Katie Dunlap, Ph.D., instructional associate professor and associate head for academic programs in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Department of Animal Science at Texas A&M University, is one of six regional and two early career awardees named as recipients of the 2021 Excellence in College and University Teaching Awards for Food and Agricultural Sciences.
The awards, presented by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, recognize scholarship, exemplary teaching and dedication to instruction, and include stipends of $2,000 to be used for improving teaching at their respective universities.
“We are awfully proud that Dr. Dunlap has been recognized for her work as an instructor,” said Cliff Lamb, Ph.D., head of the Department of Animal Science. “Her commitment to the students’ learning experience is untouched. But her focus and dedication to the scholarship of teaching and continually seeking ways to improve is what sets her apart. I cannot think of anyone more deserving to receive this award than Dr. Dunlap.”
Teaching excellence comes from departmental excellence
Inclusivity within the discipline of animal science is a priority within Dunlap’s courses and has emerged as an area of interest in her research program. As a nontraditional animal science student herself, she said she is keenly aware of cultural pressures that can exist within the discipline.
Dunlap attributes her success as a teacher to the success of the Department of Animal Science, one of the largest and most complex departments of its kind in the country, and its dedication to student success.
Realizing the need to have an innovative curriculum that is relevant today, in 2018 the department launched a redesigned undergraduate curriculum, and the class of 2021 are the first students completing the new curriculum, she said. This was a student-centered, data-driven redesign process that provided the opportunity to utilize stakeholder feedback to develop a program that would prepare today’s students for the animal science industry.
The classes that traditionally formed the core of the department remained to provide students with a well-rounded base of animal science knowledge, Dunlap said. But to add emphasis on student success, the freshman schedule was modified to provide incoming students with the foundational knowledge and skills necessary for entry into the core classes, as well as a broader perspective on the animal science industry.
Additionally, efforts to improve facilities and infrastructure have helped to improve our hands-on laboratories and create more interactive classroom environments, she said. Most importantly, there is a cultural commitment to excellence in and respect for teaching that is shared across the department.
Success begets success
Innovation is encouraged, and an authentically collaborative environment has helped to provide transformational teaching opportunities that have contributed greatly to student success, Dunlap said.
She said she has worked to develop courses that do not assume previous exposure to agricultural and animal science-related activities.
“The department strives to integrate research, teaching and extension activities so that it may more effectively serve students and stakeholders,” Dunlap said. “The collective efforts of faculty, staff and students have helped to make this possible.
“I’m fortunate to have learned from incredible mentors and to get to work with people who are genuinely interested in student success. I appreciate the opportunity to get to do what I love and am honored to be included in this group of incredible teachers.”
Background and awards
Dunlap earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in animal science from Oregon State University and her doctorate in the physiology of reproduction from Texas A&M.
She has been the recipient of numerous other awards, including the Dean’s Outstanding Achievement Award for Early Career Teaching, the Association of Former Students Distinguished Achievement College-Level Teaching Award, the Montage-Center for Teaching Excellence Award, Provost Academic Professional Track Faculty Teaching Excellence Award, the Mauro Procknor Memorial Award and Dr. A. M. “Tony” Sorenson Jr., Achievement Award.