Professor Rebecca Lawver, head of Utah State University’s Department Head of Applied Sciences, Technology, and Education, has been elected president of the American Association for Agricultural Education (AAAE), and will lead the organization through May 2023 and was also named a Fellow of AAAE.
“The mission of the AAAE is to foster excellence in the discovery and exchange of evidence-based solutions for social science challenges in agriculture and related science,” said Lawver. “What that means is that the members in our association conduct and distribute research related to agricultural topics that impact people—the how’s and why’s of what people believe and what actions they take.”
Agricultural education degrees are broader in scope than most people realize. Graduates are prepared to teach in schools and community-based and commercial settings about a broad range of interconnected topics including plant, animal, soil, and natural resource sciences, business and consumer economics, biology, nutrition, and health.
Lawver noted last year at an event celebrating her promotion to full professor that she was not raised on a farm and didn’t think of herself as someone in agriculture. She was a “city kid” who discovered in college that a career teaching high school agriculture classes would integrate teaching all things she was curious about and loved.
Being named an AAAE Fellow recognizes members of the association who have made exceptional contributions to and impacts on the profession and the organization. The award is restricted to individuals with between 10 and 20 years of active service at the university level who “show great promise for continued contributions and impact.” A maximum of just four members of AAAE may become fellows each year.
Lawver, who has been a member of AAAE for over 15 years, has served the association as a research reviewer, on the member service and research committee, as secretary, and as vice president of communications.
“One of my mentors always encouraged me to give back to the profession by taking on leadership roles,” said Lawver. “[AAAE] had our first in-person conference after two years of virtual, and when I was installed as president, I looked out over the crowd—filled with amazing faculty and graduate students—and was incredibly excited about our future and the impact and potential.”
Other USU faculty were recognized at the annual conference for academic excellence and service to the AAAE, including Emeritus Professor Gary Straquadine, who retired this year after more than 20 years of teaching and serving as USU associate vice president for career and technical education. Straquadine was awarded Lifetime Membership in recognition of his long-term dedication to achieving the AAAE’s mission and goals.
Professor Debra Spielmaker, USU Extension professor of agricultural literacy and STEM education, was selected as the association’s 2022 Distinguished Lecturer. Spielmaker gave a presentation at the conference titled, A Vision for Future-proofing Agriculture. Her presentation addressed the necessity of including agricultural science content in K-12 learning and invited members of the AAAE to help build awareness and appreciation for agriculture, incorporate research-based student-centered teaching approaches, and help students see how they can make a difference in a food or agricultural career.
Professor and Department Head
Applied Sciences, Technology and Education
Professor of Agricultural Literacy and STEM Education
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