ASABE, American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, is recognizing one of Agrible’s own, Michael Hirschi, Ph. D., Senior Sustainability Advisor, as a Grade of Fellow. This is ASABE’s highest honor. To be considered, a candidate must have actively worked in engineering for 20 years, and have been an active ASABE member for 20 years.
We are proud to have Michael Hirschi on our Agrible team, where his contributions have helped the company grow and succeed. We sat down with Hirschi to hear more about becoming an ASABE fellow and what it means to him.
Congratulations on this recognition! You have an impressive background- tell us more about your experience.
I received my Bachelor of Agricultural Engineering from the University of Minnesota in 1978, my Master of Science in Agricultural Engineering from the University of Minnesota in 1980, and my PhD (Agricultural Engineering) from the University of Kentucky in 1985. I joined the faculty of the Agricultural Engineering Department (now Agricultural and Biological Engineering) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1985 as an Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist in Soil and Water Resources Engineering. I was promoted to Associate Professor in 1991 and to Professor in 1999. I became Associate Head of the department in 2006. In 2008, I switched gears a bit and became Assistant Dean - Undergraduate Programs in the College of Engineering. I stepped away from UI (briefly) in 2012, retiring and becoming Professor Emeritus, I was asked to come back part-time doing special projects and advising undergraduates in the College of Engineering. I am still doing that about 40% time while working about 35% time at Agrible.
I was Chris Harbourt’s (Agrible’s CEO and founder) major professor for both of his graduate degrees (MS in 1999, PhD in 2002) and also served on the graduate committees of Paul Miller (MS) and Bill Northcott (PhD). Along the way, I was undergraduate advisor for Luke Zwilling. All of these men are Agrible founders.
What professional work are you the most proud of?
The professional work I am most proud of is not necessarily the research or outreach, but the impact I have been able to have on students. For example, I teach-taught a course with two other professors (Phil Buriak in ABE and Randy Westgren in Ag Econ) called “Humanity and the Food Web”. We taught it one evening a week for 3 hours. It was a campus general education class, carrying both a Humanities and an Advanced Composition designation. Every semester we taught it, the 65-75 seats (depending upon the room we were assigned) filled within the first few days of registration. We had students from all over campus and got notes and emails from them long after they took our class.
The success of Chris, Paul, Bill, and Luke with Agrible is something I am particularly proud of being connected to and continue to help as I can. There are many other past students as well with whom I stay in touch and help as I can.
A related area I am proud to have been able to do is engineering accreditation. I volunteered to become an ABET Program Evaluator on behalf of ASABE to visit and evaluate agricultural engineering and biological engineering undergraduate programs. After a few years of reviews, other volunteers for ABET had their situation change, and I found myself being asked to serve on the Engineering Accreditation Commission (EAC) of ABET as one of ASABE’s members. One of the duties of EAC members is to lead teams of evaluators on campus visits. As my 5-year term on the EAC came to a close, I was asked to serve a 3-year term on the EAC Executive Committee, which I am on now, and continue to serve as a Team Chair as well as edit the materials submitted by other Team Chairs to get them ready for EAC action. I have led teams all over the US and to international institutions.
What does becoming an ASABE fellow mean to you? Do you have any new responsibilities for being a Fellow?
It is an honor to be included in a group as prestigious as ASABE Fellows. There are no new formal responsibilities, but becoming a Fellow makes you want to contribute even more, given the Fellows are looked upon as the leadership of ASABE.
How long have you been a member of ASABE and what is something that you’ve had an opportunity to do because of it?
I will have been a member of ASABE for 40 years as of this coming September. The engineering accreditation work is something I’ve been able to do through ASABE as well as serve as a member of the Board of Trustees of the ASABE Foundation.
What do you hope to gain from becoming an ASABE fellow?
Just the satisfaction of being recognized by my peers as a leader in ASABE and a fun time with friends and family in Spokane this coming July to celebrate.