Agroecology Professor Receives National USDA Teaching Award

Michelle Schroeder-Moreno Receives national USDA teaching award

NC State’s Department of Crop and Soil Sciences is proud to congratulate Michelle Schroeder-Moreno, professor of Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, for receiving the USDA National Excellence in College and University Teaching Award for Food and Agriculture Sciences.  

The USDA and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture co-fund the annual awards that recognize faculty who promote and practice innovative teaching in food and agriculture.  Shroeder-Moreno is one of two professors who received national recognition, and the first at NC State to receive this honor. 

Michelle Schroeder-Moreno receives national USDA teaching award
APLU Vice President for Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Doug Steele, NC State University College of Agriculture & Life Sciences Associate Dean & Director of Academic Programs John Dole, USDA Deputy Under Secretary of Research, Education, & Economics Scott Hutchins, and Perdue University Associate Dean & Director of Academic Programs for the College of Agriculture and Academic Programs Section Chair Marcos Fernandez congratulate NC State’s Michelle Schroeder-Moreno at the USDA award ceremony.

Service Learning

Over the past eleven years, Schroeder-Moreno has worked to develop NC State’s Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems program from a minor to a concentration and finally to a formal major degree.  She seeks out community partners for students to serve – including the Interfaith Food Shuttle, Camden Street Community Garden, the Well Fed Community Garden, and local school gardens.

Michelle Schroeder-Moreno uses service learning in her NC State agroecology classes
Working at the Agroecology education farm off Lake Wheeler Road with an ag class from Dr. Michelle Schroeder-Moreno. Photo by Marc Hall

She credits her success to a combination of personal-student interaction and a novel service-learning approach.  Service-learning is a part of both her introductory and advanced agroecology classes. 

“Students get their hands dirty applying concepts discussed in class, but also learn about food systems challenges and the positive work being done by these community partners. Students reflect on their experiences and relationships and are encouraged to envision future involvement in their communities.” 

Higher level students work on an educational project with a community partner to identify needs, learn professional development skills, and work as a team to provide solutions. She highlighted a recent student project’s success.  

“The volunteers at a local community garden asked for help identifying insects they were seeing at the garden.  They wanted help knowing how to manage insects but also how to teach other garden visitors about the insect populations.

Our students developed a pictorial guide to pests and beneficial insects. Then they trained volunteers on cultivation practices and integrated pest management strategies to either control a pest population or promote beneficial insects.  It was a real win-win.”

Enriching Student Experiences

In addition to national recognition, the teaching award also includes $5,000 in funding to be used for instructional programs.  Professor Schroeder-Moreno is eager to brainstorm potential uses for the money.

Michelle SChroeder-Moreno teaches agroecology at NC State
Working at the Agroecology education farm off Lake Wheeler Road with an ag class from Dr. Michelle Schroeder-Moreno. Photo by Marc Hall

“I’d love to designate this money for student enrichment experiences that help develop students towards a career path. We require an internship or research experience in the new Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems major but not all opportunities are paid. Since many of our students are resource-limited offering them a stipend would allow them to participate in these valuable internships and research experiences, or even study abroad.”

Proof of Concept

I know that I grew leaps and bounds under her mentorship

Schroeder-Moreno’s students were delighted but not surprised at her award.  Jacob Rutz is an NC State agroecology graduate and former teaching assistant. “What is so engaging about Dr. Schroeder-Moreno’s courses is her boundless energy to make students think about the intriguing material she presents. She challenges her students to excel – not for the sake of simply learning the material – but to ask questions beyond the material to demonstrate the wider implications within the agricultural system. I know that I grew leaps and bounds under her mentorship.” 

Growing the Future

Schroeder-Moreno joined NC State’s Crop and Soil Sciences department in 2004.  She established the Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems degree program and related Agroecology Education Farm for hands-on student practice.  She is also a founding member of the Sustainable Agriculture Education Foundation which shares higher-level learning across universities nationally.  

Jeff Mullahey heads NC State’s Crop and Soil Sciences department. “Dr. Michelle Schroeder-Moreno is an asset to our department and university through her excellence in teaching, successfully educating and training our agroecology students to “Think and Do”.  Michelle is most deserving of this recognition and honor, as she is a nationally recognized leader in agroecology education.” 

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