College of Agricultural Sciences faculty members honored for teaching excellence

January 25, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences has recognized six faculty members for outstanding teaching in 2018.

Named recipients of the college's Community of Teaching Excellence Award were Ryan Elias, associate professor of food science; Heather Gall, assistant professor of agricultural and biological engineering; Marvin Hall, professor of forage management; and Elsa Sanchez, professor of horticultural systems management.

In addition, Tara Felix, assistant professor of animal science, will receive the early-career North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture (NACTA) Award of Merit, and James Savage, instructor in horticulture, will receive the Paul R. and Joan M. Shellenberger Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, which recognizes full-time instructors with teaching appointments (not on tenure track).

Ryan Elias, associate professor of food science, joined the Penn State faculty in 2008. Among his primary teaching responsibilities is "The Science and Technology of Plant Foods," a required, laboratory-intensive, upper-level processing course. He also co-developed a course on the science of winemaking and created study-abroad courses covering food production in Italy and European brewing and malting science. Elias, whose teaching consistently has been rated as excellent by students and peers, is an "energetic and skilled teacher" who has "worked tirelessly to improve the programs supporting our undergraduate students," according to Food Science Department Head Bob Roberts.

A Penn State faculty member since 2013, Heather Gall, assistant professor of agricultural and biological engineering, teaches two courses related to her research specialty of water resource engineering: "Measurement and Monitoring of Hydrological Systems" and "Design of Stormwater and Erosion Control Facilities." Her students have won several awards at the Campus and Community Sustainability Expo for field projects developed as part of their coursework. Paul Heinemann, head of the Agricultural and Biological Engineering Department, noted that students and peers have rated Gall among the top three teachers in the department. "I believe Heather Gall exemplifies the quality teaching that we find in our college," he said.

Marvin Hall, professor of forage management, teaches courses in forage crop management, crop scouting and nutrient management certification, and he co-teaches courses in crop physiology and bioenergy feedstocks. A faculty member since 1990, he also advises the Agronomy Club, helps with the Ag Student Council and coaches the Forage Bowl Team, which won national championships in 2017 and 2018. "Marvin Hall exhibits skill, dedication and passion for all aspects of our educational mission," said Plant Science Department Head Erin Connolly. "He is an outstanding instructor who contributes in a very significant way to the training of our undergraduate and graduate students, both inside and outside of the classroom."

Elsa Sanchez, professor of horticultural systems management, teaches or co-teaches courses covering vegetable crops, gardening for fun and profit, and horticultural systematics. Supported by a Harbaugh Faculty Scholar Award, she helped to develop — and co-teaches — a new course focused on hydroponics and aquaponics, production systems in which students routinely have expressed interest. Connolly noted that Sanchez, who joined Penn State in 2002, has been "quite proactive in her efforts to innovate and update our curriculum. She is an excellent instructor who teaches a variety of courses at various levels, and her courses are extremely well-regarded by students."

Tara Felix, assistant professor of animal science since 2016, teaches courses in animal nutrition, contemporary issues in animal agriculture, and animal nutrition and feed technology. She chairs the Animal Science Department's curriculum steering committee, which guides the department's undergraduate program. According to department head Terry Etherton, Felix is an extraordinary mentor to students and is highly sought by those who wish to pursue undergraduate research opportunities. "We have had several faculty members recognized for teaching excellence, and Tara's record is very comparable. She exemplifies the commitment, passion and excellence in teaching that has long been a legacy in the Department of Animal Science."

James Savage, instructor in horticulture, joined Penn State in 1987 as a research technician and began teaching in 1996. He teaches courses in applied arboriculture, principles of arboriculture and tree dendrology, the first two of which are core offerings in the popular arboriculture minor, which Savage helped to develop. "Jim's effectiveness in teaching is evidenced by near-capacity enrollment in almost all his offered courses, his excellent student evaluation scores and extremely positive evaluative comments from faculty members who have sat in on his courses," said Connolly, the Plant Science Department head. "He consistently earns the highest respect from his students and from his university and industry peers."

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated January 26, 2019