CSUS PhD student, Tiffany Marzolino, awarded Distinguished Manuscript

Community Sustainability PhD student, Tiffany Marzolino, won one of three Distinguished Manuscript awards at the 2023 North Central Region of the American Association for Agricultural Education research conference.

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Tiffany Marzolino presenting at the NCAAAE conference

Community Sustainability PhD student, Tiffany Marzolino, won a Distinguished Manuscript award at the 2023 North Central Region of the American Association for Agricultural Education research conference. Only three papers receive this distinction from the conference each year and Marzolino was the only graduate student to author a distinguished manuscript.

Dr. Aaron McKim, Marzolino’s PhD advisor and paper co-author, says of this this honor “Tiffany being the only graduate student to receive this recognition at the conference is noteworthy as it (a) illustrates the discipline is receptive to this novel approach and (b) illustrates the efficacy of graduate experiences Tiffany is receiving at Michigan State.”

Marzolino’s paper focused on retaining school-based agricultural educators, inspired in part by her experience as an agricultural educator for three years in mid-Michigan. This work took a unique approach to posit a model for the factors that influence agricultural educators’ retention in the profession from a system, or holistic, perspective.  

The goal of her work is to shift the way that teacher educators specifically speak to their students- as future teachers- about setting boundaries to help them stay in the career field longer. Marzolino says of the field “We have a serious teacher shortage and there’s lots of turn over. My work is showing how we can help teachers set boundaries in terms of when and how they work. The takeaway for teacher populations, if teachers learn how to set boundaries and how to do so they might more joy in their career and persist longer.”

Marzolino herself left the agriculture educator teaching profession to pursue her PhD in CSUS. She said as an educator in the classroom, “you’re go go go September through June. Now I have time for deeper reflection and how am I experiencing this process of teaching. Pursuing my graduate work has helped me dig deeper into these experiences and interrogate how inside and outside forces impacted me as a teacher. I didn’t really feel like I had time to do that when I was an educator in the field.”

Marzolino chose to pursue her graduate work in CSUS because of her prior experience, receiving her undergraduate degree and MS in the AFNRE program at MSU. Marzolino says of the CSUS graduate program, “CSUS has a lot of forward thinkers who are exploring issues from a systemic perspective. Faculty are always willing to think about wicked problems and start to make progress towards solutions.” McKim also notes the opportunity for this innovative scholarship at CSUS saying “As a mentor, I am grateful Tiffany has access to courses within systems modeling offered through the Department of Community Sustainability.”

Moving forward, Marzolino plans to continue to address different teacher retention issues from from a system perspective.  McKim says of Marzolino’s scholarly work, “This innovative scholarship represents a transformative approach within agricultural education. Tiffany is the first scholar within the discipline to operationalize causal loop diagraming. In so doing, Tiffany demonstrated the capacity to unify and advance a body of literature on agriculture teacher retention unlike any scholar in the past. I am confident Tiffany is establishing herself as the first “systems scholar” within agricultural education.”

Manuscript citation (full text available at hyperlink below):

Marzolino, T. A., & McKim, A. J. (2023). Retaining school-based agricultural educators: A system dynamics approach. Proceedings of the North Central Region Agricultural Education Research Conference, Brookings, SD, 241-251.

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