Ozzie Abaye, professor of crop and soil environmental sciences in Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, was honored with the 2023 Excellence in College and University Teaching Award for Food and Agricultural Sciences. 

The award, which recognizes exemplary dedication to teaching and service to students, was presented by the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities and the U.S. Department of Agriculture in a November ceremony in Seattle.

"I thank every one of the students I had over the years for enriching my life beyond what I ever dreamed,” said Abaye, a faculty member in the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences and a Virginia Cooperative Extension specialist. "Teaching is not what I do for a living, but what I do to live. When I stand in front of the students, I feel overwhelming joy and gratitude to be entrusted as part of the young men's and women's futures."  

Abaye, the Thomas B. Hutcheson Jr. Professor of Agronomy, has been a beloved teacher and mentor to countless Virginia Tech students for more than 30 years. In her classes, she is known for integrating field trips, service-learning, and hands-on exercises, such as crops judging and cooking, that combine learning with doing. She has generated more than $302,000 in funding to get students into the field to augment their classroom experiences. A member of Virginia Tech’s Academy of Teaching Excellence, Abaye is the recipient of several teaching awards at the college, university, and national levels.

Abaye is known internationally for her extensive work to improve the livelihoods of farmers, women, and children in West Africa through sustainable agriculture. She guides students on annual research and experiential learning trips to foreign countries – including South Africa, Senegal, Nepal, Australia, and Ecuador – providing them with opportunities to directly impact the lives of people around the world. She frequently hosts current and former students at her home for meals and gatherings around her dinner table. Abaye also serves as advisor to the Virginia Tech Agronomy Club and crops judging teams.

Along with her award, Abaye received a $2,000 stipend to be used toward her teaching activities. Several former students who remain lifelong colleagues and friends came to support her as she accepted the award.

“I can confidently say Dr. Ozzie has shaped my career more than any other person in my life and she wholeheartedly deserves this award,” said Mary Michael Lipford, who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in crop and soil environmental science under Abaye’s mentorship. “She views students as potential world changers and invests all she has to give. It’s rare to have such a close friendship with a professor in which they feel like family. I know I am one of many students that can say the same. She is a gift to Virginia Tech and our department.”

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