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USDA Announces National Teaching Awards for Food and Agricultural Sciences

San Diego – The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) today honored four public university faculty with national teaching awards recognizing excellence in agricultural sciences teaching and student engagement. Dennis Decoteau of Pennsylvania State University and Michelle Schroeder-Moreno of North Carolina State University were named recipients of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Excellence in College and University Teaching Awards for Food and Agricultural Sciences. Elizabeth Karcher of Purdue University and John Tummons of the University of Missouri were named recipients of National Teaching and Student Engagement awards. The awards, which celebrate university faculty for their use of innovative teaching methods and service to students, were presented at the 132nd APLU Annual Meeting now underway in San Diego.

Five regional and two early-career awardees were also named recipients of the 2019 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 five regional awards were presented to: Drs. Marcy Beverly of Sam Houston State University, Antonio DiTommaso of Cornell University, Lurline Marsh of University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Kevin Schalinske of Iowa State University, and Cody Wright of South Dakota State University. Abigail Borron of the University of Georgia and Andrea Lucky of the University of Florida each received best new teacher honors.

“We applaud this year’s winners of the Excellence in College and University Teaching Awards for Food and Agricultural Sciences,” said Doug Steele, Vice President of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources at APLU. “The high bar they’ve set stands as a powerful example not only to their students, but to other faculty striving to better serve their students.”

Details on the 2019 recipients of the Excellence in College and University Teaching Awards for Food and Agricultural Sciences:

Dennis R. Decoteau, Pennsylvania State University
Dennis Decoteau has pursued sustained excellence in teaching by providing his students with creative content, innovative teaching approaches, and integrative experiential learning. He has 32 years of experience educating and mentoring students and serves as the Undergraduate Program Coordinator for the Plant Science major at Penn State. Dennis previously served as department head of the Horticulture Departments at Clemson University and Penn State University.

Decoteau has received a number of teaching awards including the Innovation in Teaching Award from APLU, the Outstanding Teacher Award from Gamma Sigma Delta Honor Society for Agriculture, the Educator Award from the North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture, the Education Award from American Society for Horticultural Sciences (ASHS), and the George W. Atherton Award for Excellence in Teaching from the Pennsylvania State University Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence.

He has won numerous research and outreach awards, including the L. M. Ware Distinguished Research Award from the Southern Region ASHS and the Innovation Award from the Environment and Natural Resources Institute at Penn State. He has written 68 peer-reviewed journal articles, 90 abstracts, and 77 newspaper and industry columns, and secured over $2 million in grants. He directed five undergraduate honors theses, chaired 14 graduate student committees, and served as a committee member for an additional 28 graduate students.

Michelle S. Schroeder-Moreno, North Carolina State University
For Michelle Schroeder-Moreno, teaching is about empowering and inspiring students to improve their food system and world around them. She has inspired a new and diverse cadre of students to agricultural sciences through agroecology education. Over the past 15 years at NC State, Schroeder-Moreno developed new agroecology courses, curricular programs, internships, study abroad and service learning experiences, and established a multidisciplinary undergraduate major, Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems.

As a way to engage all students together with community, Schroeder-Moreno developed the Agroecology Education Farm – bringing together a unique group of teaching faculty, students, campus chefs and community to teach, learn and grow food for the campus and community, making NC State “Think and Do” mission evident. Whether online, in the classroom, or in the field, experiential learning is core to her teaching approach and she is highly regarded among students for her enthusiasm, approachability and genuine care counseling them professionally and in life. Over the course of her career, Schroeder-Moreno has taught more than 1,300 undergraduate students and mentored numerous graduate students and undergraduate students in research. She is a trusted academic adviser, valued educator, and strong advocate for students.

Schroeder-Moreno was one of the founding members of the national Sustainable Agriculture Education Association (SAEA) helping to elevate agroecology as a discipline. She served in various SAEA leadership positions, including Chair and co-hosted the National SAEA Conference.

She continues to serve on various academic committees in the college and university and has provided dozens of teaching workshops and conference presentations to promote collaborations in the scholarship of teaching and learning. Schroeder-Moreno has published a series of peer-review articles that span broad topics from research in active student-centered learning to sustainable strawberry production and has been PI/ co-PS on grants totaling nearly $7 million. She is recognized for her outstanding efforts in teaching receiving several awards by her college, university, and internationally. She was awarded the NC State Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Professor Award and was a Fulbright Scholar.

Details on the 2019 recipients of the National Teaching and Student Engagement awards:

Elizabeth Karcher, Purdue University
Since 2008, Elizabeth Karcher has formally taught over 1,900 students in over 46 course offerings. Dr. Karcher has taught a variety of courses, including mammary physiology, animal health, and introduction to animal agriculture. She has developed four study abroad programs focused on: dairy management to the Netherlands, sustainable agriculture to Vietnam, and an Animal Science Learning Community program to Italy. She formally advises undergraduate students, mentors graduate students, and mentors undergraduate students on research projects. As the department’s Undergraduate Program Coordinator, she is currently leading the department in a three-year curricular review.

She has received numerous teaching awards at the college, university, and national level. Examples include the Purdue University Exceptional Early Career Teaching Award, Purdue University PK-12 Emerging Faculty Impact Award, NACTA Teacher Scholar Award, American Dairy Science Association Purina Animal Nutrition Teaching Award, and the NACTA Teacher Fellow Award.

Karcher’s research in learning focuses on the development of innovative experiential learning platforms to enhance student learning and develop intercultural competencies in undergraduate animal sciences curricula. She has published nine journal articles on education-related topics and is PI for two education-related grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

John Tummons, University of Missouri
John Tummons improves the student experience by teaching how to manage the people and emotions intertwined with the complex problems associated with feeding the world. He accomplishes this mission through instruction in leadership, youth development, faculty development, agriculture teacher education, and social science research methods. He also provides mentorship to young teachers and leadership to rural Missouri youth through 4-H and commodity organizations.

Tummons is a national leader in implementing inquiry-based instruction in agriculture. He models carefully crafted authentic assessments, developed in cooperation with industry experts, and paired with experiential learning methods, to create an environment where students are challenged to think and grow as leaders. He mentors students to discover and cultivate their strengths and talents so they may develop their individualized toolbox of strategies for creative problem-solving.

Tummons has been honored for his outstanding teaching, advising, research, and service, but he’s most proud when students and advisees are recognized for their accomplishments. In 2019, the College of Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources Outstanding Freshman, Sophomore, and Junior were all his advisees.

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