Katharine Knowlton, of Blacksburg, Va., was awarded the 2008 Certificate of Teaching Excellence from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech.

No matter what role Knowlton, associate professor of dairy science, is in — that of teacher, advisor, researcher, mentor, or coach — her enthusiasm, devotion, and sincere interest in her students never wanes. This desire and talent to help students achieve academically and professionally has contributed to the caliber of graduates and the overall success of the Department of Dairy Science.

Although teaching is a minor part of Knowlton’s university appointment, it is a major source of her enthusiasm and motivation. In each of the five dairy science courses she co-teaches, she seeks to enhance students’ ability to formulate questions, find and evaluate information, integrate new material with their previous knowledge, and communicate their new understanding effectively.

“After speaking with her for just a few minutes, it is evident that Dr. Knowlton is both knowledgeable and passionate about her field,” said Natalie Keene, a 2007 dairy science graduate. “She welcomes questions and has an open-door policy for students.”

Knowlton extends her expertise and support to students well beyond the classroom. She is the academic advisor for 20 students. She also serves as an advisor for the Dairy Club of Virginia Tech and as an assistant coach of the dairy cattle judging team, where she emphasizes personal growth and development opportunities and encourages students to communicate professionally with their peers, professors, and industry representatives. She also provides students opportunities to gain research experience through participation in her research program.

Many students say that Knowlton is the reason they are at Virginia Tech. She is the face of the department, leading an aggressive, coordinated student-recruitment program. She identifies potential students as she participates in dairy industry activities across the country and works with other faculty, alumni, and students to make phone calls and write letters encouraging the prospects to visit Virginia Tech. Through her comprehensive efforts, departmental enrollment has increased from 60 to more than 80 students, placing Virginia Tech in the top three of the largest dairy science programs in the country.

“As a professor, Dr. Knowlton was always professional, thought provoking, engaging and she challenged us to do our best,” said Heather Gregoire, a recent dairy science graduate. “Having a professor who truly cares about her students makes the learning experience fun, and makes me wish there had been more opportunities to take classes taught by Dr. Knowlton.”

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