By: Caitlin Powers
ALEC faculty traveled to the American Association for Agricultural Education’s annual national conference in Columbus, OH in May. At the conference three major research awards are presented and assistant professor John Rayfield, Ph.D. received all three, a feat that has not been achieved by an individual before.
“It was a very humbling experience,” Rayfield said about the receiving the awards. “It is one of those freaky things where the stars all had to align.”
Rayfield was filled with disbelief as the presenters continued to call out the awards revealing another recognized achievement for him and his teams.
The three awards are outstanding research paper, outstanding research poster and outstanding innovation poster. Each project was led by Rayfield but various graduate students and ALEC faculty contributed.
The outstanding research paper was former graduate student, Kate Wooten’s master’s thesis on identifying Science Technology Education and Mathematics (STEM) concepts associated with junior livestock projects. The goal was to document the extensiveness of STEM concepts in 4-H and FFA members’ livestock projects.
“Documenting it and putting it out there for ag teachers and county agents to make connections with the students about everything they are learning through these projects,” Rayfield said, “makes it more than just going through the motions to have a blue ribbon champion steer.”
“We have a kid who has learned all these scientific concepts along the way.”
Assistant professor Lori Moore, Ph.D. was also an author on the outstanding research paper. Wooten has graduated and is now teaching agricultural education in Georgia.
Graduate student Will Doss did research on the Texas SAE Builder for the award winning research poster. The Texas SAE Builder is an online tool created by Rayfield and Roger Hanagriff, Ph.D., continuing education assistant professor.
As a special project for the Texas Education Agency, the tool is for agriculture science teachers to use to get students more involved in supervised agricultural experiences (SAE).
Doss’ research was on the documentation of how many students visited the website, what type of project areas they were involved in and evaluating other similar actions on the website. The data driven poster was also contributed to by Hanagriff.
Doss is currently teaching agricultural education at Rudder High School in Bryan and will graduate with his Master’s degree in December.
The award winning innovation poster was also on the Texas SAE Builder. Hanagriff contributed to the poster along with former graduate student Lindsey Latham. Latham focused on using the Texas SAE Builder as an innovative tool to teach SAEs.
“The innovative piece of hers was how we use this [the Texas SAE builder] as a tool to reach more students and how do we get more students engaged in these activities by using this as a teaching tool by teachers,” Rayfield said.
Rayfield said his recognition is a testimony to the quality of graduate students we recruit and bring in to the department.
“You reap what you sow,” Rayfield said. “If you start with high quality graduate students you can always expect them to produce high quality scholarship.”
Department Head Jack Elliot, Ph.D. said to win all three awards in one year is an outstanding accomplishment and that some people in the field never win one of those awards.
“He is a great model for all other assistant professors not only in the department but in the college,” Elliot said.
“He has a high teaching log but he also makes research and scholarship a priority. Dr. Rayfield truly understands that all three of those are important for a faculty member at a Tier 1 institution.”
The combination and excellent faculty and graduate students with optimal timing generated an outstanding achievement for the department.
“It just so happened I was their [the recognized graduate students] chair and they had great ideas,” Rayfield said. “We ran with them and it paid off.”