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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Biographical Sketch of the Administrator's Office
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Chavonda Jacobs-Young, ARS Administrator

Chavonda Jacobs-Young

ARS Administrator    


Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young has served as Administrator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientific in-house research agency since February 2013.


Previously, Dr. Jacobs-Young had served as ARS Associate Administrator for National Programs, where she led the Office of National Programs, which manages the research objectives of the Agency, and the Office of International Research Programs, which is responsible for ARS’ liaison with its international partners. 


Prior to moving into her roles at ARS, Dr. Jacobs-Young served as the Director of the Office of the Chief Scientist at USDA, where she was responsible for facilitating the coordination of scientific leadership across the Department to ensure that research supported by, and scientific advice provided to, the Department and external stakeholders were held to the highest standards of intellectual rigor and scientific integrity.  She also served as the Acting Director for USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. 


Dr. Jacobs-Young has also served as a senior policy analyst for agriculture in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy where she supported the President’s science adviser and others within the Executive Office of the President on a variety of agricultural scientific activities and worked across the Federal Government to improve interagency cooperation and collaboration on high-priority scientific issues.


Dr. Jacobs-Young is a native of Georgia.  She holds M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Wood and Paper Science and a B.S. degree in Pulp and Paper Science and Technology from North Carolina State University.  She also is a graduate of American University’s Executive Leadership in Public Policy Implementation Program. 


Steven Shafer, Associate Administrator, National Programs 

Steven R. Shafer

Associate Administrator, National Programs   


Dr. Shafer has devoted his entire professional career to public service in the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and since May 2014, he has served as Associate Administrator for National Programs in the Agricultural Research Service. 


In this position, he is the senior leader and manager for planning, prioritizing, and budgeting ARS’ comprehensive agricultural research programs.  Prior to this appointment, he was Director of the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center (2012-2014), USDA’s largest research installation located just outside Washington, D.C.  He has also served as Deputy Administrator for Natural Resources and Sustainable Agricultural Systems in the ARS Office of National Programs (2008-2012), with concurrent appointment as Senior Advisor for Climate Science in the Office of the Chief Scientist, USDA (2009-2010).  Prior to that, he was the ARS Midwest Area Director (2006-2008), following appointment as the Midwest Area’s Associate Director (2005-2006), with senior management responsibilities for all ARS research in 8 states.  


Dr. Shafer’s other previous positions in USDA include ARS National Program Leader for Global Change research (2000-2005); Deputy Director for Environment and Plant Health in the USDA Office of Risk Assessment and Cost-Benefit Analysis (1998-2000); and risk analyst in the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (1997-1998).  During 1983-1997, he was a Research Plant Pathologist in ARS’ Air Quality-Plant Growth and Development Research Unit at Raleigh, NC, with concurrent faculty appointment in the Plant Pathology and Soil Science departments at North Carolina State University.  His research focused on interactions of air quality with plants, pathogenic and beneficial microorganisms, and soils. 


Dr. Shafer received the Senior Executive Service Meritorious Presidential Rank Award in 2011 and the USDA Secretary’s Honor Award in 2012.  He received a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture and a Master of Science degree from The Ohio State University and a Ph.D. from North Carolina State University, all in plant pathology.  He is a native of Marion, Ohio.

 Simon Liu

Simon Y. Liu
Associate Administrator, Research Management and Operations 


Dr. Simon Y. Liu has served as Associate Administrator for Research Management and Operations since February 2015. 

He previously served as Director of the National Agricultural Library (NAL), which serves as the central library for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and is one of the four National Libraries of the United States.  NAL is world’s largest and most accessible research library specializing in agriculture. 

Before joining NAL, Dr. Liu served as Associate Director of the National Library of Medicine (NLM) and Director of the NLM Computer and Communications System.  Prior to his service at NLM, he held leadership positions with the U.S. Departments of Justice and Treasury, following work in the private sector where he led information system development and space mission studies to support NASA mission and operations.

He attended university in his native Taiwan and pursued graduate studies in the United States, where he earned master’s degrees in Computer Science, Business Administration, and Government from Indiana University, the University of Maryland, and Johns Hopkins University.  He has earned two doctoral degrees: an Ed.D in Higher Education Administration and a Ph.D. in Computer Science from George Washington University.  He also serves as an adjunct faculty member with graduate school appointments at several of these institutions.

Dr. Liu is active in professional societies and associations and have served as the Editor-in-Chief of an information technology magazine and editor of four journals in the past 20 years.  Dr. Liu has published a book and more than 80 book chapters, journal articles, and conference papers.     

Last Modified: 9/8/2015