Seven ACEL students participate in global education programs

Students of the Department of Agricultural Communication, Education and Leadership (ACEL) spent time studying abroad during Ohio State’s spring and summer breaks. While students participated in programs in multiple countries, they all spent time learning about the unique role agriculture plays in communities across the globe.  

Aubrey Hoying, Kelsie Mannasmith, Koren Truance and Macie Wrachford participated in the England/Scotland: Agricultural and Environmental Communications program which spent about two weeks in May learning about prominent English agricultural issues and the ways through which mass media communicate with and educate the public about these issues. 

Hoying said it was interesting to see how similar, but different, agriculture is around the world. “While I was in the U.K. we visited different agriculture settings and experienced how their agriculture industry works. Each site we visited had a different type of agriculture to present – sheep, dairy, equine, crops, manure management, and more.” 

Students learned how British media both differ from and resemble U.S. media in their coverage of a wide range of social and technical issues associated with food and agriculture, including land use, foot and mouth disease, organic food production, local food systems and dairy cattle diseases. 

Dr. Emily Buck, professor of agricultural communication, and Dr. Annie Specht, associate professor of agricultural communication, led the program. Hoying, Mannasmith and Wrachford are agricultural communication majors. Truance majors in agriscience education. 

Three ACEL students participated in educational abroad programs in Costa Rica during Ohio State’s spring break in March. Lauren Mellott traveled to the Central American country as part of the Sustainable Service-Learning program, while Lindsey Okuley and Rachael Billups were in country with Alpha Zeta Partners for a program that focuses on the impact of leadership and system’s thinking in creating change in agriculture and the environment. 

While in Costa Rica, Mellott learned agriculture is complex in other countries. “This experience was a reminder that the production of agricultural goods isn’t always as simplified or easy for developing countries when compared to the United States.”  

Mellott is a senior studying agriscience education. Okuley and Billups graduated with a B.S. in agricultural communication in May. 

Drs. Mary Rodriguez, associate professor of community leadership, and Jera Niewoehner-Green, assistant professor of community leadership, serve as advisors of Alpha Zeta Partners and led the group on their global program. 

“Our college has always had a robust global education program, and ACEL faculty lead a number of these programs that allow our students to view the variety of culture, landscape, agriculture, leadership and community outside of the United States,” said Dr. Shannon Washburn, professor and chair of ACEL. “While our opportunity for student international travel was halted by the pandemic, these seven students have set an example to their classmates the importance of cross-cultural learning.”  

This was the first summer these global programs have traveled since before the global pandemic begin in 2020. While the England/Scotland program travels in odd years, many programs, including the two programs to Costa Rica, travel annually. The College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) offers a variety of global education programs that provide students the opportunity to enhance their understanding of the world. To see all the programs offered, visit 

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 undergraduate and graduate academic programs and research available in ACEL, please visit 

Specht honored with national educator award

At the annual American Association for Agricultural Education (AAAE) conference, Dr. Annie Specht, associate professor of agricultural communication at The Ohio State University, was selected as the 2023 Distinguished Agricultural Communications Educator.  

This award, given to one agricultural communication faculty member each year, recognizes an individual AAAE member for outstanding accomplishments in the agricultural communication profession based on outstanding accomplishments, evidence of excellence and impact in area of award through significant experience and activities, accomplishments, public dissemination of work, leadership, service and engagement related to AAAE, and service to the broader community, college and university.  

In October 2022, Specht was awarded the Distinguished Agricultural Communications Educator Award at the North Central AAAE Conference. The selection of that award qualified her for the national award.  

“Our department, and our students, are thankful to have professors like Dr. Specht,” said Dr. Shannon Washburn, professor and chair of the Department of Agricultural Communication, Education, and Leadership (ACEL). “Students consistently reference her as a teacher and mentor, which further demonstrates her selection for this award.”  

Since joining ACEL as an assistant professor in 2014, Specht has taught a variety of undergraduate and graduate courses including Exploring ACEL, Publication Design and Production, Agriculture Feature Writing, Advanced Agricultural Communication Technology, Data Visualization and Scientific Storytelling in FAES, Applied Communication Theory and Practice.  

She also has taught classes related to communication to public audiences, media literacy, presentation strategies for agricultural audiences, agricultural media writing, agricultural publication production and television production through her employment at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as an assistant professor and as a graduate student at Texas A&M University. 

Dr. Specht said “receiving the Agricultural Communications Educator award from AAAE is such an honor, especially given how many talented ag comm faculty there are across the country! I’ve been a member of AAAE since graduate school and being recognized by my longtime peers is really special to me.” 

To Dr. Specht, this award highlights how vital working with a great team is to individual success.  

“I am so lucky to have an amazing group of colleagues who have helped and supported me in my ten years as a faculty member, and I’m excited to work with them to continue to make the agricultural communication program and ACEL the best in the nation.” 

 To students in the ACEL Department, professors are an important part of their success.  

“From the very first day of class I knew Dr. Specht would be a professor I could always count on for advice. She is constantly willing to help her students succeed and is a wonderful mentor,” said Emma Bower, a senior studying agricultural communication from Jenera, Ohio. “I’ve learned so much personally and professionally from Dr. Specht and I appreciate everything she has done for me.” 

As an educator, Specht not only leads classroom instruction, but also plays a role in the development of curriculum and courses and has led program revisions for the agricultural communication major and minor to provide students with the skills and knowledge needed to prepare them for careers in the industry upon graduation. 

“What I feel makes her so deserving of this award is her service to agricultural commjunication and the agricultural education professional organizations,” said Dr. Emily Buck, professor of agricultural communication at Ohio State, in her nomination letter. “She has been a rising stay in our field for several yeats and has made a great impact at our university and nationally. From teaching to research to service, she is the epitome of what we need in our colleagues.” 

In addition to her role as an associate professor in ACEL, she is also an alum of our department. Specht holds three degrees from Ohio State, a B.S. in agricultural communication and a B.A. in English that she earned in 2008, and an M.S. in Agricultural and Extension Education in 2010. In 2013 she graduated with a PhD in agricultural communication from Texas A&M 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