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Investing in AEC Graduate Student Development

Growing up on a small, diversified livestock farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains of southwest Virginia, Ed Osborne enjoyed both the responsibilities of agricultural production and the potential provided by education. Early in his high school experience he developed a passion for agricultural education, deciding in the tenth grade to become an agriculture teacher. This decision led him to pursue an undergraduate and master’s degree in agricultural education at Virginia Tech. Dr. Osborne then transitioned to the classroom, teaching agriculture at James River High School in Buchanan, VA.

After teaching four years at the high school level, followed by a year at Virginia Tech, he headed to Ohio State to pursue a Ph.D. in Agricultural Education. Upon graduating, he accepted a faculty position at the University of Illinois, where he taught and conducted research for 15 years, while discovering a growing interest in departmental leadership. His next opportunity led him to the University of Florida as Chair of the Department of Agricultural Education and Communication, a role he filled for nearly 20 years. During this time, the size and productivity of the AEC Department dramatically increased, and the department was named the #1 department of its type in the nation in 2011, based on a national ranking by faculty in the discipline.

Dr. Osborne’s fulfilling and inspirational career in agricultural education will come to an end this month as he enters retirement. In reflection of his time as an educator, Dr. Osborne stated, “I’m one of the lucky ones who knew early on how I wanted to focus my life’s work and have never strayed from that incredibly rewarding pursuit.”

Recognizing the invaluable contributions that teachers, extension agents, leaders, and communications professionals in agriculture and natural resources make, Dr. Osborne and his wife, Susie, established the Ed and Susie Osborne Endowment for AEC Graduate Student Research and Professional Development. This endowment provides crucial support for the research and professional development experiences of graduate students in the UF/IFAS Department of Agricultural Education and Communication. Understanding that many students struggle financially while in graduate school and finish their degree with considerable debt, this endowment will help alleviate the financial constraints that these students face. In addition, this endowment will assist graduate students who are burdened by limited funding to support their thesis or dissertation research and will help in securing the funds they need to attend professional conferences during their graduate program.

“I continue to be amazed and inspired by the talented, motivated, and promising graduate students that enroll in the AEC Department. Their impact on people, organizations, the agriculture industry, and our discipline has been very exciting and rewarding to follow over the years” said Dr. Osborne. “These students have greatly enriched my UF faculty and administrative experience, and we hope this gift, in turn, will enrich the graduate experiences of many more outstanding AEC graduate students in the years to come.”

You can join Dr. Osborne in supporting the AEC Graduate Student Endowment by clicking here. For more ways to support the UF/IFAS AEC Department, please contact Genaveve Henson (genavevehenson@ufl.edu, 352-392-1975) or Dr. Brian Myers (bmyers@ufl.edu, 352-392-0502).