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Marc van Iersel named ASHS graduate educator of the year

Dr. Marc van Iersel

The American Society for Horticultural Science announced that Dr. Marc van Iersel was named the 2016 graduate educator of the year. He will receive the award at the 2016 ASHS conference in Atlanta. Here is the ASHS announcement:

Dr. Marc van Iersel started as an assistant professor at Griffin Campus of the University of Georgia in 1995. He started a floriculture research program, where he used physiological principles to develop sustainable production practices for floriculture producers. In 2002, Marc transferred to the Athens Campus of the University of Georgia, where he started to teach in addition to his research. In 2006, he was promoted to full professor and became graduate coordinator.

Although he has maintained a productive research program, his biggest impact may be through advising graduate students. He has served as (co-)advisor of ten Master’s and eight PhD students. His advising philosophy is simple: to provide opportunities for growth and professional development, while encouraging students to do the best job they possibly can. His students conduct high quality research, while building a strong CV. The success of this approach is clear:

His students have published approximately 40 peer-reviewed papers as lead authors, while Marc has co-authored an additional 15 papers with other students as lead author. They have won numerous awards, including in competitions organized by ASHS, ISHS, the Southern Nursery Association, and other scientific and grower meetings. Marc’s students have gone on to successful careers, with seven of them employed as faculty members or instructors at universities in the US and South Korea. Others have gone on to careers in industry. Because of Marc’s strong background in plant physiology, instrumentation, measurement techniques, and automation, he has served on 41 graduate student committees, including those for students at Virginia Tech and Clemson.

Marc has developed three new graduate courses: advanced plant nutrition, measurement and control in plant and soil science, and advanced plant physiology, which he co-teaches. He has also taught our graduate seminar class and two split-level undergraduate/graduate courses. Marc consistently gets outstanding teaching evaluations and his teaching has had a direct impact on many students. That is perhaps most evident from his measurement and control course, where students build complex measurement and control systems to automate data collection and environmental control tasks. Most students who take this course subsequently apply these techniques in their own research. His courses combine basic science with practical applications.

Marc has been graduate coordinator since 2006. He assists departmental faculty with recruiting and helps our faculty handle difficult situations with students. Although his primary responsibility as graduate coordinator is to the graduate program as a whole, he has also become an ombudsman, counselor, and friend of many of our graduate students. Our students feel comfortable discussing professional and personal problems with Marc. His willingness to listen to, and if needed advise, our graduate students has helped to create an atmosphere of trust, respect, and collegiality. As a result, he has had a very positive impact on the graduate program of the Department of Horticulture of the University of Georgia.