National USDA teaching award granted to Iowa State Faculty Member

Annelise Wells

The U.S Department of Agriculture National Excellence in College and University Teaching Award for Food and Agricultural Sciences has been awarded to Associate Provost for Academic Programs Ann Marie VanDerZanden.

The award is given to two national recipients along with two additional early career awardees. There are six regional awards given as well, all chosen by highly regarded educators and scholars. VanDerZanden, along with S. Susan Nielsen of Purdue, were awarded on November 12th. 

“My first thought was how humbled I was,” VanDerZanden said. “It’s an indication, or a recognition I guess, of the work that I have done across my career.”

VanDerZanden was previously at Oregon State. In addition to being a professor there, she was the state coordinator for a group called the Master Gardeners. The Master Gardeners are a volunteer group of around 3,000 adults who help with gardening issues within their local communities. This includes helping food pantries by growing food for them. She then came to Iowa State in 2003.

“When I came to Iowa State, I had the opportunity to work with the nursery and landscape industry, but also really the opportunity to work with students in a broad range of areas,” VanDerZanden said. “So I think that probably some of my favorite things really have been focused on students.”

In addition to being the Associate Provost for Academic Programs, she is a Louis Thompson Distinguished Undergraduate teacher and a professor of horticulture. 

VanDerZanden also has been involved with Iowa State’s Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching. She was an associate director from 2009-2012 and the director for the past five years.

Now in the role of Associate Provost of Academics, she meets with the student government monthly with concerns and ideas. She works with them to bring the issues up to the faculty senate and other groups.

Vice president Cody Smith said they meet with VanDerZanden at least once a month.

“She is very receptive and very willing to engage with us” said Smith. “We never leave a meeting feeling like we hadn’t been heard.”

In her current position, VanDerZanden has been working closely with colleagues in Student Affairs.

“Working with my colleagues there and just realizing how passionate they are about student success in so many different ways that has been a really enjoyable part of this job,” she said.

But no matter what role she is in, VanDerZanden has thoroughly enjoyed the collaboration aspect of each one. 

“I love that part of my job, quite honestly. I enjoyed it when I was in my department, I really enjoyed it when I as the director of CELT,” VanDerZanden said. 

“I just think anytime when you get that opportunity to work with other people that are either related in their areas of expertise or have different ways of thinking, depending upon what the project is, you can get to a better solution.”


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