Iowa State University Horticulture Professor Receives National USDA Teaching Award

November 12th, 2017

AMES, Iowa — Ann Marie VanDerZanden, Iowa State University associate provost for academic programs, has been awarded the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Excellence in College and University Teaching Award for Food and Agricultural Sciences.

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities presented the award to VanDerZanden and S. Susan Nielsen of Purdue University on Nov. 12. VanDerZanden also is a Louis Thompson Distinguished Undergraduate Teacher and horticulture professor at Iowa State.

David Acker, associate dean of academic and global programs in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, described VanDerZanden as a national leader in teaching and learning in higher education.

“Her commitment to excellence extends to everything she does for students, peers and the horticulture industry. Her innovative teaching techniques inspire students to meet the highest standards,” Acker said.

As associate provost, VanDerZanden provides leadership to coordinate academic programs and facilitate communication with community colleges. She also leads university efforts related to accreditation, academic program quality, distance education and international programs.

VanDerZanden earned her bachelor’s degree in horticulture in 1988 from Washington State University, her master’s degree in horticulture from Cornell University in 1990 and a doctorate degree in horticulture in 1994 from Washington State University. She has been a faculty member at Iowa State since 2003 and has served as Iowa State’s Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching director for the past five years and as associate director from 2009 to 2012. In those roles, she provided the leadership to support, promote and enhance teaching effectiveness and student learning at Iowa State.

As a horticulture faculty member VanDerZanden has taught more than 20 different courses that include a variety of horticulture topics. Her research interests include undergraduate teaching methods and using technology to enhance the teaching and learning experiences for students and faculty. She also is interested in the preservation and restoration of historic Irish gardens and sustainable landscape design and management. 

In 2013, VanDerZanden was selected as a Fellow of the American Society for Horticultural Science. Her excellence in teaching has earned her numerous awards including university awards and regional, national and international awards from professional organizations.

She has authored three landscape related textbooks, regularly contributes to national and regional gardening magazines and has an extensive peer-reviewed publication record focused on teaching and learning in higher education. She is actively involved in higher education leadership and is president-elect of the North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture organization.

The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has had eight other recipients who received the USDA teaching awards during the past 11 years and those include:

• Curtis Youngs, animal science professor, who received a regional award in 2014.
• Mike Retallick, agricultural and life sciences education professor, who received a new teacher award.
• Lee Burras, agronomy professor, who received a regional award in 2011.
• Doug Kenealy, who received a national award in 2009.
• Dick Schultz, who received a regional award in 2008.
• Amy Kaleita, agricultural and biosystems engineering professor, who received a new teacher award in 2007.
• Gail Nonnecke, horticulture professor, received a national award in 2006.
• Jim Kliebenstein, who received a regional award in 2006.

The awards program began in 1992 and recognizes outstanding college professors of agriculture, natural resources, veterinary and human sciences. The selection committee includes nationally recognized teachers and scholars who choose two national recipients, two early career awardees and six regional awardees.


Ann Marie VanDerZanden, Associate Provost, 515-294-5553,
Barb McBreen, Agricultural and Life Sciences Communications Service, 515-294-0707,