Washington, D.C. – The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today honored four public university faculty with national teaching awards recognizing excellence in agricultural sciences teaching and student engagement. Michael Gonda of South Dakota State University and De’Etra Young of Tennessee State University were named national recipients of the national level Excellence in College and University Teaching Awards for Food and Agricultural Sciences. Dan Stein of Oklahoma State University and Jennifer Weeks of the University of Florida were named recipients in the national Teaching and Student Engagement category. The awards, which celebrate university faculty for their quality of teaching, service to students, the teaching profession, and scholarship of teaching and learning, will be presented as part of the 136th APLU Annual Meeting.
Six regional and two early-career awardees were also named recipients of the 2023 Excellence in College and University Teaching Awards for Food and Agricultural Sciences. In recognition of their scholarship, exemplary pedagogy, and dedication to instruction, the annual awards include stipends of $5,000 for the national winners and $2,000 for regional and early-career honorees to be used for improving teaching at their respective universities.
The six regional awards were presented to: A. Ozzie Abaye, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University; Laura Bowling, Purdue University; Kristen Govoni, University of Connecticut; Russell Hovey, University of California, Davis; Kathleen Boyce Rodgers, Washington State University; and Stephanie Yarwood, University of Maryland, College Park.
Logan Britton, Kansas State University, and Brandy Phipps, Central State University, each received best early-career teacher honors.
“We applaud the 2023 winners of the Excellence in College and University Teaching Awards for Food and Agricultural Sciences,” said Wendy Fink, Executive Director of the Academic Programs Section at APLU. “Through their dedicated and focused passion in mentoring and instruction, they serve as inspirational leaders for their students and other faculty striving to serve their students better.”
Details on the 2023 recipients of the National Excellence in College and University Teaching Awards for Food and Agricultural Sciences and National Teaching and Student Engagement:
Michael Gonda, South Dakota State University
Dr. Michael Gonda is a Professor in the Department of Animal Science at South Dakota State University. He teaches a wide range of students, including freshman to veterinary students. Gonda also teaches face-to-face, online, and experiential learning courses. He has led or co-led eight education abroad classes to five countries, created a unique experiential learning opportunity for Honors students studying agriculture, and has been a regular invited speaker at SDSU on strategies to improve teaching.
Gonda serves as Chair of the Animal Science Student Activities and Recognition Committee. He advises or co-advises three student organizations and is an advocate for engaging minority students in Animal Science research. He has a passion for including undergraduate students in research. He has won numerous teaching and advising awards on campus, including the Edward Patrick Hogan Award for Excellence in Teaching, College of Agriculture, Food, and Environmental Sciences Teacher of the Year, and Timothy Nichols Excellence in Undergraduate Advising awards.
Gonda strives to develop rigorous courses that are also fun and engaging. He exposes students to opportunities to learn outside the classroom, as these opportunities often impact students’ lives the most. He earned his B.S. (Animal Science) from North Carolina State University and M.S. and Ph.D. (Dairy Science) from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has been fortunate to have excellent mentors, colleagues, students, friends, and family who have supported him throughout his career. He’s especially grateful for his wife, Tiffany. He could not make an impact in his students’ lives without her support.
De’Etra Young, Tennessee State University
Dr. De’Etra Young is a distinguished scholar and educator with a deep-seated passion for urban forestry and environmental science. Holding a Ph.D. in Forestry from Texas A&M University, she has carved a notable career path that bridges academia and the pursuit of teaching excellence.
Young serves as the Associate Dean for Academics and Land-grant Programs and an Associate Professor in the College of Agriculture at Tennessee State University, where she has become a driving force behind innovative pedagogy and teaching excellence. Her transformative pedagogical approach has enriched the academic experience for students, equipping them with the knowledge and skills needed to address pressing urban environmental challenges.
Young is a recognized leader in undergraduate research in environmental science. Her mentorship has cultivated a cadre of aspiring researchers who have gained national recognition for their impactful contributions. She has played a pivotal role in creating opportunities for students to engage in research that addresses critical environmental issues.
Young is a sought-after authority in urban forestry and environmental science outside the classroom, frequently sharing her expertise at conferences and seminars nationwide. She is a visionary educator and researcher whose commitment to urban forestry, pedagogy, and undergraduate research in environmental science has left an indelible mark on academia. She has been awarded more than $30 million in funding as PI and Co-PI. Her work inspires the next generation of environmental stewards, shaping a more sustainable future for urban environments.
Young earned her bachelor’s (2004) in Urban Forestry at Southern University and A&M College, and a Master of Science (2006) and a Ph.D. (2010), both in Forestry from Texas A&M University.
Dan Stein, Oklahoma State University
Dr. Dan Stein is an associate professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences at Oklahoma State University where he joined the faculty in 2009. Stein’s understanding of research and his years of ranching and livestock experience give him a unique perspective of production agriculture. This perspective, combined with his passion for making a difference in the lives of young people, has been a successful combination when it comes to engaging students. Scenarios often used in the classroom are from actual events and situations from the ranch that draw on the student’s practical understanding of the subject matter to make their final working decision.
Over the years, Stein has instructed more than 8,200 students, served on 39 graduate committees, mentored ten undergraduate research scholars and honors students, and advised 75 to 100 undergraduates each semester. In addition to his teaching duties, Stein’s Partners of the Prairie historical animal-agriculture exhibit, which showcases his team of oxen, allows him to engage with people of all ages about production agriculture: past, present, and future. His efforts have been recognized by OSU at the Departmental, Division, and University levels, the State of Oklahoma, and the North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture.
Stein received his B.S. in Agriculture Ecology from Northwestern Oklahoma State University in 1978. After a successful career as the managing partner in his family’s Angus cattle operation, he returned to school and completed an M.S. and Ph.D. in Animal Breeding and Reproduction.
Weeks is also committed to providing experience-based learning opportunities for youth in the community and introducing them to the diversity of careers in the agricultural and life sciences. She volunteers with Alachua County 4-H, Boy Scouts of America, and local K-12 institutions to bring students on campus, out in the field, and inquiry-based science activities to them in their classrooms. She is passionate about helping all students find a personal connection to science and maintaining their curiosity about the natural world. Weeks has been recognized multiple times for her contributions to 4-H and received the North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture (NACTA) Educator Award this year.
Jennifer Weeks, University of Florida
Dr. Jennifer Weeks is a lecturer in the Department of Entomology and Nematology in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at the University of Florida. She teaches a diversity of courses both in person and online that support the general education mission as well as upper-division courses for both undergraduate and graduate majors in Entomology. Her courses on biological diversity in a changing world, insect biology, and agricultural ecology are popular with students across campus.
Weeks earned a B.S. from Florida State University and Ph.D. from The University of Arizona.