AGNR Wins Highly Competitive National Association of Agricultural Educators Award

Ag Science and Tech rises to the top of the field with undergraduate extension program and newly offered graduate degree.

December 8, 2022 Kimbra Cutlip

The National Association of Agricultural Educators honored the Agriculture and Extension Education program at the University of Maryland’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources with an Outstanding Postsecondary Agriculture Program Award at its 2022 annual convention.

The award recognizes exemplary postsecondary institutions and full-time young farmer and adult agricultural education programs. AGNR won the award for the Northeast region, one of six regions in the U.S. Only four regions received the award for this year.

“I'm still pretty shocked by the award to be honest,” said Melissa Leiden Welsh, assistant clinical professor in the Department of Plant Science & Landscape Architecture, and director of the Agricultural & Extension Education program. “For such a young program, this is definitely encouragement that we are on the right track.”

In 2018, Welsh began revamping UMD’s informal Agricultural Education options, and in 2020 the new Agricultural and Extension Education specialization began under the Agricultural Science and Technology major. This enabled undergraduate students to choose between two tracks; one that led to a teacher certification, and one that prepared students to work in informal education such as a non-profit, industry or extension. She introduced the Master’s of Extension Education program in the spring of 2022.

For the award, NAAE evaluated programs based on factors like experiential learning and student leadership development as well as faculty participation in professional development and the program’s incorporation of partnerships with community and industry leaders.

“I think this recognition demonstrates the student-centered nature of the program,” Welsh said. “I feel my students are able to explore the areas that are of great interest to them and still meet rigorous standards of excellence to lead the next generation of educators.”