Alumni Spotlight: Rose Smith, ’06

[ACEL]: Hi Rose! Why did you choose to major in agricultural education?
[Smith]: I knew I wanted to be involved in informal agricultural education, educating the general public about where their food comes from. I didn’t know if that meant working in the United States or overseas, but I did know that majoring in agricultural education would prepare me best for my future career.

Why did you choose to attend The Ohio State University?
It’s the best! My high school guidance counselor encouraged me attend Ohio State knowing I wanted to teach agriculture, but not necessarily in the classroom. I attended classes at OSU-Lima for the first two years of my education, as they were offering evening classes locally in Bellefontaine. This was perfect as it allowed me to work full time during the day and attend small classes in the evening. Once it was time to focus on my major, it was an easy transition to main campus.

How did your education at Ohio State influence your choice of career or your career path?
My education at Ohio State opened my eyes to what a huge need there is for educating consumers on the food supply and food systems. I have worked in the organic industry for over six years now and the desire for people to know how their food is raised is higher now than ever before.

What were you involved in as an Ohio State student?
My favorite job was working at the RPAC. It had just opened when I began working there. It was a fantastic opportunity to meet such a diverse group of students and I still run into my former boss on a regular basis, mainly when tailgating before football games!

What classes did you enjoy the most while at Ohio State? 
I really enjoyed the “Block” set up, spending large chunks of time with some of my closest college friends, knowing we were all working on the same thing was interesting.

Some of my other favorite classroom memories happened because my brother and I had the same major, and he was only a few quarters ahead of me, so occasionally we would have classes together. Those classes were always more challenging because we were fairly competitive with each other on anything where there could be the slightest bit of competition, so I would always try a little harder in those classes. He would also make me buy the book, saying we would “share it”… I never saw those books again.

What professor, faculty or staff member had an impact on your education/career? 
There are a few that stand out, but Dr. Susie Whittington probably made the largest impact on me. She has a super power of knowing the special skills of each student and where they would fit best once leaving college. She has the great ability of encouraging students just when they need it most and nudging them in the right direction. She was a big part of me getting my first job after college. Just recently, I was visiting with her at a wedding, discussing women doing jobs that historically were held my men. Though I already knew it, it was an amazing reminder of what a trail blazer she is, leading the way for woman to teach agriculture in a variety of formats.

What is your favorite memory related to your time at Ohio State?
What a hard question! There are so many, but one that is coming to mind is the 2002 Ohio State vs. Michigan Game. The game was obviously amazing and unbelievable. Digital cameras weren’t in full swing yet, and everyone was still using film cameras. I remember walking to the CVS on the corner of High and Lane to drop my film off the next day and there was a pile of film several feet tall that had been turned in to be developed. The girl behind the counter looked at me, with this look of panic on her face and firmly said, “It’s going to be a longer than an hour”. It was just the reminder of what a historic this had happened the day before. It was exciting being a part of it.

What was your first job following your education at Ohio State?
I worked as an Outreach Educator at COSI. I traveled to elementary schools putting on an assembly of a specific topic, then spent the rest of the day working with smaller classes doing hands on science experiments. The most valuable thing I got from working there was a strong ability to be independent. It was me and a box truck full of science equipment traveling all over Ohio and the surrounding states. Plus, who wouldn’t love a job where it was normal to shoot off a rocket any given day?

For what schools, companies and/or organizations have you worked throughout your career?
After COSI, I worked for just about a year at FFA Camp Muskingum. A job opportunity became available working in the organic industry in Bellefontaine, so I moved back home. I worked for two different organic certification agencies, Global Organic Alliance and Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, before landing what has become my dream job at Organic Valley. As a regional pool manager, I work with a dairy farmers that are currently organic and shipping milk with Organic Valley, as well as the farmers that are in transition to organic production. Organic Valley is a farmer-owned cooperative, and it is an honor to work with organic farmers who are working hard to keep their families farming by producing organic products.

During your career, have you received any awards or honors? 
It isn’t an official award or honor, but I am the first female regional pool manager that works remotely for Organic Valley. Since I was hired there have been three additional women hired. There was a lot of discussion on how farmers would handle having a woman as their manager, but it has turned out just fine. I had been working at Organic Valley for about a month when I stopped at a farm to take a farmer out to lunch. While we were eating he said, “You know this is no job for a woman”. I had no idea how to respond. Since then, I have formed a great relationship with him and he has actually told me, “They hired the right woman for this job”, which is a huge complement.

As of today, what is your favorite career highlight?
I love being able to offer farmers a market for their milk. I remember one spring day about two years ago, when I was going through the contract we complete with farmers when they join the co-op. The sun was shining and it was a beautiful day, so we sat at the picnic table in his yard and completed the paperwork. I will never forget the happiness the farmer was showing, as this meant he could be a full time farmer and no longer needed to work at his factory job. Though there are really tough parts of this job, it is always a highlight when I get to offer a contact to a farmer!

What advice would you give to a current student?
Pay attention in class! There have been so many times that I need to do something in my current career, and I remember vaguely some teacher talking about this sometime in college, but I wasn’t really paying close attention. My life would be a lot easier now if I wasn’t going back to relearn all of those things. A perfect example, I remember mildly paying attention when we learned about calculating dry matter in a feed ration, thinking I would never need to know how to do this. I calculate dry matter for farmers almost weekly now. I should have paid attention.

What did ACEL cultivate in you? 
My professors knew I had no intention of teaching in the classroom, but knew that the skills taught in the agricultural education major would be incredibly useful in informal education as well. This showed me that education isn’t a cookie cutter approach and that education is about life skills and not just grades on a paper.

Alumni Spotlight: Dr. Barbara Kirby ’76, ’81 MS

Barbara Malpiedi Kirby is from Shadyside, Ohio and currently lives in Garner, North Carolina. She graduated with her bachelors degree in Environmental Education and her masters degree in Agricultural Education. She is currently at North Carolina State University, Professor of Agricultural and Extension Education.

[ACEL]: Hello Dr. Kirby! Why did you choose to attend The Ohio State University?
My father, aunt and one cousin graduated from The Ohio State University. My dad had season football tickets. Needless to say, my brother and I started at a very young age cheering the Buckeyes in the Shoe for many years. Everything about the university and Columbus intrigued me. I could not imagine going to school at any other university. Only three students from my high school graduating class began college careers at Ohio State. The university felt like home to me even though it was so big.

Why did you select your major or graduate program?
I grew up in a small town in southeastern Ohio, Shadyside, OH. My grandfather had a small family farm and loved hunting and fishing. He inspired my passion for agriculture and natural resources. While the livelihood of family members and friends depended on the success of the coal mines, steel mills and power plants along the Ohio River, the degradation of the environment saddened me. I attended The Ohio State University and majored in natural resources for my B.S. degree. My internship at Oglebay Park Nature Center in Wheeling, WV was a turning point for me. I loved teaching all age groups at the Center and decided to obtain my natural resources teaching license through agricultural education. The agricultural education faculty members were passionate educators and motivated me to complete my master’s degree while I was teaching.

How did your education at Ohio State influence your choice of career or your career path?
When I came to Ohio State, teaching was not one of my career aspirations. Drs. Newcomb, Knight and Barrick taught the intro course, teaching methods and agricultural education program courses Dr. Jim Knight, with his ton of positive vibes, supervised my student teaching. Their enthusiasm and passion for teaching was contagious and launched me into a teaching career. After graduation, I taught high school natural resources/environmental sciences at the Ashland County – West Holmes JVS in Ashland, Ohio. My greatest joy was managing our 80-acre teaching land laboratory. Although I loved teaching high school students and managing the land laboratory, my real passion was mentoring student teachers. I still remember the conversation with Kirby Barrick about the possibility of pursuing a doctorate.  My career path turned to higher education.

What were you involved in as an Ohio State student?
Since my participation in the agricultural education program was late into my undergraduate program, I did not have much time to be involved as an undergraduate in ag student organizations. I was a member of the Student Ag Council and the Agricultural Education Society. The Fall Fest was a big event for us.  I was also a member of Zeta Tau Alpha National Fraternity and served in several officer positions, including president and was a member of the Panhellenic Association Presidents’ Council.  As a graduate student, I was inducted into Gamma Sigma Delta.

What classes did you enjoy the most while at Ohio State?
My favorite classes were the environmental education and agricultural education major courses. I enjoyed the park and recreation planning and programming courses. The projects were a lot of fun and enabled me to use my creativity. Jim Knight taught my Intro to Agricultural Education class. Witnessing the personal interest Dr. Knight took in each of his students has resonated with me throughout my career. I have always tried to acknowledge the uniqueness and importance of each student, especially as part of a large university. My ag ed courses prepared me to teach. I was not in a high school vocational ag program or a member of the FFA. Drs. Newcomb, Barrick and Hedges engaged us in the classes and afforded opportunities to apply and practice the competencies essential for classroom and laboratory success. Dr. Joe Gleim’s ag mechanics class was on of my favorite graduate classes. Relieved that I survived Dr. Larry Miller’s research course, the project driven ag mechanics course was a nice way to spend a summer. L.H can tell the rest of the story about the notorious patio our class built that summer.

What professor, faculty or staff member had an impact on your education? 
I shared early how many of the faculty members impacted my education and career. However, Dr. L.H. Newcomb was probably the most influential. I appreciated his candor, patience and humor. L.H. assisted me with my licensure program and served as my graduate advisor. He along with many others provided much need guidance for an undergraduate who was not always on track and motivation for a grad student managing a full-time teaching job and evening graduate classes. I am also grateful that Dr. Newcomb decided to take a yearlong administrative internship in the dean’s office. Dr. Warmbrod invited me to join the staff that year as a post-doc lecturer. The experience solidified my goal of pursuing a permanent faculty position in higher education. 

What is your favorite memory related to your time at Ohio State?
I have so many wonderful memories. I made great friends in the College of Agriculture and developed lifelong friendships through Zeta Tau Alpha. The memories are special because of the friends who were there in the 70’s still sustain me today.  We are loyal, fanatic Buckeye fans. We loved the football games and now the opportunity to get together. As undergrads, it didn’t matter if we had to sit in Block O or in the rain or snow. A trip to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA -was more than a girl from Shadyside could fathom. We had a great time. “How firm thy friendship, O-HI-O.”

What was your first job following your education at Ohio State?
Teaching students enrolled in the Natural Resources and Environmental Science program at Ashland County-West Holmes JVS in Ashland, OH was my first teaching position. Our FFA included the students in Ag Mechanic classes. I enjoyed teaching in a two-teacher department.

For what schools, companies and/or organizations have you worked throughout your career and what were your responsibilities in those positions?
Following my teaching position at ACWH JVS, I was a graduate assistant at Virginia Tech where I earned my doctorate degree. I taught undergraduate ag ed courses and supervised student teachers. After graduate school, I worked as a lecturer with the Department of Agricultural Education faculty at The Ohio State University. What a thrill to be part of this extraordinary program and a member of its faculty. My first tenure track faculty position was at NC State University in 1985. As an assistant professor, I taught several different courses: computer/instructional technology, introduction to teaching, history and philosophy (Foundations), and mentoring. I advised undergraduates and graduate students.

After moving through the ranks and achieving the rank of full professor, I moved to college administration. As the assistant/ associate director of academic programs, my worked involved student recruitment, new student program, directing the honors program and working with faculty on various college programs like the outstanding teacher program and Educational and Technology Funding. In 2009, I became the director of the Agricultural Institute, a two year associate degree program. Directing the Institute was a wonderful experience. The students valued ”hands on learning” so that they were prepared to return to their farms and agribusiness jobs. Several continued their education and completed BS degrees.

My last administrative position at NC State was associate vice provost for academic programs and services, a newly organized unit in the University Division of Academic and Student Affairs (DASA) at NC State University. DASA was a unique organization that integrated curricular and co- curricular components to improve the academic performance of our students and the quality of academic and non-academic experiences at NC State University. Major responsibilities included: 
Leadership and specific administrative oversight for the overall University processing of courses and curricula and the General Education Program; Oversight of the First Year Inquiry program courses and faculty development; administrative management of the Environmental Science interdisciplinary degree program and the EcoVillage, Living and Learning Community.

After 18 years in administration, I returned to the faculty to resume my faculty role as a full professor.  I am now teaching, advising, and conducting research in the newly formed Department of Agricultural and Human Sciences.

During your career, what honors or awards have you been presented?
Some of my most meaningful awards included the Honorary State and National FFA Degrees; Outstanding Teacher of the College of Education and College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; induction into the NC State University Academy of Outstanding Teachers; Outstanding Contributions to Undergraduate Education, NCSU Division of Undergraduate Academic Programs Award; NACTA Teacher Fellow; Food Systems Leadership Institute (FSLI) Fellow; and Senior Fellow in the American Association for Agricultural Education (AAAE). I also received the Distinguished Teaching Award from the American Association for Agricultural Education (AAAE), in the Southern Region. During graduate school, I was inducted into the following: Alpha Tau Alpha (National Honorary in Agricultural Education); Phi Delta Kappa (National Education Honorary); and Omicron Tau Theta (National Honorary in Vocational Education),

I was very honored to return to Virginia Tech to receive Virginia Tech’s Recognition of Generations of Women Teachers: Leader, Achiever, and Outstanding Alumna.

During my early career at NC State, I worked with the National Zeta Tau Alpha Fraternity and local alumnae in the construction of a local ZTA chapter house near the campus. I was presented the North Carolina Alumnae Themis Award for contributions to a collegiate chapter of Zeta Tau Alpha and National Certificate of Merit for contributions to a collegiate chapter of Zeta Tau Alpha.

As of today, what is your favorite career highlight?
Wow. There are many. My teaching and administrative career spanned multiple levels of education: high school teacher, two-year associate degree program director, faculty member in a major land grant university engaged in undergraduate and graduate education and administration at the college and university levels. Certainly, earning my doctorate degree was a highlight. The experience humbled me and opened the door for a career in higher education spanning 33+ years. My education and training positioned me to help others. When I can mentor or help a Jr. faculty member or administrative colleague, that resonates with me as a career highlight. Any time I can help a student especially those who find themselves in challenging situations, that is a career highlight. I probably experienced several of those situations myself. Certainly, becoming an associate vice provost is a career highlight. More importantly, in that role, I was able to help a graduate student from Nigeria navigate the red tape and bureaucracy in order to resolve his admission issues and complete a master’s degree in agricultural and extension education. Celebrating his success at graduation with his family (who flew from Nigeria) and all who had been part of his NC State experience was certainly a career highlight.

What advice would you give to a current student?
Don’t ever under estimate yourself. Listen to the advice of your faculty. Make the most of every collegiate experience. That includes curricular and co-curricular experiences. In particular, study abroad, engage in service learning, seek challenging internships, network and build friendships. Everything you do positions you for the next level. Enjoy your time at the university and take charge of fulfilling your dreams.

What did ACEL cultivate in you?
Being part of ACEL cultivated in me a passion for teaching, determination, perseverance, dedication and compassion. While I would attribute my acquiring many of these attributes to my upbringing, the faculty and fellow students in ACEL nurtured my desire to be a successful educator. Many people along the way have continued to cultivate and support even my craziest of idea and dreams.


Alumni Spotlight: Dr. Tracy Kitchel ’98, ’99 MS

Dr. Tracy Kitchel graduated from Ohio State with his undergraduate degree in agricultural education in 1998 and his masters in agricultural education in 1999. Shortly after graduation, he became an agricultural educator and FFA advisor for Archbold High School in Fulton County. These days, Kitchel is a professor and chair for the Department of Agricultural Communication, Education and Leadership (ACEL) at the Ohio State University.

[ACEL]: Why did you select your major or graduate program?
[Kitchel]: I started my undergraduate career as an agricultural communication major. I was drawn to that work because I had recently been elected as the State FFA Reporter, which, at the time, meant I was working with our magazine, Ohio FFA News. Throughout the year, however, I was drawn to working with FFA members and found it rewarding. The decision to change my major was solidified when I worked at the past state FFA officer session at Ohio FFA Camp; I knew I wanted to work with students.

Why did you choose to attend The Ohio State University?
I’m not certain I thought of any other place. I knew I wanted to be in agriculture and I felt attending Ohio State was the clear choice. Even though I had been on campus for various reasons, I didn’t even do an official campus visit (something I don’t recommend, but it worked out for me).

How did your education at Ohio State influence your choice of career or your career path?
I wouldn’t be on this path had it not been for Ohio State. In particular, it was with my advisor, Dr. Jamie Cano, who insisted I do a literature review as an undergraduate, which would lead to my master’s thesis the following year. He planted the seeds that I needed to get my Ph.D. and be a professor. He assigned a student teacher for me to serve as cooperating teacher because he felt that experience would be invaluable as a teacher educator (and it was). He connected me with one of his former Ph.D. students, Dr. Bryan Garton, which led to me studying at the University of Missouri for my Ph.D.

What were you involved in as an Ohio State student (student organizations, honoraries, campus jobs, Greek life, etc.):
I was president, secretary and banquet co-chair of Agricultural Education Society, a member of Alpha Tau Zeta (now FarmHouse) fraternity, president of Phalanx (the college student organization that soon-after morphed into the CFAES Ambassadors), and served as co-chair and narrator of the College Recognition Banquet.  On campus, I worked as a Night Assistant in the Scott/Norton House Dorms and worked for the Ag Safety program in what is now FABE department. Off campus, I was an Ohio FFA intern, worked at Ohio FFA Camp two summers, and served as an office page for the Ohio Senate. I did my early field experience and student teaching both at Versailles High School with Dena Wuebker.

What classes did you enjoy the most while at Ohio State? What was your favorite and why?
My favorite courses were my ag comm and ag ed classes. I still use what I learned from Dr. Paulson’s AGRCOMM 200 and 300 courses today.  My teacher preparation courses were great. I felt prepared as a teacher because of them. For the most part, there was a cohort of us that progressed through to student teaching. We laughed a great deal over the years. Our teaching labs were particularly comical, yet did a great job preparing us for the realities of teaching.

What professor, faculty or staff member had an impact on your education?
As I shared before, Dr. Jamie Cano had the most impact on my career. I also appreciate the patience Dr. Jan Henderson afforded me, even when I didn’t always deserve said patience. It’s that kind of grace I’ve attempted to share with my own students even when said grace is not easy to give. I also appreciated how deeply intentional Dr. Hedges was in his teaching. That intentionality is something I always strive toward in my own teaching.

What is your favorite memory related to your time at Ohio State?
I have so many great memories. I developed a great group of friends (time and change has surely shown…). We all bonded over football games – I still get emotional when I go to the games.  Again, we had great times as a student teaching cohort. I really enjoyed student organizations and be a part of campus.  I could go on and on.

What was your first job following your education at Ohio State?
After graduating with my B.S. in ag ed, I started my M.S. in ag ed and was a graduate associate for AGRCOMM 390 (now 3130). After that, my first “out of college” job was as agriculture teacher and FFA advisor for Archbold High School in Fulton County (Ohio).

What positions have you held since graduating and where have you worked?
I moved around a bit over my 18 years after leaving Ohio State.  After being an ag teacher at Archbold High School. I was a graduate assistant and Ph.D. student at the University of Missouri. After graduating, my first faculty position was as an assistant professor at the University of Kentucky (UK).  I left UK after 5 years and became associate professor and director of graduate studies for the Department of Agricultural Education and Leadership at the University of Missouri (MU). At the end of my time at MU, I served as assistant vice provost for graduate and postdoctoral affairs where I served as the secondary leader for the Office of Graduate Studies (other places called the Graduate School). In particular, l was in charge of areas and programs such as campus fellowships, student-faculty issues, the campus TA training and development of our directors of graduate studies. In August 2016, I returned to Ohio State to be Professor and Chair of ACEL.

I’ve spent most of my career in higher education and in those professor roles, have taught courses from teaching methods, research methods and introduction to leadership. I’ve conducted research on pre-service and early career agriculture teachers. Finally, I provide service in working related to agricultural education, agriculture teachers and FFA.

Share any awards or honors you have received over the years
Some of my more meaningful awards include the USDA Excellence in Teaching Award (Early Career Award), North Central AAAE Distinguished Teacher and Distinguished Researcher Awards, Gold Chalk Award (University of Missouri) for excellence in graduate teaching, Joe T. Davis Outstanding Advisor (University of Kentucky’s College of Agriculture), OAAE Outstanding Young Ag Teacher Award, Honorary American FFA Degree and CFAES Alumni Young Professional Award.

As of today, what is your favorite career highlight?
In a truly authentic way, my favorite career highlight was the opportunity to return to my home department and serve as its chair.  Up there on the list, in a far less serious way, is having presided over the master’s degree ceremonies at the University of Missouri when I was Assistant Vice Provost. I have to admit – that was cool. (At Ohio State, we have one ceremony per term and the university president presides over all those ceremonies throughout the year – that’s not typical, by the way).

What advice would you give to a current student?
Don’t wait to be invited – find ways to take charge of your own career by getting involved and meeting people different than you.  Find ways to really become self-aware of who you are. I credit my experiences at Ohio State in helping me do that and it wasn’t always easy. Balance your out-of-class learning with your in-class learning (both are valuable). And study abroad – I really have only one major regret and that was it. I had to wait years into my career to travel internationally.

What did ACEL cultivate in you?
My engagement with ACEL has cultivated so much in me and continues to do so now that I’ve returned home. The overarching theme is that ACEL cultivated my potential, even when I didn’t think I could do any better.  The surprising thing is that even as chair, I still feel like the department continues to push and invest in me even when I feel it’s my job to do that for others.

Kitchel’s family, following wife Laura’s graduation with her PhD from the University of Missouri.


Kitchel (second from right) at the CFAES Recognition Program in 1998 with other “Top 10 Seniors”.


Kitchel with advisor Dr. Jamie Cano.

Speaking at a CFAES event as chair of ACEL.

Alumni Spotlight: Callie Wells, ’10, ’12 MS

[ACEL]: Hi Callie! Why did you select your major?
[Wells]:I had a hard time narrowing down a specific area to focus on for a few years into my undergraduate education. I couldn’t make my mind up because I wanted to learn it all! I had five, maybe more, combinations of majors and minors. After taking courses in nearly every discipline CFAES teaches, I became fascinated with learning about how people interact, learn, and communicate with each other. The ACEL disciplines were the perfect fit to marry my interests and talents in social sciences with my passion for the agriculture industry. I added agricultural education as a second major, in addition to animal science, in my undergraduate program and focused on agricultural communication in my graduate program.

Why did you choose to attend The Ohio State University?
Until halfway through my junior year of high school, I was sure I was going to Miami University, where my mom worked which provided me a full tuition waiver. Who’s going to pass up a full tuition waiver? Me, it turns out. I joined FFA my junior year and was involved in a lot of programs and CDE’s that provided me the opportunity to visit Ohio State. I was amazed at the vast opportunities at a university as large as Ohio State, but also at the tight knit community in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences. Once I knew Ohio State was the place for me I worked hard to earn a few scholarships to soften the blow to my parents when I decided not to use the tuition waiver. A free education might be nice, but I knew in my gut Ohio State was the best place for me, and it is the best decision I have ever made!

How did your education at Ohio State influence your choice of career or your career path?
My education at Ohio State influenced my career path simply by giving me the best foundation of skills, experiences, and networks to build upon, and a passion to continue building it.

What were you involved in as an Ohio State student?
I was involved in so many student orgs! Ag Ed Society, Norton/Scott Hall Council, CFAES Student Council, Undergraduate Student Government, University Senate, CFAES Ambassadors, CFAES Banquet co-chair, SPHINX Senior Honorary, and many more. The experiences I had with these organizations is just as valuable as the time I spent in the classroom.

What classes did you enjoy the most while at Ohio State? Did you have a favorite?
I think my graduate school communication theory class was my favorite class during my time at Ohio State. Analyzing how various messaging impacts how individuals and groups think, act, and react… It’s hard to explain why, but it’s just an area I find endlessly fascinating.

What professor, faculty or staff member had an impact on your education/career? How?
There are so many who had a bit impact on me, and it is hard to choose, so I think I have to go with the person who had the first influential impact, and that would be Kelly Newlon. Seeing her passion for her work made me want to take the time to really figure out what my passion was and I might not have taken the time to figure it had I not seen it in her. She also led a study abroad program to the Czech Republic the summer after my freshman year that changed my life. I had never traveled in the States, let alone abroad, and Kelly was the perfect person to teach us about new cultures and help us process what we were learning.

What is your favorite memory related to your time at Ohio State?
One of my favorite memories is the day I was linked into SPHINX Senior Class Honorary. Each new class of Links is led by the current class on the long walk on the Oval while the Orton Hall Chimes play Carmen Ohio. It was a very special moment to reflect on how much I had experienced at Ohio State and how much was still to come.

What was your first job following your education at Ohio State?
My first job was as communications specialist at Ohio Farm Bureau.

For what schools, companies and/or organizations have you worked throughout your career?
I worked at Ohio Farm Bureau for five years, as communications specialist first and then as director of digital communications. I then moved on to be the marketing and production lead at Herdmark Media for a short time, and now am the communications specialist for the Ohio Association of School Business Officials. I’m also building a small side gig do freelance writing, digital communications/marketing consulting, and video production mostly for farms, smalls ag businesses, and associations.

As of today, what is your favorite career highlight?
I’m very proud to have started a few digital content strategies at Ohio Farm Bureau that give farmers a platform to tell their stories. Take Over Tuesday and Growing Our Generation were very simple ideas that have continued to grow long past my time running them, which I am very proud of.

What advice would you give to a current student?
Learn patience. Don’t rush things and take some time to get to know your talents and interests, while you are afforded the time to do so!

What did ACEL cultivate in you?
ACEL cultivated in me a passion for continual learning and community building.



Alumni Spotlight: Kelly Newlon, ’98



Kelly Newlon came to Ohio State from Perry County, Ohio. She now works for the University as the Director of Education Abroad for the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, a position she has held for 10 years. With her job, she has been able to travel to all seven continents!

[ACEL]: Hi Kelly! You completed your undergraduate degree in agricultural education. Why did you select that?
[Newlon]: I knew I wanted to pursue higher education administration by the end of my sophomore year. I had a love for CFAES and agricultural education and knew it would provide an excellent foundation for my career.

Why did you choose to attend The Ohio State University?
I am a third generation Buckeye and grew up coming to football and basketball games, imitating the drum major and knowing the cheers. There really was no other university in my mind.

What classes did you enjoy the most while at Ohio State?
My production agriculture minor courses are what impress people in my general life the most today. People think it is cool that I know how to weld and select animals for breeding based on their EPDs. I also did some cool things with classes, most fun was earning my private pilot’s license.

What professor, faculty, or staff member had an impact on your education/career? How?
It is hard to think back now and think of what I thought as a student, but through my professional career Dr. Ray Miller made a huge impact. His quiet humility and extreme work ethic were exemplars for all around him.

How did your education at Ohio State influence your choice of career or your career path?
I studied abroad between my freshman and sophomore year and on the program met a student who was serving as a University Ambassador. She encouraged me to apply to be an ambassador and I got the job! As I have developed professionally I gained skills and it has taken me back to the classroom at the college level and I am ever grateful for having classroom management and student teaching course content.

What were you involved in as an Ohio State student?
My primary involvement was as a University Ambassador and Alpha Sigma Upsilon sorority. I was also involved in CFAES Student Council, the Recognition Banquet Committee, Collegiate 4-H, Sphinx and Bucket and Dipper.

What is your favorite memory related to your time at Ohio State?
Nothing beats the goose bumps I feel when the drum major comes running down the ramp during a home game against TTUN. The anticipation of the game to come and the comradely shared with those around you is unequaled.

What was your first job following your education at Ohio State?
I was the assistant director of admissions at Indian University in Bloomington, IN.

What other schools have you worked for during your career?
Indiana University, Capital University, The Ohio State University.

During your career, have you received any awards or honors? If so, what are those?
I have received the University Outstanding Student Organization Advisor award twice, Dr. L.H. Newcomb Excellence in Leadership and Service Award in 2015, Sphinx/Mortar Board Senior Honorary Faculty and Staff Award four times.

As of today, what is your favorite career highlight?
I love my work and take pride in the small moments of seeing students grow on programs. It is pretty cool that my career has taken me to seven continents though!

What professional organizations have you been involved with during your career?
North American College Teachers of Agriculture, National Agricultural Alumni and Development Association, National Association of Foreign Student Advisors, Forum on International Education, Diversity Abroad, National Association of College Admissions Councilors.

How are you involved in your community outside of your profession?
I have continues to advise Alpha Sigma Upsilon and helped found an alumnae association. I have also been active in the United Methodist Church including choir membership.

What advice would you give to a current student?
Be strategic and plan for your future, but always keep an eye out for how you could improve upon that vision. Don’t rule anything out!

What did ACEL cultivate in you? How?
ACEL is all about servant leadership and I take great pride in being in a career that allows me to build a workforce that will give back and grow Ohio communities.

Newlon visited her seventh continent this summer when she visited Tanzania.


Newlon spent time in Antarctica a few years ago, learning about and experiencing a new education abroad program.


Alumni Spotlight: Dave Stiles, ’78, ’83 MS

David Stiles is a two-time graduate of Ohio State in agricultural education, receiving his bachelor’s degree in 1978 and returning for his master’s degree in 1983. His early career took him to a variety of positions, but he has been teaching agricultural education at Indian Valley High School since 1986 and he has been serving as an adjunct professor in agribusiness at Kent State University – Tuscarawas since 2016.


[ACEL]: Hi Dave! Tell us why you selected to major in agricultural education at Ohio State.
I decided when I was a sophomore in high school that I either wanted to become a “Vo-Ag” teacher or a 4-H Extension agent.  I had always enjoyed working with other kids and an “ag ed” degree would enable me to fulfill that.

At that time, attending Ohio State was the only option unless you went out of state, and I could start out at the Lima campus and live at home my first two years.

How did your education at Ohio State influence your choice of career or your career path?
Essentially solidified it.  During my freshman year, my father had the opportunity to expand the farming operation to include me into the operation full-time, but we decided that I would possibly be better off finishing college first. Wise choice (especially on my father’s foresight) as had we expanded at that time we most likely would have lost the entire farming operation during the agricultural recession in the 1980’s.

What were you involved in as an Ohio State student outside of the classroom:
Agricultural Education Society my junior and senior years, OSU Lima Men’s Choral my freshman and sophomore years. I also worked at Kroger’s on 12th Avenue in Columbus during my junior and senior years – it was an eye-opening experience for an old “farm boy”.

What classes did you enjoy the most while at Ohio State? What was your favorite and why? 
It would be easier to list which classes I enjoyed the least: any math class (I only reached Math 116!) and livestock Anatomy which was supposed to be an elective for “non-vet” majors, but I think I was the only “non-vet” student in the class!

Favorite classes would have to have been Agricultural Education 330 (teaching methods with “LH”), Agricultural Economics 310, Welding with Dr. Gleem and Papriton, and most of the other agricultural education and agricultural economics classes that I took.

Share with us a faculty or staff member that had an impact on your time at Ohio State.
Number one would have to be Dr. John Starling.  Dr. Starling served as my state supervisor when I started teaching, in addition to teaching the record keeping/accounting (FBPA) course at Ohio State.  When I left teaching (the first time), Dr. Starling was persistent in seeing that I returned to teaching, as that “was what I should be doing” in his words. Others that have had a major influence in my teaching career include: Dr. Kirby Barrick, Dr. LH Newcomb, and, Dr. Joe Gleem.

What is your favorite memory related to your time at Ohio State?
The “Auglaize County Home for Wayward Boys”, a large 9-bedroom house on 19th street that held numerous “social events” throughout the years.  Picture Animal House. Enough said.

What was your first job following your education at Ohio State?
Teaching “production agriculture” at St. Marys Memorial High School.

Share with us other places you have worked throughout your career.
1978-1982: Vo-Ag teacher at St. Marys Memorial; 1982-83:  Agricultural Techniques of Tomorrow (Farm Management Consultant.) 1983-1984:  FBPA Instructor at Penta County Adult Education.  1984-1986; Commodities Broker, Office Manager for FGL Commodities, Fairmont Indiana; 1986 – present:  Agricultural Education Teacher at Indian Valley High School, Gnadenhutten.  2016-present:  Agribusiness Adjunct Professor at Kent State University-Tuscarawas.

During your career, have you received any awards or honors?
Honorary American FFA Degree, National FFA Association, 2016
Outstanding Educators Award, 2012, Tuscarawas County Farm Bureau Association
Ohio Outstanding Teacher in Agricultural Education, 2009, Ohio Association of Agricultural Educators
Honorary State FFA Degree, 2009, Ohio FFA Association
Region I (National Finalist) Outstanding Teacher in Community Service, 2006, Association for Career and Technical Education
Ohio Outstanding Teacher in Community Service, 2006, Ohio Association for Career and Technical Education
Outstanding Program in Agricultural Education, 2000, Ohio Association of Agricultural Educators
National Models of Innovation Finalist – Chapter Development, 2001, National FFA Organization
Ohio Pacesetter Award, 1998, 2000, 2006, Ohio Association for Career and Technical Education
Outstanding Educator Award, 1998, Tuscarawas County Chamber of Commerce
National Finalist:  Models of Innovation – Student Development, 1997, 1998, National FFA Organization
National Winner:  Models of Innovation – Student Development, 1997, National FFA Organization
Outstanding Program in Agricultural Education, District 8, 1994, Ohio Vocational Agricultural Teachers Association
AgriScience Teacher of the Year Finalist, 1992, Ohio Vocational Agricultural Teachers Association
Outstanding Young Teacher, 1982, Ohio Vocational Agricultural Teachers Association

As of today, what is your favorite career highlight?
Teacher chaperone for the National FFA International Experience Award Winners. I was able to visit and experience the agriculture of Ireland, summer 2017.

What advice would you give to a current student?
Find your passion and stick with it, but don’t be afraid to try other things. It is better to have tried something else and discover it wasn’t your best fit, than to go through life wondering “what if”.  For an agriscience education student starting out: When it is all said and done, the only thing that will matter to your students is not how much you knew, but that they knew you cared.

What did ACEL cultivate in you?
Reinforced social skills, confidence, and a positive attitude.


Mr. David Stiles receives the Honorary American FFA Degree at the 2016 National FFA Convention from Sydney Snider, Eastern Region Vice President and Ohio State agricultural communication student.



Alumni Spotlight: Leslie Risch Cooksey, ’05, ’12 MS


Leslie Risch Cooksey came to Ohio State from Oak Harbor, Ohio to study agricultural and extension education in 2001. She completed her B.S. in 2005 and her M.S. in 2012. She has been a Buckeye for many years, through both her education and career. She is currently the 4-H Extension Educator in Farifield County, Ohio.

[ACEL]: Why did you select your major?
[Cooksey]: As a very active 4-H and FFA member growing up, I knew that my career path was going to involve agriculture AND either 4-H or FFA. Therefore, I chose agricultural education as my major for undergraduate studies (B.S. 2005) and later my graduate work in extension education (M.S. 2012).

Why did you choose to attend The Ohio State University?
With a passion to continue being involved in agriculture and knowing that I would likely not end up back home on our small family farm, I had to choose an agricultural school. I applied at Purdue, Wilmington, and Ohio State. Although accepted to all, after a few college visits, I knew Ohio State was my choice. I also had a twin sister choosing school at the same time and we actually made a joint decision that OSU would be best for us. It was a big deal moving off to college for the two of us – over 2 hours from home and first generation college students in our family.

How did your education at Ohio State influence your choice of career or your career path?
I’ve never left OSU since starting my education at OSU! I started working for the Farm Science Review as a student, graduated and moved home to work in Extension as a 4-H Program Assistant in Ottawa County, recruited back to Farm Science Review when a full-time position opened, finished my M.S. while working on campus, and after I had my credentials, I waited for the right opportunity to open up and pursue my next career path with OSU Extension and 4-H. I have been very fortunate.

You were an involved student at Ohio State. What were some of the activities you enjoyed?
Saddle and Sirloin, Ag Ed Society, Towers Ag Honorary, Micki Zartman Scarlet & Gray Ag Day, Collegiate Farm Bureau, Collegiate 4-H, and Meat Judging Team! I served as President of Saddle and Sirloin and was very active with their committees and events in addition to being very active with AES. I worked as a student assistant at the campus office of the Farm Science Review and at the show site for 3 ½ years. I also worked a short time in the OARDC Directors Office on campus. Additionally, I was a part of the 2003 Meat Judging Team.

What classes did you enjoy the most while at Ohio State?
Animal and meat science classes – It’s my passion and made me feel “closer to home”. I also enjoyed Dr. Karol Fike (my animal science 200 professor and first animal science class). I also enjoyed having Dr. Henry Zerby as an educator and his meat science classes – not only for what I was able to learn, but he has a great personality and passion for teaching!

What professor, faculty or staff member had an impact on your education/career? How? Early on, the most impactful people on my career path certainly my parents. Additionally, I would say Kathy Booher as the 4-H Agent in Ottawa County and Mr. Louie Damschroder as one of my High School Ag Teachers/FFA Advisors. Both are graduates of OSU. Once on campus, Dr. Susie Whittington was a great teacher in preparing me to be an educator and shared a lot of life lessons that were meaningful to my career path. My guys at Farm Science Review who have become lifelong mentors – Craig Fendrick, Chuck Gamble, and Matt Sullivan – all different in their own ways and have taught me so much about agriculture, people management, financial planning, event planning , agriculture, and definitely the power of networking. This was my first job and they trusted me, empowered me, encouraged me, and wanted to see me do well not only while I was a student attending classes and active in student organizations, and as a student employee for them, but in my future endeavors. They are some of my greatest advocates and are like family to me as well. And perhaps the greatest impact once on campus, was Dr. David and Mrs. Micki Zartman. They have become a second set of parents to me and have opened their home and hearts to me in many occasions. They have been inspiring to me in so many ways from animal science classes to agricultural education and literacy efforts into communities and classrooms. I cannot thank them enough for sharing their passion and love for others and agriculture with me. They are truly two amazing people.

What is your favorite memory related to your time at Ohio State?
Serving as President of Saddle and Sirloin Club. As the largest organization in CFAES, I enjoyed overseeing the work of members who planned from start to finish huge events as college students that cannot compare to many other student organizations. It was a group of hard working students who all shared a common interest with me of animal agriculture. I was also able to meet many of my lifelong friends as a member of this student organization. And through this organization, I see many of these people today on a regular basis throughout my personal and professional life.

You said you’ve always been an employee of Ohio State. What position did you have as your first “official” job.
My first job was the 4-H Program Assistant in Ottawa County (OSU Extension).

During your career, have you received any awards or honors? If so, what are those?
As an advisor of the Micki Zartman Scarlet and Gray Ag Day, I was awarded the Outstanding Service to Students Award in CFAES in 2013. We also received the University Leadership Award in 2013 for Outstanding Student Organization – Programming Award in Innovation. In 2013, Scarlet & Gray Ag Day received the New Activity Award in CFAES. In 2012, Scarlet & Gray Ag Day received the Ed Johnson Outstanding Student Organization Award in CFAES.

As a 4-H Extension Educator in Fairfield County, I have received 2nd Place Creative Work – Team Newsletter for Epsilon Sigma Phi, Alpha Eta Chapter / Ohio JCEP. I received 1st Place NAE4HA Award in Ohio and the North Central Region for Educational Technology (Individual). I was awarded Ohio JCEP Scholarships in 2015 and 2017 and the Ohio JCEP First Timer Scholarship to attend NAE4HA in 2015.

As the 4-H Extension Educator coordinating local 4-H participation in the National 4-H Ag Innovators Experience, the Fairfield County 4-H Program has been national winners in 2015 (Ag Innovators Experience Video Contest – Rural Division by Rachel Salyers for the Water Windmill Challenge) and 2016 (Ag Innovators Experience Social Media Marketing Challenge) which as a result has brought $6500 to local and state 4-H programming from these two national 4-H awards.

Throughout your career, what have been some of your favorite highlights?
It’s the little things on a daily basis that make this career path rewarding. Simple thank you’s, seeing youth excel with local, state, and national 4-H awards and experiences. Being asked to write recommendation letters. Looking back at pictures from just 2 ½ years ago since I started in my current position, it’s amazing to see how much some of these kids have grown in their 4-H honors and experiences. I am pleased to be in a position to help them seek youth opportunities through the 4-H program.

What advice would you give to a current student in our department?
Get involved in student organizations. The classes will come and go and you will get through them. Find your fit in a student organization and seek out friendships there that share a personal interest with you. Lifelong friendships and networks will form that will pay off for the rest of your life.

What did ACEL cultivate in you?
The importance to give back each day to those you work with and work for. And maybe even to the people you never will meet. Things always come back around in some way. I think living my personal life and career path in a positive way that young people will appreciate and respect will help them become caring, contributing, citizens as young adults. Also, if you think it can happen, make it happen. I have learned how to pull in my resources from various networks in ACEL, Farm Science Review, CFAES, and now Extension when I or someone I know needs support and advice.


With Buckeyeman a Scarlet and Gray Ag Day.

Leslie and members of the Micki Zartman Scarlet and Gray Ag Day committee.

Farm Science Review staff members.

Now a master’s degree graduate!

Leslie with Mrs. Micki Zartman

2013 Scarlet and Gray Ag Day committee

Alumni Spotlight: Melinda McKay Witten, ’07

Melinda McKay Witten graduated from The Ohio State University in 2007 with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture. She majored in agricultural and extension education. She came to Columbus in 2003 from her hometown of Stockport, Ohio, but now resides in Beverly, Ohio with her family. She works for Ohio Farm Bureau where she is the Director of Leadership Programming and coordinates the Young Ag Professionals and AgriPOWER Leadership Institute programs.

[ACEL]: Hi Melinda! You majored in agricultural and extension education while at Ohio State. Why did you select that major?
[Witten]: I selected agriculture education because I wanted to be an ag teacher, inspiring students to be involved in the agriculture industry. However, I have never taught in a classroom! Instead, I get to work with wonderful leaders at Ohio Farm Bureau! ​

Why did you choose to attend The Ohio State University?
From the moment I set foot on campus as high school student, I knew that is where I was meant to be. I LOVED the energy, excitement and opportunities that OSU provided for their students. This was especially true on the CFAES campus! And, it was completely different from my small hometown. I could walk to a Wendy’s!

While at Ohio State, how did the courses you took influence your career path?
​I loved the agriculture education classes because we were subjected to a variety of topics. The saying “Jack of all trades, master of none” was very true for my studies at OSU. I loved being exposed to all the subject areas. During my student teaching period, I learned that the traditional ag classroom setting was not for me. ​I loved it but my true calling was to work for Farm Bureau and their volunteers!

Did you have a favorite class?
​While it was the hardest and must frustrating class, I loved agricultural and construction systems management 300-301 with Dr. Lichensteiger. The workload was intense but I still use that information to this day. ​Anyone who had his class knows about his “green sheet of conversion tables”. That conversion sheet still hangs in my kitchen cupboard today!

We have heard many students say that class was beneficial. I’m glad it was for you too! Outside of the classroom, were you involved in any student organizations?
I was involved in the Agricultural Education Society. ​I decided to focus my efforts to on one organization while balancing my internships with Ohio Farm Bureau.

What professor had an impact on your time at Ohio State?
I loved working with all the agricultural education staff. Dr. Susie Whittington was very supportive of all of her students and found a way to connect with each one of us.

All alumni have a few memories that stand out the most to them. What is yours?
“How Firm Thy Friendships” is so very true. Many of my fondest memories involve the friends I made at OSU! And I also really love the memory of Ohio State beating *ichigan at the last second to go to the National Championship my senior year (2007).

Following graduation in 2007, what was your first job?
I was the organization director for Ohio Farm Bureau in Logan, Hardin and Wyandot counties. ​

You started with Ohio Farm Bureau in 2007 and still work there. Have you changed roles?
I have only worked for Ohio Farm Bureau! I have had many roles there over the years before landing at my current one as the Director of Young Ag Professionals and the AgriPOWER Institute.

As of today, what is your favorite career highlight?
My favorite highlight is the growth of the Young Ag Professionals program. The program has grown to have over 650 attendees at their Winter Leadership Conference, one of the largest in the nation.  And over 49 local YAP programs across the state. I am beyond excited to know that younger folks want to be involved in agriculture!

What advice would you give to a current student?
It is a very small world, especially in agriculture. Always be kind and professional because that reputation will get you further than an A in your hardest classes!

Great advice for our current students. Last question. What did ACEL cultivate in you?
It exposed me to many great connections to the agriculture industry. I didn’t realize it at the time but those connections have remained valuable today!​

Witten with college friends at the 2006 Ohio State vs. Michigan football game. #1 (Ohio State) vs. #2 (Michigan). Winner went to the National Championship Game, which was Ohio State!

Congratulations Dr. Windon!

Please join us in congratulating Suzanna Windon on the successful defense of her dissertation titled, “Examining Ohio State University Extension Program Assistants’ Turnover Intention through Job Satisfaction, Satisfaction with Supervisor, and Organizational Commitment.”

Dr. Windon is pictured with her advisor, Dr. Graham Cochran, and committee member Dr. Mary Rodriguez. Dr. Scott Scheer and graduate faculty representative Dr. Brent Laboiteaux Sohngen also served on her committee.

Congratulations, Suzanna!

Where Are They Now: Melinda Witten


Having worked with Farm Bureau for more than ten years now, agriscience education graduate Melinda Witten still loves her job working within Ohio’s agricultural industry.

As a student at Ohio State, Melinda started her experience with Ohio Farm Bureau Federation (OFBF) as a freshman, where she began her interning journey that continued through all four years of her undergraduate studies. Loving the organization, she knew that OFBF was where she wanted to spend her career once she “grew up.”

After graduating in 2007, Melinda spent her first two years post-college as the organization director in northwestern Ohio before transitioning to a new role training county office staff statewide.

Today Melinda still works for Farm Bureau, but her role has changed to the director of leadership programming. Overseeing the Young Ag Professionals and AgriPOWER Leadership Institute programs, Melinda gets to work with young professionals, farmers, and leaders in the ag industry from all across the state. To quote Melinda about her current role, she is enthusiastic and says, “I LOVE IT!”

Having once been a student aspiring to work in the agricultural industry herself, Melinda has advice to students-

“Be open to any and all options. I know that sounds a little odd coming from a person who has only worked for one employer, but I thought I only wanted to be an organization director. Through time, I learned that I needed to be open to opportunities that came my way. Man, I am glad I did. I am in my dream role.”

She also advises students to meet and connect with as many industry leaders as possible, sharing your vision and goals with them. By sharing your passions with them, they will be able to work with you and connect you with the right individuals to help make your visions a reality.

Melinda Witten

Melinda Witten

When she isn’t working for Farm Bureau, Melinda spends her time at home being a farm wife and mother. Meeting her husband in plant biology class at Ohio State, she used the pickup line, “I really like your sweet corn,” referring to the Witten Farm sweatshirt he was wearing. Happily married now with two children, Melinda is now an active part of Witten Farm, and helps to pick produce (including sweet corn) on the nearly 500 acres of produce that is sold in over 22 retail stands throughout Ohio.

Leaving students with one last bit of advice, Melinda says, “Your work ethic and attitude will be the biggest factors in your success. Study really, really hard in college but don’t forget to have a little (a lot!!) of fun while you are there.”