Faculty Spotlight: Larry Van Tassell

Larry Van Tassell
Meet Larry Van Tassell, head of the Department of Agricultural Economics at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
February 8, 2021

About Larry

My family comes from agriculture and I grew up milking cows and enjoying the cowboy lifestyle in the mountains of Utah. I have a bachelor’s degree in animal science and a master’s degree in agribusiness from Brigham Young University and managed a couple of ranches before I went off to Texas A&M to get my doctorate degree in agricultural economics.

What is your position at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln?

I serve as the head of the Department of Agricultural Economics.

What drew you to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln?

My heart has always been with agriculture and for some reason, have always held Nebraska in high esteem throughout my life even though I was not raised, nor do I have any roots, here. I was attracted to Nebraska because it is one of the few states where agriculture plays such a strong role in the state’s economy. I also loved how the agriculture community looks to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as their source for education and information.

What aspect of working in an educational setting do you enjoy the most?

I truly enjoy all aspects of the Land Grant Mission. When I went to Texas A&M for my doctorate degree, my original desire was to return to the agricultural industry, but I started to really enjoy the research I was involved with and have always liked teaching. While I have never held an official Extension appointment, I have always loved working with our clientele on both sides of the farm gate.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

I may be able to claim some type of endurance award for being a department head for over 20 years; 11 years at the University of Idaho and now in my 11th year here. However, the project that brought me the greatest enjoyment was a contract with the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service to do a three-state study on the value of grazing on federal lands. I have never been involved in a study that drew so much regional and national interest.

What is something that most people don’t know about you?

Most people do not know that for the past nine years I have served as the religious leader for over 10 to 13 congregations in Lincoln, Nebraska City, Beatrice and Seward for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We have a lay (unpaid) ministry and membership give of their time in service. I have been able to direct the affairs of the church in this area, council members in need and speak in congregations on almost a weekly basis.

What is your life like outside of work?

Between having six children and 18 grandchildren and serving in our Faith, my life outside of work is pretty full. I used to love to hunt, fish and ride horses, including roping; but there will hopefully be more time for that in retirement.