor and Cooperative Extension horse specialist Betsy Greene wrote in her nomination letter for Reed.
“With every single project or program Debbie is involved in, she gives 110 percent to ensuring the success of that program and works hard to find common sense solutions that benefit everyone,” wrote Extension livestock specialist Ashley Wright.
Behind the scenes? Hardly. Those who work with Reed both inside and outside ACBS and Cooperative Extension describe a staff member who takes center stage when it comes to keeping a vast array of programs moving forward and thriving.
The support Reed provides is dependent on the individual needs of each program and based on project management best practices. She works with both internal and external stakeholders from across CALS, the university, and the state to determine need and ensure achievement of project outcomes.
This includes conducting events and conferences, designing and developing publications, writing content, creating and managing websites, preparing financial statements and records on program activities, and providing progress, status or other special reports as required for management or outside agencies.
Colleagues credited Reed for her invaluable support of a long list of programs, including the Arizona Livestock Incident Response Team (ALIRT)—apartnership between Cooperative Extension, the Arizona Department of Agriculture, and the Arizona Cattlemen’s Association—the Beef Quality Assurance Program, Range Livestock Workshops, Horse Extension Programs, the Food Safety Consortium, the SaferFoodCats Program, UA Food Safety Poster Sessions, and the ACBS Newsletter. Many also noted her proficiency at organizing virtual trainings and seminars during the pandemic.
“Debbie was my hero that summer; without her I don’t think our program would have succeeded,” added Margarethe Cooper, the Victor P. Smith endowed chair in food safety education.
Additionally, Reed worked to keep the Beef Extension program running when the Beef Extension Specialist position was vacant, a program that is crucial to the UA’s Land Grant mission and ranchers. She did not directly fill the role, but she coordinated with ACBS faculty and county extension personnel to ensure programing continued while “streamlining and adding value to them” by supporting webinars, maintaining databases, coordinating certification classes, and staying in communication with stakeholders.
“When I work with a project or program I always try to make it better,” said Reed, who has worked in ACBS (previously Animal Sciences) since 2007. “The faculty are ultimately involved but they have always brought me in and wanted to know what I think and bring to the table, not just to do the paperwork. There are lots of different personalities and I think I’m good at figuring people out and quickly determining what kind of support they need.”
Reed majored in equine science at Colorado State University, then worked at veterinary clinics while moving around the country following her husband’s Air Force career before they settled in Tucson. She said being able to work in ACBS and extension was a perfect fit for her.
“I’ve just always liked the people and being able to work with all the different programs I do,” Reed said. “It’s interesting to me, especially coming from a background where I have ties to equine, animal, and food safety, I get to still be involved with those projects and people and help them.”