Dr. Douglas Pletsch joined the department in 1965 as a graduate student from Fergus, Ontario, Canada. Pletsch completed a master’s and doctorate degree in agricultural and extension education. He spent 35 years as a faculty member in rural extension studies at the University of Guelph and retired in 2003.
[ACEL]: Hello Dr. Pletsch! Share with us why you decided to come to the Department of Agricultural Education (now ACEL) to complete your graduate degrees at Ohio State.
At the time of application, my wife, Vera, and I were working in a community development project in Brazil, administered by the Evangelical United Brethren Church (now part of the United Methodist Church) in collaboration with the Igreja Crista e Congregacionais do Brasil. My undergraduate degree was in crop science, but it became evident in our work that information dissemination was very important and anything that could be done to facilitate that was a winning approach.
Our supporting congregation was in Marion, Ohio. Having visited Marion and Columbus before going to Brazil, Ohio State was already a consideration when it came time to apply for graduate studies. I applied to three universities in the United States. Ohio State’s application package came via air mail, the other two by sea. By the time I received those applications, I had already been accepted at Ohio State.
How did your education at Ohio State influence your choice of career or your career path?
My time at Ohio State was extremely important. Shortly before completing my Ph.D. I was contacted by the University of Guelph to consider filling a position in the Department of Extension Education. Our plan was to return to Brazil, but because union of the Methodist and EUB denominations was about to take place, the position in Brazil was unclear, and I was advised to seriously consider the position at the University of Guelph, which I accepted.
Did you have a faculty member or advisor who was influential during your time at Ohio State?
Dr. Robert McCormick was my M.S. and Ph.D. advisor. He was an excellent role model and extremely helpful in making my time at Ohio State a cherished experience. Dr. Ralph Bender, chair of the Department, made us feel welcome, important and provided encouragement. As a Canadian, I was one of a number of foreign students, and without exception, we were well received and felt at ease.
What was your first job following your education at Ohio State?
Upon graduation in 1968, I joined the Department of Extension Education at the University of Guelph (U of G), in Ontario, Canada and I retired in 2003. My experiences as a faculty member at the University provided opportunities to be involved, not only in at the University but also in the community and in international development projects.
What positions have you held throughout your career?
Organization: The Agricultural Institute of Canada, The Ontario Institute of Agrology, The Canadian Society of Extension and The Advanced Agricultural Leadership Program.
My position at the U of G provided opportunities to be a part of several out of country projects. Our family spent three years at the University of Ghana as part of an institutional building project with that University. Subsequently, I worked with Ryerson University (Toronto) on a project of institutional building at Nur University in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. More recently, I assisted with distance learning projects at Tamil Nadu University in India and another at Mansoura University in Egypt.
During your career, have you received any awards or honors?
Life Member, Canadian Society of Extension, Centennial Award of the Department of Agricultural Education, OSU.
How are you involved in your community outside of your career?
I have been a member of Rotary for the last 19 years. We are also active in our local church and volunteer with the local food bank and other community organizations.
As of today, what is your favorite career highlight?
One highlight is difficult to bring to mind, I am humbled by the number of opportunities I have had to interact with international colleagues and students in several countries. This has allowed me to experience their culture and observe the desire and work to improve the lives of their fellow citizens.
What advice would you give to a current student?
Don’t underestimate your abilities and opportunities. Focus your efforts on helping others.
What did ACEL cultivate in you?
I felt a part of the educational experience at Ohio State. I was extremely fortunate to have professors who provided an optimal opportunity to explore diverse approaches to research and the search for improving lives. I adopted that approach in my own teaching, international activities and working with graduate students.