Rodriguez recipient of USDA best early-career teacher honors

Dec. 9, 2022

Dr. Mary Rodriguez, associate professor of community leadership, received the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Excellence in College and University Teaching in Food and Agricultural Sciences “Early Career” Award at the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities (APLU) annual meeting, held in Denver, Colorado, November 6-8, 2022. 

This program recognizes outstanding college faculty in agriculture, natural resources, veterinary and human sciences. To be considered for this award, an educator who has no more than seven years of teaching, must demonstrate a commitment to their career in teaching and is deemed by the review panel to exhibit meritorious teaching. 

 “At the APLU conference, I was able to meet with several administrators and other awardees. Those conversations affirmed the impact of the work that we do at the university and my passion to continue to teach and spark passion in my students,” said Rodriguez. “It was a wonderful opportunity to see the impact that institutions like Ohio State University can have on not only the students we teach but also on the surrounding communities.”  

Rodriguez has taught a variety of classes within the Department of Agricultural Communication, Education, and Leadership (ACEL), including the Teaching Methods in Non-Formal Learning Environments, Community Leadership for Change and Foundations of International Development. Throughout her time with Ohio State she has also taught Foundations of Personal and Professional Leadership, Research Methods, and Extension Education in Developing Countries to both undergraduate and graduate students. 

“I am very honored to receive the USDA Early Career Teaching Award. I love teaching and mentoring students. I put a great deal of time, energy, and dedication into my learner-centered teaching and love that my college and the USDA recognized those efforts,” said Rodriguez. 

“Our department, and our students, are thankful to have Dr. Rodriguez as an instructor,” said Dr. Shannon Washburn, professor and chair of ACEL. “Students are consistently praising her as a teacher and mentor, which further demonstrates her selection for this award.”

Rodriguez is a graduate of Texas A&M University where she earned a bachelor of science in agricultural education, and University of Florida, where she earned her master of science in international agricultural education, and PhD in Agricultural Extension. Rodriguez joined the ACEL faculty in 2015 as an assistant professor of community leadership. She was promoted to associate professor with tenure in 2021.

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