Matthew Holt, a professor from the University of Alabama, has been named head of the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics in Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He began his position in August.
“One thing that impressed me early on about the department was the obvious dedication and affection for it expressed by its students, alumni, and external stakeholders,” he said. “The department is highly regarded, both nationally and internationally, for its research, teaching, and outreach programs.”
After earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agricultural economics at Purdue University, Holt completed his doctorate in the same field at the University of Missouri-Columbia. He has held faculty positions at the University of Wisconsin, the University of Arizona, NC State University, Purdue University, and most recently, the University of Alabama, his academic home for the past seven years. He served as head of the Department of Economics, Finance, and Legal Studies at the University of Alabama for three years.
“We are pleased to welcome this exceptional scholar to the college. He brings expertise in microeconomic principles and theory, business forecasting, agribusiness, and applied econometrics,” said Alan Grant, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
Holt was drawn to Virginia Tech because of its Beyond Boundaries initiative, which he sees as the vehicle through which the university will position itself as a leading, global 21st-century land-grant institution.
“Few universities are currently taking the steps that Virginia Tech is in order to position itself for continued success and relevance in the rapidly changing world of higher education,” he said. “I am deeply honored to have the privilege to help lead the department during this period of exhilarating change and growth.”
Holt, whose departmental aspirations are bold, collaborative, and transdisciplinary, would like the university to be among the first to capitalize on the digital agricultural revolution.
“I want to create degree programs that would offer advance training to students in gathering and analyzing data by working with experts in other departments. Students with training in economics, analytics, and business are in hot demand in the market place,” he continued. “By developing these kinds of programs, we would be positioning them for success. And, in doing so, we also create new sources of data for research. It’s a bold new frontier.”
Holt, who was raised in rural Indiana on a farm that produced crops and livestock, is grounded in agricultural practices and has a clear-eyed understanding of the challenges farmers confront. He is deeply concerned about climate change and helping farmers prepare for and adapt to weather-related anomalies. He believes that universities should help citizens prepare for what is coming, including improving genetics to make crops and livestock more resistant to weather extremes.
He also sees food security as one of the century’s defining issues and is guided by the challenge of producing affordable, sustainable food and fiber in the midst of ongoing political, climate, and market uncertainty. He believes agricultural and applied economists are well positioned to provide unique insights into the benefits and costs associated with various strategies for ensuring food security.
Holt has published extensively in such journals as the Review of Economics and Statistics, European Economic Review, Journal of Applied Econometrics, and American Journal of Agricultural Economics. He has been an active member of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association and has served as an elected member of its Board of Directors.
“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to help the department and the college continue to build upon a foundation of core support in order to accomplish even greater things in the future,” he said.