McMullen places first in regional interview contest

McMullen, 2020

Nicole McMullen, a junior studying agriscience education, earned the top award in the interview contest during the virtual Region V Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences (MANRRS) Cluster. She will represent Ohio State and Region V at the National MANRRS Conference this spring.

MANRRS is a national society of people of all racial and ethnical groups in agricultural and related science careers with a focus on promoting these fields in a positive manner among ethnic minorities.

The interview contest is an opportunity to practice real-life skills needed to apply for a job. Participants prepare a resume and cover letter for a job they chose from the Interview Contest Job Descriptions. Contestants are also evaluated on their performance during a mock interview.

The goal of this contest is for participants to consistently meet and practice the skills that bring the benefits of comfort in interview scenarios; confidence, critical thinking, effective verbal and written communication, impromptu speaking, self-esteem and non-verbal practice and awareness.

“We are proud of Nicole for the growth and effort she put forward to lead to success in this contest,” said Dr. Shannon Washburn, professor of agriscience education and chair for the Department of Agricultural Communication, Education, and Leadership. “Participation in organizations like MANRRS and the opportunities they provide to students are valuable in the development of their careers. Nicole will benefit greatly from this experience as she enters the agricultural education profession.”

In 2019, McMullen was awarded first place in the impromptu speech contest for Region V. She completed a virtual internship this past summer with John Deere, which she obtained during a career fair at the 2019 Region V MANRRS Cluster at the University of Wisconsin – Madison.

Agriscience education is one of three undergraduate majors within ACEL. This major prepares students to acquire a license to teach agricultural science in secondary schools through extensive training in agriculture science, educational psychology, instructional methods and youth development. For additional information on the agriscience education major or how you can make a financial contribution to student scholarships, visit

News Release: Landaverde receives international fellowship

Rafael Quijada Landaverde, graduate associate and doctoral student in the Department of Agricultural Communication, Education, and Leadership (ACEL) at The Ohio State University was named one of seven recipients of the Kirchner Food Fellowship.

The Kirchner Food Fellowship is a pioneer in the lean investment movement, harnessing the power of highly-committed millennial talent to find, fund and assist promising socially-responsible, for-profit agricultural businesses. Through the use of a “real-world, real-time, real-money” model the program has proven that it is possible for newly formed investment teams to become effective venture capital allocators in a matter of months. The combination of compressed learning time frames and low operating costs makes it possible to more cost efficiently deploy smart and impactful capital in parts of the world where angel capital is needed most.

As the model spreads beyond North America, the Fellowship partners with local groups to establish resident teams in less developed economies. The program strengthens in-region capital allocation capacity, the apex element of any healthy entrepreneurial ecosystem that is well-networked into the global financial markets.

“We are excited for Rafael to be selected as recipient of this highly regarded fellowship,” said Dr. Shannon Washburn, professor and chair of ACEL. “His knowledge, talents, and experience will be an asset to his cohort and participating partners.”

The importance of the program has been greatly highlighted by COVID-19 and the worldwide focus on food security, from organizations, countries and regions. The program combines access to decades of institutional impact investment experience and the innovative problem-based learning approach honed over the last seven years. Landaverde will be part of the 2020-2021 cohort based in Mexico. The other is based out of the United States.

“Our selection process gets more and more difficult each year as the program’s profile grows, expanding our remarkable applicant pool,” commented Blair Kirchner, Director. “The fellowship will commence in early September, concurrent with the next Kirchner Investment Academy, a unique program designed to demystify investment for entrepreneurs and young professionals.”

Landaverde is a graduate of Texas Tech University, where he earned a master of science in agricultural education, and a graduate of Zamorano University in Honduras with a bachelor of science in environment and development.

Students in the ACEL graduate program at Ohio State may specialize in agricultural communication, agricultural education, community and extension education, international development or leadership. The agricultural communication, education, and leadership graduate program offers graduate programs leading to the Master of Science, Master of Education and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degrees. The Doctor of Philosophy degree prepares students for careers as administrators, specialists, university faculty and researchers.

ACEL Social Media Ambassadors

Do you love Ohio State and ACEL? Are you social media savvy? Do you love telling stories? Do you speak emoji? Can you narrate a TikTok?

The Department of Agricultural Communication, Education, and Leadership is looking to establish a team of “social media ambassadors” who can share the unique viewpoint of being a student at The Ohio State University.

Undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in an ACEL major or minor who are interested in social media, photography, video production, blogging and creativity are invited to apply. We encourage all students to apply to show the diverse perspective of our students.


  • Must be a student enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate program within ACEL*
  • Able to effectively communicate our Buckeye pride through various media platforms
  • Maintain professional work habits (dependable, team player, responsible)
  • Interested in performing social media ambassador duties for fall and spring semester

*Students with an ACEL minor may apply.


  • Brainstorm and create content for ACEL social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, blogs and other outlets
  • Work closely with ACEL communication professionals to follow university, college and department branding
  • Spread ACEL’s message through shares, likes and comments
  • Time commitment is approximately 1-2 hours per month


  • Communication and social media experience that can be shared with potential employers
  • Increase awareness of ACEL majors, courses, student organizations and opportunities
  • Share a real-time student perspective of life as an ACEL student
  • Exposure to social media brand strategy and new platforms through practice and training

Application Process

Sanders defends master’s project

Join us in congratulating Abby Sanders on the recent successful defense of her master’s project “Branding in Higher Education: Arkansas Tech University Department of Agriculture.”
Dr. Annie Specht served as Abby’s advisor and Dr. Emily Buck was her committee member.
Congratulations Abby!

News Release: Shaffter awarded national agricultural education scholarship

Paige Schaffter, a senior in agriscience education from Edon, Ohio, has been selected for the 2020 Upper Division Agricultural Education Scholarship from the National Association of Agricultural Educators.

NAAE awards the $1,500 scholarships to twenty students across the United States. The purpose of the scholarship is to offset expenses during the recipients’ student teaching experience and selection was based on academic performance, as well as on leadership and service activities. Schaffter will be student teaching with Pettisville High School in Pettisville, Ohio during the 2021 Spring Semester.

“We are thrilled to hear that Paige has been selected as a recipient of this scholarship,” said Dr. Shannon Washburn, professor and chair of the Department of Agricultural Communication, Education, and Leadership at The Ohio State University. “Paige is deserving of this national recognition and this scholarship will help her as she works in a full-time student teacher position with evening and weekend responsibilities that are part of the agricultural education profession.”

The agriscience education major at Ohio State prepares its students to acquire a license to teach agricultural science in secondary high schools in Ohio and across the country, with extensive training in agricultural science, educational psychology, instructional methods, and youth development. For additional information on the agriscience education major, visit or call 614.247.6358.

Whittington selected as president-elect of NACTA professional society

Dr. M. Susie Whittington, professor of agriscience education in the Department of Agricultural Communication, Education, and Leadership (ACEL), has been selected as president-elect of the North American Colleges and Teachers of Agricultural (NACTA). NACTA, which was formed in 1955 as a professional society, focuses on the scholarship of teaching and learning in agriculture and related disciplines at the postsecondary level. Members of NACTA are from two-year and four-year colleges, both public and private.

Whittington will serve as president-elect for 2020-2021 and will take over leadership of the organization at the 2021 annual conference, which is scheduled to be held at Ohio State’s Wooster campus in June 2021.

Since joining the department in 2000, Whittington has taught a variety of courses in the agriscience education major, preparing students to become high school agricultural educators through teaching methods, cultural proficiency, and program planning, as well as graduate courses in data collection and in advanced teaching methods.

In addition to her faculty role with ACEL, Whittington serves as executive director for Ohio State’s Second-Year Transformational Experience Program (STEP), which is a university-wide program focused on student success and development that allows students opportunities to engage in high impact practices that cater to their individual interests and needs.

“We are so proud in ACEL and Ohio State to have our very own Dr. Susie Whittington serve as president in this premier international organization,” said Dr. Scott Scheer, professor and interim chair of ACEL. “NACTA is fortunate to have Dr. Whittington in this role because she brings in a wealth of national and university leadership experience from serving as president in the American Association for Agricultural Education (AAAE) to the university-wide Director of STEP at Ohio State. NACTA will certainly thrive and improve with Dr. Whittington as its president.”

“As a member of NACTA since the early 1990s, my teaching has benefitted from the talent and expertise of its members,” said Whittington. “I look forward to giving-back and to paying forward to a society that has given so much to me.”

Whittington is a three time graduate of Ohio State, earning bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees in agricultural education in 1982, 1988 and 1991, respectively.

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, or to donate to student scholarships, please visit

Faculty and graduate students represent ACEL at virtual NACTA conference

Congratulations to our ACEL faculty and graduate students who represented our department so well at the annual NACTA (North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture) virtual conference held last week.

Dr. Susie Whittington, professor of agriscience education, was announced as the 2020 President-Elect.

Dr. Mary Rodriguez, assistant professor of community leadership, was recognized with a 2020 Educator Award.

Paper presented include:
“Comparing agriculture students’ migration intentions in El Salvador and Honduras” by Amy Boren Alpizar, Pablo Lamiño Jaramillo, and current ACEL Ph.D. student Rafael Landaverde (while student at Texas Tech).

“Evaluating the impact of an educational intervention on farmers in El Salvador” by current Ph.D. student Rafael Landaverde (while a student at Texas Tech), Amy E. Boren-Alpìzar, Sarahi Morales, Matt Baker and John Rayfield.

“Limitations and Opportunities of 4-H Clubs in Honduras: A Stakeholders View” by current Ph.D. student

Rafael Landaverde, Amy Boren-Alpizar, Stephen Brady, Dustin Homan, Patricia Arce and Marjorie Mayr.

“Student Perceptions Abroad: The Impacts of Climate Change in Trinidad & Tobago” by Ph.D. Rafael Landaverde and Mary Rodriguez.

Posters presented include:
“A Mixed-Methods Study on Teaching Methods for Andragogy on Gene-Editing Technology” by master’s student Robert Thiel, Amanda Bowling and Joy Rumble.

“A National Multi-Decade Look at Trends for Graduates of Agriculture and the Related Sciences” by Ph.D. student Aaron Giorgi and M. Susie Whittington.

“Autonomy, Collaboration, and Personal Development through a Capstone in Leadership” by master’s student Summer McLain, Jera Niewoehner-Green and master’s student Paige Andrews.

“A University Level Exploration of First-Generation Students of Agriculture and Related Sciences” by Ph.D. student Aaron Giorgi, M. Susie Whittington and Anne McDaniel.

“The man with the mullet”


Chase Gasser lines up across from a teammate in a defensive practice drill. Regarded as one of the toughest players on the team, Gasser enjoys the chance to play football for the club team.

By Zachary Steiner
agricultural communication student

Chase Gasser was curiously wandering through the involvement fair on the oval of Ohio State’s campus his freshman year when he saw the OSU club football team booth. This was an open door for him to once again play the game he loved so much—football.

Regarded by his coaches and teammates as someone who embodies the culture of the club team and plays with energy every snap, Gasser has had a successful career. He also is an agricultural systems management major in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

Gasser is a native of Creston, Ohio—a small farming community in Northeast Ohio where he grew up with an agricultural background and playing football each fall for his local high school team, the Norwayne Bobcats.

Originally, Gasser did not know what to expect when he first showed up for practice with the club team. He did not know what it would be like, but he took a chance and club football has since become a full commitment for him.

“I didn’t think it was going to be serious at all. I showed up thinking it was going to be a good old time,” Gasser said. “It was me going out on a limb to give it a try and here we are.”

Gasser, who stands at sturdy 6’2’’ and 220 lbs., is listed as the team’s starting defensive tackle. A man who rocks a long blonde mullet and scraggly facial hair, he fits the job description. His playing style certainly fits the mold as well.

He would describe his demeanor on the field being like a wild man—fitting for someone who prepares for each game listening to AC/DC.

“You just gotta be a wild man. You gotta be gritty. You can never shy down from the guy across from you,” Gasser said. “Playing defensive tackle, those big offensive linemen are often bigger than me, so I can’t be intimidated.”

OSU club football team’s first-year head coach, James Grega, took one look at Gasser and instantly thought he would be a great addition to the team. What gave it away? The long blonde mullet that flows from his grey helmet.

“The first thing that comes to mind is the hair and you see the hair and you think this guy has to be a good football player because you can’t pull off that hair and not be good at football,” Grega said.

Being named to the All-American team for the National Club Football Association his first two seasons, Gasser certainly has a career full of accolades. However, what his teammates most appreciate about him is the leadership he has brought. He exemplifies what it means to be a buckeye on the club team.

“From day one, the first time he came out to practice, you could just see you weren’t going to have a tougher guy on the team, a guy that is going to give everything he’s got every play. He brings a ton of energy to practice and to our games,” Grega said. “He’s been one of those guys who has been instrumental to establish the culture of winning.”

Gasser believes you have to play the game with energy. He prides himself on being a team player—sacrificing for the teammates around him.

“This sport is all about passion and playing for the guy next to you and it is something to have the opportunity to play at a university like this,” Gasser said.

The team is made up of a wide range of people from different backgrounds. Everything from players formerly on the varsity squad to small-town farm kids, Gasser enjoys the challenge of bringing the group together.

“This is the most absurd group of people you will ever see on one team, but somehow we found a way to click,” Gasser said. “You just have so many different people, so many studs in high school who knew they were not going to play division one somewhere, so they came here and found this special club we have.”

The club players at Ohio State are playing because they have a chance to strap up their helmets a few more times before they hang up the cleats for good. Like varsity student-athletes, club athletes must balance their practice and competitions with schoolwork, jobs and whatever else they are involved in.

For Gasser who has been employed at the Ohio State beef and sheep facility since his sophomore year and is a full-time student, this has proven to be challenging.

“Trying to balance chores at the farm, schoolwork, and practice can be tricky at times, but you just have to grind,” Gasser said. “Find those chances to work on stuff and get it done.”

Alike his mentality on the field—playing with a high energy and passion—Gasser attributes his success on the field and the classroom to his upbringing. He believes with 100% certainty that farmers are the toughest people around.

“Everyone on this team knows I live at the OSU Beef and Sheep facility and they think I have this farm strength, farm tough attitude and that is for sure,” Gasser said. “That is what agriculture is. Whether that is physical strength or mental strength, I mean, you look at farmers, they’re the toughest people I know, and I try to carry that same mentality.”

Being the lone agricultural major on the team and clearly standing out from others with his mullet and mustache, his teammates and coaches appreciate his comfort in being himself no matter who is around.

“He embraces who he is, and he doesn’t deviate from who he is at all and I think the guys on the team appreciates that and they gravitate towards it,” Grega said. “Everybody feeds off his energy and his emotions and it is always positive.”

With a motor that never quits, hair that stands out amongst a crowd and the toughness of a farmer, Gasser wants his legacy to be one thing—a national championship.

“The first national championship in OSU club football history. That’s it. That’s what we want,” Gasser said.


This feature story was written by Zachary, an agricultural communication student enrolled in the Agricultural Communication 2531 course during the 2019 Autumn Semester. Dr. Joy Rumble instructed the course.

Rodriguez awarded NACTA Educator Award

Dr. Mary Rodriguez, assistant professor of community leadership in the Department of Agricultural Communication, Education, and Leadership (ACEL), has been named a recipient of the North American Colleges of Teachers of Agriculture (NACTA) Educator Award. This award recognizes educators who excel as teachers in the agricultural disciplines. She was recognized as a recipient during the organizations virtual conference in early June.

Rodriguez currently instructs a variety of courses for ACEL, including the Teaching Methods in Non-Formal Learning Environments, Community Leadership and Foundations of International Development. Throughout her time with Ohio State she has also taught Foundations of Personal and Professional Leadership, Research Methods, Teaching Methods in Non-Formal Learning Environments and Extension Education in Developing Countries to both undergraduate and graduate students.

“Dr. Rodriguez is an outstanding educator in ACEL. She has attracted students who have specifically come to our department to work with her, both internationally and within the United States. She uses innovative teaching techniques such as out-of-classroom instruction, demonstrations, and service learning,” said Dr. Scott Scheer, interim chair for ACEL and professor of community leadership. “Student feedback provides strong evidence of her teaching and learning skills. For example, ‘Dr. Rodriguez is a great teacher! She is very engaging, very respectful and understanding of students,’ and ‘Dr. Rodriguez was a phenomenal educator – always challenging and pushing students and providing opportunities for practical application of the material we were learning in class,’ are consistent messages on her course feedback forms. Dr. Rodriguez’s recognition with a 2020 NACTA Educator Award is well deserved.”

Rodriguez joined the ACEL faculty in 2015 after earning her Ph.D. in agricultural extension from the University of Florida (UF). She also holds a bachelor’s degree in agricultural education and a master’s degree in international agricultural education from Texas A&M University, earning those in 2008 and 2010 respectively.


“When I was working on my PhD at UF, I was set and determined to work for an international organization. I wanted to focus my career on research and outreach. Then I got the opportunity to teach an intercultural communication course as the lead instructor. This changed everything for me,” said Rodriguez. “I saw the impact that teaching can make when you push students to think critically and to engage with difficult conversations. I love my research. I love working with communities. But every student that comes away from classes with me thinking about the world in a different way or having found their own place when it’s sometimes hard to do so, makes it all worth it”.

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, or to donate to student scholarships, please visit



JUNETEENTH: Remembering June 19, 1865

Dear ACEL Community,

Today is the 155th anniversary when black slaves received the news in Texas of their freedom from Federal soldiers; two and half years after the Civil War ended and the Emancipation Proclamation.  Really not that long ago. There have been additional amendments and legislation to secure other freedoms including the 13th Amendment (to abolish slavery, Dec. 1865) and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Even though proclamations, declarations, and legislation have been passed to free slaves, grant equal protections and right to vote, only true freedom and equality will be achieved when racial bias and beliefs of superiority are removed from hearts and minds. It is difficult because often these beliefs or implicit biases are hidden and affect our thoughts and actions in an unconscious manner. Together in ACEL through education, communication, and leadership we will work to promote anti-racism that fosters racial equality and justice.

The recent CFAES update from Dean Kress and educational guide from Dr. Dickerson (see attachment) provides helpful insight and perspective for Juneteenth.

“June 19th is known as Juneteenth, it’s also known as Jubilee Day, Black Independence Day, and Cel-Liberation Day, and is an American holiday that celebrates the emancipation of the last remaining enslaved African Americans in the Confederacy. Learn more about this African American tradition that has been around since the late 19th century. On this historical day take time to consider one’s own bias by reading, listening or watching a video. Resources can be found on the OSU Focus on Racial Justice website as well as the Smithsonian Magazine website.” (Dean Kress, CFAES Update)

ACEL stands in support and solidarity with our Black, Indigenous, and people of color students, staff, faculty, and stakeholders.

Dr. Scott Scheer
interim chair
Department of Agricultural Communication, Education, and Leadership