Irlbeck Receives Promotion, Publishes Book

Erica Irlbeck received a promotion on October 1, 2023, to associate dean for outreach and engagement for the Davis College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources at Texas Tech University.

Irlbeck graduated with her bachelor’s degree in agricultural communications from Oklahoma State University in 1998. Immediately following undergrad, she worked for eight years in the field as a farm broadcaster in various locations. Eventually her career led her to the Lubbock area, and she decided to pursue graduate school full-time.

Irlbeck graduated from Texas Tech University in 2007 with her masters in agricultural communications and again in 2009 with her Ph.D. in agricultural education. After graduating with her doctorate degree, she joined faculty at Texas Tech as an assistant professor in agricultural communications. She was eventually promoted to associate professor, professor, and now, associate dean.

“A big portion of my new job is working on community partnerships for the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources,” Irlbeck said. “My goal is to bring a positive light to the ag college in the community, whether that’s in the Texas Panhandle region, the Lubbock community, or on campus. I also do some of our marketing and communication to further our teaching and research in these communities.”

She also published a book in August 2023 titled The Crisis Communications Guide for Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources. Irlbeck specializes in risk and crisis communications in the agriculture industry.

“In agriculture, we face risk every day. That can be natural disaster, zoonotic diseases, foodborne illness, fraud, or anything of that nature that interrupts business as usual,” Irlbeck said. “Most people don’t think about crisis communications until they’re in the middle of one. This book helps an individual or organization create a crisis communications plan, so that they’re prepared to communicate before that crisis hits.”

The book walks through the steps of assessing potential risks and helps people identify them. Readers also learn how to create a crisis communications plan that is right for their needs.

Early last year, Irlbeck also created a podcast named “So, You Talk to Cows? A Podcast for Agricultural Communicators.” What started out as an easier way to teach her classes has now morphed into a helpful resource that can be accessed by the public.

Irlbeck teaches “Intro to Ag Communications” each spring, and she likes to bring in several guest speakers over the semester; however, last year was a challenging time for guest speakers to come to campus.

“There was construction on a neighboring building that made it difficult to secure parking for our guests,” Irlbeck said. “So, I decided to start the podcast and simply upload the episodes for my students to listen to. I also knew I could use it for other classes, and I thought others might want to listen, too.”

The podcast changes each semester to focus on the class she is currently teaching. During the spring, she invites speakers to talk about introductory agricultural communications topics. In the summertime, Irlbeck supervises an internship class, so the topics switch to professional development skills. In the fall semester, she teaches risk and crisis communications.

The podcast can be found on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Prime Music.