Undergrads present at research forums

Students from the Department of Agricultural Communication, Education, and Leadership (ACEL) competed in undergraduate research forums at The Ohio State University. The University’s Richard J. and Martha D. Denman Undergraduate Research Forum on February 20 and the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) Undergraduate Research Forum on March 6.

Kayla Walls, a senior studying agriscience education from Mendon, participated in both undergraduate research forums. At the Denman, she was awarded first place in the education across the human lifespan category and at the CFAES Undergraduate Research Forum, she was awarded first place in the social sciences category. For her research project, “Safety Education for Women in Agriculture,” she was mentored by Dr. Dee Jepsen, associate professor in the Department of Food, Agriculture and Biological Engineering.

Courtney Fulton, a senior studying agricultural communication from Kenton, Ohio, participated in both the Denman and the CFAES Undergraduate Research Forum. Her research project, “Exploring the Roles of youth in Community Programming and Their Connections to Positive youth Development and Involvement in Community,” was mentored by Dr. Mary Rodriguez, an associate professor of community leadership.

Abby Motter, a senior studying agriscience education from Mansfield, Ohio, participated in the CFAES Undergraduate Research Forum. She was awarded second place in the social sciences category for her project “The Influence of Pre-Service Teacher’s Education Abroad Experience in Choluteca, Honduras on Internationalize Agricultural Curriculum”. She was mentored by Dr. Tracy Kitchel, professor of agriscience education.

“The research our undergraduate students conducted and presented at these research forums has the opportunity to change communities and programs,” said Dr. Tracy Kitchel, professor and chair for the Department of Agricultural Communication, Education, and Leadership. “I am extremely proud of them for taking the initiative to engage in asking important questions and using research to help solve problems and make communities, programs and people better.”

The CFAES Undergraduate Research Forum provides a means for undergraduate students to share their research with members and friends of the OSU community; recognizes the significant contributions to research by OSU undergraduates; and facilitates exchange between students, faculty, and the public.

Students enrolled in any undergraduate degree program in College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and the School of Environment and Natural Resources are invited to participate, provided they have a CGPA of 2.5 or higher and are engaged in supervised research projects in the area of their major.



Kayla Walls

Courtney Fulton

Abby Motter

Allman added to Ohio 4-H Hall of Fame

Maddie Allmän

Maddie Allman, a freshman majoring in community leadership, was inducted into the Ohio 4-H Teen Hall of Fame during the annual teen luncheon at the Ohio 4-H Conference on March 2, 2019.

During her more than 10 years as a 4-H member, Allman has developed a passion for youth development and agriculture. She has served as a camp counselor, Vinton County Junior Fairboard Member, Junior Leader and a member of the Ohio 4-H Teen Leadership Council. She was named “The 4-H Lady” by her local newspaper for her involvement in the youth development organization.

After she completes her bachelor’s degree, where she focuses her studies in community and extension education, Allman plans to become an extension educator.

Congratulations Maddie!

News Release: Specht elected to Ohio State’s University Senate


Dr. Annie Specht was recently elected to serve as a senator for Ohio State’s University Senate. She is an assistant professor of agricultural communication in the Department of Agricultural Communication, Education, and Leadership (ACEL). The University Senate is a shared governance body that helps the university function as a unified institution and is made up of faculty members, students and administrators from throughout the University.

Faculty senate members are elected from each of Ohio State’s 15 colleges by their peers, with the number of representatives proportional to the size of the college. Specht is one of seven faculty members from the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

“We are pleased to have an ACEL faculty member serve in a university leadership position such as the University Senate,” said Dr. Tracy Kitchel. “Dr. Specht has represented our department on a variety of committees throughout CFAES, where she has shown her dedication toward improving our university. She will be a valuable asset as she is involved in the policies, processes, programs and solutions for issues of university.”

“I’m honored by the opportunity to represent the college, especially as a young female faculty member. I’ve been looking for ways to get involved in the broader campus community, and I’m excited to learn more about university governance over the next few years,” said Specht.

She will serve a three-year term from Autumn Semester 2019 through Spring Semester 2022.Specht is a two-time alum of Ohio State, earning bachelor degrees in English and agricultural communication in 2008 and a master’s degree in agricultural communication in 2010. She completed a doctorate in agricultural communication from Texas A&M University in 2013.

ACEL prepares communicators, educators and leaders in the food, agricultural, and environmental sciences to integrate research-based learning, practice and engagement, in ways that will advance positive changes that strengthen individuals, families and communities. For more information on the academic programs and research available in ACEL, please visit acel.osu.edu.



News Release: Buck completes national leadership development program

Dr. Emily Buck (second from left) with other LEAD21 participants from The Ohio State University.


Dr. Emily Buck, of Marion, was one of 79 individuals who completed the LEAD21 leadership development program. This group of distinguished individuals represents land-grant institutions and their strategic partners from across the nation. Buck is a professor of agricultural communication at The Ohio State University in the Department of Agricultural Communication, Education, and Leadership (ACEL).

Over the course of the past year, Buck met regularly with her peers, both in-person and virtually, to enhance her personal leadership capacity. The graduation was held at the culmination of the third in-person session, where the focus was on organizational leadership through collaboration, communication and leading change.

The primary purpose of LEAD21 is to develop leaders in land-grant institutions and their strategic partners who link research, academics and extension who can to lead more effectively in an increasingly complex environment, either in their current positions or future leadership positions.

“LEAD21 is a great program for faculty to improve their leadership skills and network with other’s in colleges similar to ours across the country,” said Buck. “I have been a part of many similar leadership programs, but this one was exceptional in taking our understanding of our skills and using them to show us how to effect change in the land-grant system.”

Goals of LEAD21 are to enhance application of skills and knowledge across a set of nine leadership competencies, to develop a network of peer leaders to enhance personal leadership practice, collaboration and diversity of perspective and to develop and implement an individual’s leadership development process.

“I am thrilled Dr. Buck had the opportunity to participate in this leadership program that not only benefits her professional growth and leadership, but will also benefit our department and the students she teaches and mentors” said Dr. Tracy Kitchel, professor and chair of ACEL. “Whether she chooses to pursue formal administrative roles in the future or not, the investment is one in faculty leadership, which can be applied in multiple ways. Ultimately, we rely on faculty to provide all kinds of leadership in carrying out the teaching, research and outreach missions of the department, college and university.”

ACEL prepares communicators, educators and leaders in the food, agricultural, and environmental sciences to integrate research-based learning, practice and engagement, in ways that will advance positive changes that strengthen individuals, families and communities. For more information on the academic programs and research available in ACEL, please visit acel.osu.edu.

The next LEAD21 class will begin in June 2019. For more information about LEAD21, visit www.lead-21.org.

ACEL grads awarded CFAES alumni awards

Congratulations to four alumni of the Department of Agricultural Communication, Education, and Leadership at Ohio State.

Dr. Bob Birkenholz, Dr. Bryan Garton ’93 PhD, Chris Henney ’98 and Leah Finney Curtis ’07 were selected as recipients of alumni awards presented by the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) Alumni Society.

The four alumni were recognized by ACEL at a department reception and will be the guests of honor, along with eight other CFAES alumni selected for awards, at the CFAES Alumni Awards on Saturday, March 2, 2019 at the Fawcett Center.

CFAES Alumni Award: Leah Finney Curtis ’07

Leah Curtis
CFAES Young Professional Award

Leah Curtis currently works for the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation as the policy counsel and senior director of member engagement. She manages a team of three membership engagement professionals and providing legal guidance to the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation policy department. Recently her work was presented before the Supreme Court of the United States.

Curtis is a strong advocate for the interests of Ohio’s farmers and landowners. She serves on the Ohio Department of Taxation’s Agricultural Advisory committee. She has a podcast “Legal with Leah” that is the highest click-thru rate in the Ohio Farm Bureau’s electronic newsletter. An episode of her podcast has also received the “Best Audio News Story”. Curtis was selected to take part in the 2014-2015 Ohio State Bar Association Leadership Academy. She was also appointed to the Bar Association’s membership task force and to the Women in the Profession Section Council. Leah currently serves as the vice-chair of the Bar Association’s agricultural law committee.

Leah is a great supporter of CFAES and its students, where she regularly comes to Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow meetings and has been an influence in the AGRCOMM 2367 course. She is known or her service and dedication to help others, which is seen throughout organizations such as the Southeastern Ohio Legal services and Ohio FFA Association.

Congratulations, Leah!

CFAES Alumni Award: Chris Henney


Chris Henney
CFAES Distinguished Alumni 

Chris Henney is currently thepresident and CEO of the Ohio Agribusiness Association (OABA). He serves on the search committee for the College of Food, Agriculture, and Environmental Sciences for a new chair for the Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics (AEDE) Department. He has given significant input into a potential degree offering at the Agricultural Technical Institute (ATI) in Feed Mill Management and Milling. Additionally, he has provided input and feedback to a Workforce Development Task Force convened by Dean Cathann Kress. Henney is on the Fertilizers Institute’s board of directors, and a member of the Association of Ohio Commodores and the Columbus Rotary. He serves as the past chairperson of the Ohio FFA Foundation board of directors, and recently served on the CFAES Vice President’s Advisory Council

Henney is very involved within CFAES, especially at Ohio State ATI. He is keen on the educational development and knowledge of Ohio State ATI students, and has a unique perspective on how the Ohio and U.S. legislature activities affect agriculture in Ohio. His interaction has expanded Ohio State ATI students’ overview of agriculture and made them more aware of the policy implications. Henney is instrumental in helping Ohio State ATI students receive OABA Annual Scholarships totaling $3000 each year. He also ensures that the scholarship recipients interact with leading national and Ohio agribusinesses. He is a strong supporter of CFAES in both Columbus and Wooster.


Congratulations Chris on your recognition as a CFAES Distinguished Alum!


CFAES Alumni Award: Dr. Bryan Garton

Dr. Bryan Garton
2019 CFAES Distinguished Alumni Award

Dr. Bryan Garton is currently associate dean of academic programs in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR) at the University of Missouri (MU). Dr. Garton’s academic roots extend to the Department of Agricultural Education and Leadership at MU, where he served the ranks of Assistant, Associate and Full Professor. He has received prestigious awards including induction as an AAAE Fellow, Kemper Teaching Fellow, and many research journal article and conference paper awards.

Dr. Garton has been recognized in numerous ways at the University of Missouri for his teaching excellence at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Within the profession, his recognition is continued as a teacher educator and researcher. His reputation for mentoring graduate students is well-documented by the number of students whose career successes as university professors include leadership titles such as Assistant Dean, Department Chair, Teaching Center Co-Directors and Provost Faculty Fellow from universities across the country.

Dr. Garton is proud to be an Ohio State graduate and in particular, a graduate of this college and our department. He credits his experiences at Ohio State for preparing him for success as a teacher and researcher.


Congratulations Dr. Garton on your success as an agricultural educator and your recognition as an outstanding alum of CFAES!

CFAES Alumni Award: Dr. Bob Birkenholz



Dr. Robert Birkenholz
2019 CFAES Meritorious Service Award

In 2002, Dr. Robert J. Birkenholz assumed the role of Professor and chair of the then-named Department of Human and Community Resource Development or HCRD. Birkenholz provided important leadership during a time of financial struggles for Ohio State and amidst a department finding its identity. In 2009, Bob stepped out of his role to be a professor for what is now the community leadership major and the campus-wide leadership studies minor. He is an important reason why we have the L in ACEL.

Bob’s career is decorated with numerous awards for teaching and advising. In Spring 2018, the CFAES Celebration of Students banquet was dedicated in his honor. He has received several research awards for conference posters, conference papers, the Journal of Agricultural Education and NACTA Journal.  He has received the Honorary State FFA Degree in Missouri and Ohio and the Honorary American FFA Degree. Of particular awards of note: Bob was named the Distinguished Lecturer for the American Association for Agricultural Education (AAAE) and was also named Fellow for AAAE in 1998. Bob’s legacy of giving to students continues in perpetuity at Ohio State with the Birkenholz Leadership Award Fund established in 2010 by him and his wife, Pam.

On September 1, 2018, Bob officially retired from Ohio State and earned the title of professor emeritus.


Congratulations to Dr. Bob Birkenholz on your recognition for your service to CFAES!

News Release: ACEL students selected to join CFAES ambassador team

Five students from the Department of Agricultural Communication, Education, and Leadership were recently selected to join the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) Ambassador Team. The CFAES Ambassador Team members give prospective families tours of our college campus, serve as liaisons to the Ohio State student body to increase awareness around our college and attend CFAES events as representatives of the college.

ACEL students recently selected to join the team include:

  • Alexis Elliott, agricultural communication, Mount Victory, Ohio
  • Ethan Keller, agricultural communication, Sharon Springs, New York
  • Olivia Pflaumer, agriscience education, Chillicothe, Ohio
  • Paige Schaffter, agriscience education, Edon, Ohio
  • Brittany Weller, agriscience education, Bellevue, Ohio

“Their selection to serve as an CFAES ambassador not only signifies their abilities to represent our department, but to represent CFAES as a whole,” said Dr. Tracy Kitchel, professor and chair of ACEL. “Our students tend to be well-represented among the college ambassador ranks because of our department’s dedication to and study of connecting with people in and around our industries and communities.”

These five students join 12 ACEL students currently serving as a CFAES Ambassadors. They include: Emma Lynn Johnson (community leadership), Wyatt Jones (agriscience education), Taylor Lutz (agriscience education), Cody McClain (agriscience education), Micah Mensing (agriscience education) Abby Motter (agriscience education), Cody Myers (agriscience education), Meredith Oglesby (agricultural communication), Milan Pozderac (agriscience education), Sydney Snider (agricultural communication), Kayla Walls (agriscience education) and Meghann Winters (agricultural communication).

CFAES ambassadors are selected each Spring Semester through an application and interview process.