The 57th Annual North American Teachers and Colleges of Agriculture (NACTA) meetings are currently being held at the University of Alberta in lovely Edmonton, Alberta. My first NACTA conference was in 2006 and I’ve been to almost every one since (I missed 2009 which was right before my son was born). Held every June this is always a good conference for several reasons:
- The poster and oral presentations are pretty good and always give me new ideas to take back Queens to share with other faculty and/or use in the classroom myself.
- It gives me a chance to speak with other educators who truly value teaching and work hard to develop and improve their teaching whether they are graduate students, assistant professors or fully tenured faculty. I often find these conversations inspiring and refreshing.
- It gives me a chance to pause and reflect on the last year and my teaching in general.
- I get to catch up with good friends and former professors (especially those from Kansas State and the University of Georgia.
This year the theme is “Get Engaged” and I don’t think there is a better school to host this conference with this theme. I’ve encountered graduate students and faculty from the University of Alberta over the last few years and I’ve always been impressed with their outgoing no fear mentality. The faculty DEFINITELY engage their students. This morning we heard a keynote address from Dr. Frank Robinson, Vice-Provost/Dean of Students and Professor of Animal Science at the University of Alberta (and a few of his former students). He is the creator of the “There is a Heifer in Your Tank” program. This is a unique program where students answer questions they didn’t know they had about animal science and agriculture. Truly inspiring. I left the presentation determined to change the environment in which I teach and to do a few things “outside of the box” this upcoming year.
As part of the activities today I presented a paper that I co-authored with Dr. Jessica Braswell and Dr. Melinda Harper titled “An Interdisciplinary Approach to Engaging Students in Active Citizenship and Community Service by Investigating Issues in Food and Agriculture“. In the paper we present some data collected from our CORE 122 – Modern Citizenship: Food for Thought course at Queens. We just completed our 4th offering of this unique course (which I’ll describe in greater detail in another post some day in the future). I say unique because we cover and discuss a number of issues in our food system facing us today and in the near future. Courses that would cover these topics are typically not offered at a small Liberal Arts University like Queens. The paper was well received and I had a chance to discuss the course with faculty from schools like New Mexico State and the University of British Columbia.
There were other activities including oral presentations and series of 5 Pecha Kucha presentations (20 slides/images each shown for only 20 seconds). Overall, the conference is off to a great start and I look forward to attending tomorrow!