Huff-Lonergan recognized for innovative teaching efforts

September 9th, 2020

AMES, Iowa - For Elisabeth Huff-Lonergan, being able to share her knowledge of meat sciences with students is something she enjoys. Recently, she was recognized for the innovative teaching methods she uses in the classroom to help students learn and be prepared for a professional career.

Huff-Lonergan, professor of animal science at Iowa State University, recently received the 2020 Distinguished Teaching Award from the American Meat Science Association. The award recognizes excellence in teaching of undergraduate and graduate meat science courses and the impacts the awardee has made on the lives of his or her students.

Huff-Lonergan, who earned her master’s and doctorate degrees in meat science and muscle biology from Iowa State, has been an animal science faculty member at Iowa State for more than 20 years. During that time, she has become known for her improvements to the meat science teaching program and the innovative ways she helps students learn.

A program improvement she made was establishing the junior-level Food Processing for Companion Animals course after seeing a need to better educate students interested in companion animals. The course introduces students to pet food processing, teaching them about the science involved with meat products, as well as the technologies of food processing. Huff-Lonergan believes it is the only course of its kind in the country.

“Students learn every step in animal food processing – how to create and make dog or cat food, how to market it and how to make it what the consumer wants and meet the nutritional needs of animals,” Huff-Lonergan said.

McKenna (Powell) Lupkes (’15, animal science; ’17, MS meat science), technical service manager at Kemin, said the class helped prepare her for a professional career in the pet food industry.

“I use almost everything I learned in Animal Science 324 (Food Processing for Companion Animals) every day, and it helped me to hit the ground running working in the pet food industry upon graduation,” Lupkes said.

Students who take Huff-Lonergan’s courses are challenged to think creatively and troubleshoot scenarios they may encounter in the industry. Through semester-long projects, students analyze emerging and ongoing issues in the industry and are tasked with providing potential solutions to those issues.

“I want my students to learn how to learn - to take the basics of what they know and determine what they don’t know, then continue to seek out more information and not be afraid to ask questions,” Huff-Lonergan said.

Matthew Schulte, graduate student in animal science and Huff-Lonergan’s PhD student, said Huff-Lonergan encourages students to develop a passion and understanding for all things related to the sciences.

“Always be prepared to ask the ‘why’ and understand how this can help to achieve the next great understanding of the sciences,” Schulte said. “As her PhD student, she has continuously demonstrated the need to collaborate and approach everything with an open mind. There may not be an exact ‘right or wrong’ answer, but we must always be prepared to think about the results from multiple viewpoints.”

Huff-Lonergan also has been involved with the Dean’s Global Food and Agriculture Leadership Program, a study abroad course that has students travel to Rome to conduct literature reviews and develop educational tools for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO).

Sophie Breuer, graduate student in animal science, participated in the study abroad program during her undergraduate studies at Iowa State. She said her experience in the program, as well as Huff-Lonergan’s instruction, helped her learn how to communicate with others and work in a high-functioning team.

“As I have started graduate school, the writing and presentation skills I learned from her have already helped me feel confident in what I will produce for my thesis,” Breuer said. “The skills she taught me, as well as the rest of my team, will translate into any job for the rest of our professional careers.”

Huff-Lonergan’s students agree she has made a positive impact on them, not only in the classroom, but in their professional career, as well. She shares with them her passion for meat science and companion animals, telling stories of her experiences to personalize classroom lessons.

“Her use of empathy greatly helps her students to understand that she isn’t just using facts, she is using real-life experience and examples,” Schulte said. “She many times teaches through these experiences to demonstrate these teaching methods.”

“Elisabeth is truly one of those professors who cares above and beyond about her students. She was not only one of my favorite professors, but also my academic adviser starting my freshman year. She became one of my mentors through the years, and still is today,” Lupkes said. “She is truly one of the only reasons I discovered meat science, graduated with both my degrees, and have my job today. She’s one-of-a-kind.”

Contacts: 

Elisabeth Huff-Lonergan, Animal Science, 515-294-9125, elonerga@iastate.edu
Whitney Baxter, Agriculture and Life Sciences Communications, 515-294-2314, wjsager@iastate.edu