OSU professor named USDA National Teaching Award winner
Bailey Norwood does more than teach classes at Oklahoma State University. He equips his students with the ability to master a few simple concepts that will help them understand a complex world.
His innovative teaching style, as well as his positive impact on his students, were recognized recently as he was presented the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Excellence in College and University Teaching Award for Food and Agricultural Sciences by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. The award celebrates university faculty for their use of innovative teaching methods and service to students. He is a professor in OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.
“Public Universities’ primary mission is to educate students and inspire them to apply the skills and knowledge learned in the classroom to transform the world outside it,” said Ian Maw, vice president of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources at APLU. “Educators play a central role in helping students realize their full potential. This year’s winners of the Excellence in College and University Teaching Awards for Food and Agriculture Sciences have demonstrated an uncompromising commitment to their students and the community they serve.”
Norwood, who holds the Barry Pollard, M.D./P&K Equipment Professorship in OSU’s Department of Agricultural Economics, is humbled by this award.
“Although the APLU award is given to me as an individual, I think it really testifies to CASNR as a team,” Norwood said. “This award means I’m blessed with the support of some extraordinary individuals.”
One of the innovative ways Norwood engages his students is he comes to class once each semester dressed as David Hume, a Scottish philosopher, historian, economist and essayist best known today for his influential system of radical philosophical empiricism, skepticism and naturalism.
He said he got the idea of coming to class in character while watching a documentary about Catherine the Great, in which the narrator detailed her life while actors dressed in 18th century Russian costumes acted out the scenes.
“Give students a book on Catherine or write notes about her on the board and they quickly get sleepy. We are visual animals. That’s why everyone prefers charts and graphs to numbers,” Norwood said. “Our minds stay attentive, retain information and capture information better if we have visualization to accompany the information. Pondering this, I thought students may get more out of a lecture on David Hume if I actually dressed like David Hume. I don’t know if students learn more by me doing it, but they definitely appreciate the effort and no one goes to sleep. They’re often so busy taking pictures of me in the costume they forget to take notes, but it makes for a memorable class.”
Another innovative teaching technique Norwood uses to take his teaching to a new level is the fact that some of his students are never actually in his class. Students who enroll in the Massive Open Online Course titled Farm to Fork: A Panoramic View of Agriculture, attend class from all over the world.
Norwood said the MOOC has been taught for the last two years and has reached more than 1,000 students, including not only students on the OSU campus, but students in South America and Africa.
“It covers every CASNR subject from crops to business to cattle to biochemistry,” he said. “Ironically, it allows the students to see more of OSU than they would in a normal class. Though an internet class, I take them on virtual tours of our swine farm, cattle farm, wheat farm, our biochemistry lab, the local farmers market and other places. It provides the best way for someone without an ag background to understand how food is produced.”
Tom Coon, vice president of agricultural programs at OSU, said Norwood uses real-world examples and integrates information and ideas into a cohesive package and students respond extremely well to his innovative approaches to teaching and learning.
“Dr. Norwood is very deserving of this honor and the recognition of his efforts in and out of the classroom and the positive influence he has on the lives of students,” Coon said. "His example reminds me of why I entered this profession. He is a far more gifted instructor than I ever was, and he clearly shares that gift generously with his students.”
Norwood begins each day of his Introduction to Agricultural Economics class with a chant indicating he cares about his students because they are special.
“I do this because I’ve learned students will work harder if they know the professor really cares about them,” he said. “Some students have a hard time at college and I want them to know I treasure each and every one of them.”
When it comes to teaching, Norwood said there are so many things he loves about his chosen profession.
“The kids I teach are great and I just love being around our students. And I love the fact I’m part of a team dedicated to preserving, nurturing and disseminating knowledge,” he said. “I love giving them tools they will find useful in the workplace and in the voting booth, and helping them thrive in life. But what I love most about teaching is it gives my life meaning. When I’m preparing for or giving a lecture, I feel like I’m in the exact place the universe wants me to be. It’s a place where my skills, personality and interest provides the most value for other people. The opportunity to teach at OSU gives my life both purpose and happiness, and besides the well-being of my family, that’s all I ask for in life.”
CUTLINE INFORMATION: Bailey Norwood, second from left, recently was presented with the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Excellence in College and University Teaching Award for Food and Agricultural Sciences by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. Also pictured, left to right, are Thomas G. Coon, vice president of agricultural programs at OSU; Wendy Fink, associate director for Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resources at APLU; Cynda Clary, associate dean and professor, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources at OSU; and Gary Sandefur, provost and senior vice president of academic affairs at OSU. (Photo courtesy of OSU)
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