Teaching Philosophy

My first job following graduate school was with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) just north of Mexico City. Within 2 years I was moved to Guatemala City also working with CIMMYT as a regional agronomist.  The 6 years I spent working in Mexico and Central America prior to arriving at OSU cemented the need for delivering applied tools in the classroom that students can use.  It is not enough to just deliver sound agricultural principals and applications.  We have to give them experiences.  The most affordable way to do this is via pictures.  Pictures from all over the world that can be blended into our teaching fabric.  Images and figures are easily grasped by good students and also by those who struggle.  Images of all kinds just are not quickly forgotten, and their continual use has clearly afforded me added abilities to communicate.

We cannot duplicate smells and odors of all kinds, but we can take them places in the world that have lasting impacts especially when our stories and experiences are intertwined with the picture.  National Geographic has set this example for many years.

This corn farmer in El Salvador is planting chlordane treated seed on a hillside that is clearly non sustainable.  Erosion losses will get worse every year until the landscape is completely denuded.  It is important to note that we have an ongoing project at OSU that will soon result in a hand-held planting stick that isolates the chemically treated seed thus preventing skin-seed contact, allows for seed singulation (current approach is to throw 2-3 seeds per hill which is highly inefficient), and that simultaneously serves as a fertilizer applicator.  

Witnessing this little girl pushing a small cart filled with firewood back to her house for cooking near La Esperanza was replicated in all 9 countries I serviced as a regional agronomist.  What this girl knows about hard work is worth talking about, considering what has been required of her at such an early age. This girl will never talk about how hard she had to work as a child, the picture tells the story.

Accomplishments in teaching and advisees An important product that has been realized has been 87 thesis-required-graduate-degrees awarded while serving as major advisor.  Eighteen former students now serve as faculty members or the faculty equivalent in public and private sectors around the world.  This includes Ph.D. graduates now working in developmental agriculture in Kenya, Uganda, El Salvador, Mexico, and Indonesia.   Monsanto, Co., and DuPont Pioneer have hired 10 of our recent graduates.  Their awareness has arisen from a keen interest in OSU s GreenSeeker technology that was developed in the 1990 s, and the training our students have received in precision sensing technologies that have clearly taken off in the world.  My bias would argue that all students have excelled and are giving back to our society. 

The most distinguished student we have had at OSU is Dr. Kyle Freeman (all 3 degrees from OSU) who is the Vice President of The Mosaic Company, presently the largest retailer of phosphorus fertilizer in the world.  Dr. Robert Mullen (MS and PhD from OSU) has been equally successful and presently serves as the Director of Agronomy for the Potash Corp (largest fertilizer retailer for potassium). 

In the end, our students must be cognizant of the hunger/famine that exists in our world and must take with them a commitment to improving these conditions.  

Today, I am a 8-year brain cancer and spinal cancer survivor.  This experience that included resectioning and months of radiation was a gift.  It gave me new meaning and renewed my commitment to deliver quality instruction in the classroom that also embodies the desperate need for increased giving in our world.  Teaching is by far the most exhausting thing I do, but it is also the most important.