Faculty Research Areas

Read about current faculty research interests and projects.

Robert Agunga

Research Interest Areas: Communication for Development (C4D)

Current Research:  My research in Communication for Development (C4D) examines the role of communication in improving agricultural production and nutritional health; reducing poverty and environmental degradation; and strengthening the capacity of developing countries for self-sustaining development. It addresses human dimension concerns, such as, the development and testing of strategies for community mobilization, empowerment and participation; effective technology transfer; application of systems theory in integrated rural development; and use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) for information delivery and enhancing extension effectiveness, particularly in developing countries.

Robert J. Birkenholz

Research Interests:

  • Leadership Development
  • Program Administration
  • Research Capacity

Current Research:

My current research program involves collaborative efforts with faculty at several land grant institutions to assess the relationship between participation in activities and organizations and student leadership traits. Research paper presentation proposals have been submitted to the North Central Region Ag Ed Research Conference (NCRAERC), the National Ag Ed Research Conference (NAERC), and the Association of Leadership Educators (ALE) conference. 

In addition, a project to identify disciplinary knowledge bases that are common among university departments of agricultural education has been conducted on behalf of the NCAC-24 Agricultural Education Research Committee.  The results of the project were presented to the NCAC-24/Department Chairs meeting at the AAAE conference in Asheville, NC in May 2012. 

 Emily Buck

New Media Technology

  • Successful use of new technology to educate and communicate to a variety of audiences.
  • Use of new technology by media and public relations professionals to reach audiences, their perceptions of its usefulness, and their beliefs on how their audiences use the technology.
  • Agricultural industry interest in the use of new technology.
  • The impact of technology in the classroom.
  • The impact cognitive processing and critical thinking can have on how technology is used and how information is processed by audiences/students.

Agricultural Perceptions

  • Visual and contextual research on consumers’ perceptions and understanding of agriculture.
  • Consumer and rural resident preferences for media and messages related to animal agriculture.


Graham Cochran

My research focus is on integration and application of knowledge that informs Extension education and non-formal education practice, emphasizing organizational development and workforce development (both for the current and future employees).  My previous and ongoing work involves the following:

Organizational development for Extension education

  • Applied research and evaluation to identify promising practices for Extension education in areas such as structure, staffing, funding, and program planning.
  • Competency modeling and competency-based human resource management as applied to Extension organizations.

Workplace learning

  • Mentoring, orientation and other onboarding strategies for new employees.
  • Teaching using eLearning and blended methods of teaching and learning.

Workforce preparation for youth

  • Integration of current research on the knowledge economy, workforce skills, and the skills gap with workforce preparation and the important role youth organizations can play in preparing young people for future success.
  • Programming, curriculum, and evaluation strategies for workforce preparation programming in out-of-school settings.

Jeff King

My research is focus is on integration and application of knowledge that informs Extension education and non-formal education practice, emphasizing organizational development and workforce development (both for the current and future employees).  My previous and ongoing work involves the following:

Leadership Development

  • Applied research to identify effective practices to strengthen the leadership capacity of Extension and community leaders.
  • Programming, curriculum, and evaluation strategies for leadership development programming in community-based organizations. 

Emotional Intelligence and Leadership

  • Applied research to address emotional and social effectiveness of leaders.
  • Programming, curriculum, and evaluation strategies for utilizing emotional and social intelligence within leadership roles. 


Tracy Kitchel

My research focuses on the advancement of pre-service and early career teachers. In particular, I have investigated how pre-service and early career teachers are mentored, factors influencing early career teachers’ efficacy including culture shock and community connectedness. Broader, I have investigated the state of agriculture teachers at all levels in regard to job satisfaction and burnout. In finding intersections between my graduate students’ interests and my own work, I have mentored graduate students in areas such as teacher resilience, agricultural pedagogical content knowledge, inquiry methods integration, and literacy integration, all of which have studies utilizing pre-service and/or early career teachers. Outside of my own scholarship, I have collaborated with colleagues on a variety of grants projects relating to food security, beginning farmers, and university teaching culture. I am the co-editor of the text Preparing and Advancing Teachers in Agricultural Education. From my research and/or mentoring of research, I have received research conference recognition from numerous AAAE conferences and journal article awards from NACTA and ACTER.


Brian Raison

My research focus centers on the intersection of theory and practice, with emphasis on the application of findings through Extension and non-formal education outlets. I also have strong interests in formal pedagogy with a particular focus on improving asynchronous and distance learning and engagement. Findings will become resources for internal and external partners, improving the capacity of people, organizations, and communities we serve.


Some specific topics currently include:


  • Leadership in practice (especially in Extension programming around Ohio and within the nation system)
  • Instructional strategies (particularly asynchronous and distance learning)
  • Storytelling as pedagogy (approaches to improve teaching)
  • Strategic planning evaluation (capture impact; determine opportunities on process and deliverables)

Scott Scheer

Research Interests

  • Outreach Education
  • Youth Development
  • Theoretical Models of Program Development


Current Research

Dr. Scheer’s research focuses on the strategies and practices for effective outreach education and theoretical modeling for educational program development. He also studies youth development in an ecological systems perspective.

Jerry Thomas

Research Areas:

  • Technology transfer and adaptation
  • Ways of creating new work systems/methods based on innovation and technology
  • Successful adaptation to change
  • How leadership development and training can affect change
  • New leadership and change strategies, especially focusing on complexity-based theories

Current Research:

My research focuses on how organizations and individuals can be more effective through innovation and leadership; organizational change and the impact of technology on organizational/individual work systems.

M. Susie Whittington

Research Interests

• Cognitive levels of teaching and learning
• Teaching methodologies
• Content retention and transfer

Current Research

Teaching and learning in formal and nonformal education, remain important for Ohio taxpayers who want a citizenry that is college-ready/career-ready. In this research, the team is moving beyond normal social science methodology in collecting teaching-learning data. Normal social science methodology observes educator behavior as a means of understanding teaching. These researchers, however, are capturing learners’ thoughts, and determining how educators’ actions are influencing learners’ cognitive level of thinking, and their consequent retention of content and transfer of processes and content to other life-long scenarios. By studying learners’ thoughts, and tracing retention back to teaching techniques and learning environments, greater understanding of development of thinking skills are achieved. Currently, 6 PhD students and 9 MS students have completed related studies. One PhD student and one MS student are  currently engaging in the research. Six undergraduate students (one completed cognition research 3 consecutive years), have presented research at the College Undergraduate Research Forum. Four additional undergraduate students presented these data at two three professional conferences, and at the OSU Denman Undergraduate Research Forum.