CANR distributes teaching awards to excellent faculty members, grad student

The 2020-2021 teaching awards highlight excellence across the college, especially during a challenging academic year of remote learning and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Spartan Statue with flower trees in the backyard on the campus of Michigan State University.

The College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) honors faculty and graduate students annually with the Howard and Lili Camden Endowed Teacher/Scholar Award, CANR Excellence in Teaching –Established Teacher Award, CANR Excellence in Teaching – New Teacher Award and the CANR Graduate Student Teaching Award.

For the 2020-2021 academic year, awardees include:

Jen Owen

The Howard and Lili Camden Endowed Teacher/Scholar Award recognizes quality teaching in college. Recipients must have five or more years of teaching service in the college. And, the recipient demonstrates a teaching record that has helped students gain skills conducive to problem-solving and the use of common sense.

Owen’s innovating teaching methods, her significant numbers of students and mentorship are among the reasons for her receipt of this award. She is in continuous pursuit of instructional excellence and scholarly achievement, and is respected by CANR constituent groups through professional involvement.

Owen’s colleagues cite her encouragement of students to “think critically and ask questions, then she opens the door for them to answer those questions.” She works with students whose skills vary and includes them in undergraduate and graduate research.

And her students noted her ability to stand out in a time of need during the COVID-19 pandemic: “When our class switched to an online format in March 2020, Dr. Owen shifted her teaching style and expectations to better fit the needs and schedules of her students … this flexibility and compassion stood out to me as we all transitioned to learning and living in a new environment.”



Erin Dreelin

The CANR Excellence in Teaching – Established Teacher Award recognizes an individual who has demonstrated an overall commitment to quality scholarship of teaching as evidenced by their contributions to teaching and learning and demonstrated success in these areas. This award is given to individuals with five or more years teaching experience at one of the following ranks: tenure system (non-emeriti) faculty, fixed-term faculty, academic specialists and instructors.

Dreelin’s students note her as “one of the most supportive and innovating professors [I’ve] ever had the pleasure of learning from.” Her colleagues note her keen interest in her students’ individual development and their application of knowledge; her willingness to adjust her classroom and delivery to the learning needs and interests of students; and the time she takes to reach students individually.



Tasia Taxis-Kendrick

The CANR Excellence in Teaching – New Teacher Award recognizes individuals with less than five years teaching experience (not including graduate teaching) at one of the following ranks: tenure system (non-emeriti) faculty, fixed-term faculty, academic specialists and instructors.

Taxis-Kendrick said it is her goal for any student to outperform her in their lifetime and she works to create an educational environment where students feel welcome. Described as “fearlessly creative when it comes to incorporating new teaching techniques into her courses,” by her colleagues, Taxis-Kendrick positively influences the lives of her students in many ways.


Alyssa Harben

The CANR Graduate Student Teaching Award recognizes a graduate student who has distinguished themselves through the nurturing academic environment they provide and the skill they have shown in teaching. The purpose of the citation is to bring college-wide recognition to the best student instructors and to recognize the contribution they make to undergraduate programs within CANR.

Harben works with large classes – to mix lecture, hands-on learning and group work, breaking up a lecture with quick, mini projects. She was nominated by School of Packaging Director Matt Daum, who said, “Alyssa is already a tremendous asset to the academic enterprise with a passion for teaching and an innate understanding of the critical importance that teaching and learning have in the Academy.”

Alyssa Harben talks about the future of packaging at Michigan State University in this "Envisioning the Future" video.

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