College of Agricultural Sciences names Harbaugh Faculty Scholars

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences has awarded funding to three individuals and two teams to support the development of innovative curricula under the college's Harbaugh Faculty Scholars program.

The program was created by a gift from Penn State alumnus Earl Harbaugh and his wife, Kay. Income generated from the endowment is combined with funding from the college's Office for Undergraduate Education to help faculty develop innovative teaching and learning methods. Faculty members who demonstrate a commitment to creativity and wish to cultivate new, innovative curricula are selected for the Harbaugh Faculty Scholars program.

"Through their numerous gifts, the Harbaughs consistently have demonstrated their support for innovation in virtually all facets of the college's programming," said Tracy Hoover, associate dean for undergraduate education. "The innovative curricula developed by these newest Harbaugh Faculty Scholars will continue this program's track record of providing groundbreaking new learning opportunities for our students."

Following are the latest group of Harbaugh Faculty Scholars:

— Julian Avery, assistant research professor of wildlife ecology and conservation. Avery will incorporate acoustic technology to enhance existing courses that cover the measurement of wildlife habitat and species distribution.

The use of acoustic monitoring, which is not commonly taught in undergraduate curricula, is important to biologists and land managers to measure noise pollution that can disrupt wildlife communications, predator avoidance and reproduction. This technology also is useful for measuring biodiversity, particularly for sensitive species that are difficult to observe when humans are present. Avery noted that students in wildlife and fisheries science who take these courses will be more knowledgeable about contemporary issues threatening ecosystems and will be better prepared for starting their careers.

— Daniel Foster, associate professor of agricultural and extension education; Kevin Curry, assistant professor of agricultural and extension education; Melanie Miller Foster, assistant professor of international agriculture; and Bethany Mathie, co-curricular programs manager in Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education. This team will offer a three-day cultural immersion experience for a group of student agricultural teachers, with the goal of creating cultural appreciation through service learning.

The Penn State students will spend three days in Baltimore, Maryland, where they will design and implement a service learning experience for students from an urban high school agriculture program at a local community farm. The team's goal is to prepare future agriculture teachers who are servant-leaders in their classrooms, schools and communities and who are inclusive of all students.

— Jasna Kovac, Lester Earl and Veronica Casida Career Development Professor of Food Safety. Kovac will offer a course titled "Foodborne Pathogen Genomic Epidemiology." She explained that modern genomics-based tools are able to improve substantially through the detection of foodborne pathogen outbreaks and to track these pathogens with unprecedented precision. However, many students lack the knowledge and skills to use these tools.

The goal of this course, which will use a variety of teaching approaches to accommodate multiple learning styles, is to equip students with the skills needed to use whole genome sequencing for foodborne outbreak investigation. In addition, students will improve their science communications skills and extend their knowledge by developing teaching-learning materials that will give them an appreciation for the extension-education mission of a land-grant university.

— Kathleen Sexsmith, assistant professor of rural sociology, and Melanie Miller Foster, assistant professor of international agriculture. Sexsmith and Miller Foster will develop a service-learning program that will enlist undergraduate students to teach English to Latino immigrant dairy farm workers.

Because of serious local labor shortages, Spanish-speaking immigrants are a key source of labor for Pennsylvania dairy farms, but cultural and language barriers affect worker well-being and reduce farm productivity. While providing English instruction for marginalized immigrant farm workers, participating students will gain an understanding of the transnational dimensions of local agriculture and will make connections between farm workers' lives and the global forces of the agri-food system. The project also will benefit the local agricultural community by increasing workers' confidence in their language skills and boosting farm productivity.

— Josephine Wee, assistant professor of food science. Wee will launch an initiative to incorporate data visualization and data-driven graphic training modules in the undergraduate food science curriculum, with an eye toward enhancing the teaching and learning of communicating research.

Wee explained that current trends in science communication, including the submission of journal articles and grant applications, call for the use of graphical abstracts and interactive visuals. However, there currently is a lack of courses or workshops in the College of Agricultural Sciences on the value of infographics in enhancing the communication of science-related data. This project will provide training modules within the existing food science curriculum on the importance of data visualization and a template for setting up tools and resources that can be integrated into other courses in the college, as well as into extension and outreach activities.

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Last Updated August 30, 2018