Bringing Agricultural Safety Back to the Classroom

By Kelsey Lohff, CALS Communications Service 

It is an honor to be able to work on innovative approaches to teaching students as the recipient of a Miller Faculty Fellowship award.

One of this year’s recipients is Gretchen Mosher, assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering.

“Iowa State University prepares hundreds of students for agricultural careers each year, but few are exposed to coursework in agricultural safety hazards,” said Mosher. A few of these hazards include confined spaces, agricultural chemicals and pesticides, safety laws, regulations and risk communication.

To better prepare students, Mosher will use her Miller Faculty Fellowship to develop interactive, stand-alone safety modules to address hazard identification. She hopes that the modules will supplement and Enhance students’ discipline-specific safety knowledge. Besides fundamental knowledge, students will work through agricultural-specific case studies.

Mosher will work with CALS instructors to determine where safety modules may be most appropriate in current curricula—preferably with instructors of undergraduate CALS courses with large enrollments. The partnership between Mosher and CALS instructors will define courses where agricultural safety content would be an appropriate addition to the course. Recruitment for these instructors will take place during summer 2013. Interested instructors are asked to contact Mosher by phone 515-294-6416, or email

Instructors will have the opportunity to test the modules in their courses during the 2013-14 academic year with data assessment scheduled for completion in 2014. Data assessment will be completed in Blackboard or an equivalent online learning system. Students and instructors will then complete a post-test to determine the change in safety knowledge as a result of taking the online safety modules.

The Miller Faculty Fellowship Program was created through the generosity of F. Wendell Miller, who left his estate to Iowa State University and the University of Iowa.  The F. Wendell Miller Trust supports faculty development proposals that help advance the university. The President’s Office and the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching administer the program.

As recipients of the fellowship, faculty members develop new approaches to teaching undergraduate courses or create new ones to advance the experience for undergraduates.

Last year, one of the Miller Faculty Fellowship recipients was CALS faculty member Lisa Orgler in the Department of Horticulture, 2012-13, who developed an online course on principles of garden composition. The class will eventually become part of a certificate program, plus it will be available to students outside the horticulture major.

“I have benefitted greatly from the fellowship in that I've been able to create some fun interactive content for this course that would not have been possible otherwise.  The funding allowed me to not only hire someone to help with organizing the course, but I was also able to hire a graphic designer to create a series of drag and drop activities on garden history and design,” said Orgler.

The class will be offered in spring 2014.