Writer: Kay Ledbetter
The Texas A&M AgriLife Vice Chancellor’s Award in Excellence – Teaching Award was presented to Dr. Steve Hague, a soil and crops science department professor, during a ceremony Jan. 7 at Texas A&M University in College Station.
The awards, established in 1980, recognize the commitment and outstanding contributions of faculty and staff across Texas A&M AgriLife, and represent the highest level of achievement for the organization.
Hague has consistently demonstrated a commitment to teaching over the last decade, according to his nomination. He worked diligently to improve educational experiences for students, remained an asset for them after graduation, and assisted other faculty in developing their teaching programs.
Additionally, the nomination notes his expertise with high-impact learning experiences and his leadership within professional societies. He leverages assets from his research program to the benefit of graduate and undergraduate students.
“Dr. Hague’s classroom teaching is innovative and interactive,” said Dr. David Baltensperger, head of the Texas A&M soil and crop sciences department. “He demonstrates a versatile teaching style with conventional courses, distance-delivered courses, study abroad programs, honors sections, writing-intensive courses and field trip-based courses.”
Hague’s teaching style relies upon interactive activities, case studies and inclusion of all students in classroom conversations, Baltensperger said. He believes some of the most important lessons students can learn happen outside lecture halls and he gets students into the field, out of the state and abroad to expand their comfort zones.
Hague is an avid proponent of internships because they are one of the best avenues for students to gain their first jobs after graduation and excellent preparation for graduate studies, the nomination states. His close interactions with students has resulted in more than 200 letters of recommendation for admission into graduate schools, scholarships, jobs and service.
He has advised 29 undergraduates for internship credit and supervised another dozen with undergraduate research projects. He led a study abroad program to Australia in 2011 and annually leads a program to Mexico. He is collaborating with Mexican counterparts in the states of Guanajuato and Yucatan to design reciprocal educational and research programs.
In his cotton breeding program, Hague hires numerous undergraduate students as workers and for many this is their first and sometimes only opportunity to operate farm equipment, irrigate, plant seeds, control crop pests and harvest a crop, the nomination stated.
Hague coaches the crops judging team, which he started in 2014. As part of this program, the team competes in another state and learns about the regional agriculture systems of that area.
Hague chairs six graduate students including two that are part of the Plant Breeding Distance Education program. He has served as a committee member for more than 20 students outside of his research program. He emphasizes professional development and encourages his students to participate in professional society meetings, improvement of technical skills, and assumption of leadership roles.
Graduate student research is important in his research program, the nomination stated. The students work on projects relevant to the U.S. cotton industry, and Hague regularly secures funding for them through cotton commodity group support and U.S. Department of Agriculture programs.
He has been an active member of the Crop Science Society of America, CSSA, and the American Society of Agronomy, ASA. In those societies, he has chaired the International Education Experience committee, the Golden Opportunity Scholars committee, and the K-12 Outreach community. This year he was selected to receive the CSSA Teaching Award.
He is also a member of the North American College and Teachers of Agriculture, the International Cotton Genomics Initiative, ICGI, and is active as an associate editor of the Journal of Cotton Science and the National Cotton Council’s Cotton Beltwide Improvement Conference which he presided over in 2016.
He has included his students in meetings, including taking graduate students to the ICGI meeting in Wuhan, China, in 2014; graduate and undergraduate students presenting research findings at the Cotton Beltwide meetings as well as the national and regional ASA and CSSA meetings.
Finally, Hague works closely with the Undergraduate Studies program to develop internship guidelines that could be used across the university. For two years, he served on the Honors and Undergraduate Research Activities Committee. Currently he is involved in the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Yucatan Initiative to develop collaborative efforts for research and teaching between Texas A&M and Mexican institutions.
He has served on the Faculty Senate’s Honors Council, which deals with academic integrity cases, since 2015. On the departmental level, he has served on the scholarship committee since 2007, and most recently working to revise the graduate curriculum.