GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Gerardo Nunez, assistant professor of horticultural sciences in the UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS), received the Early Career Teaching Award from the United States Department of Agriculture.
This award, one of two given this year nationwide, honors the best teachers in the country who recently began their academic career in the food and agricultural sciences.
Nunez is a teacher and researcher in the UF/IFAS horticultural sciences department, focusing on plant physiology, horticultural production and agricultural literacy. Nunez’s passion and reputation for teaching excellence have earned him praise from students and colleagues alike.
“Being recognized with this award is a testament to Dr. Nunez’s commitment to being an influential young teacher and mentor who is passionate about encouraging growth and success in the next generation,” said CALS Dean Elaine Turner. “We are proud to have excellent teachers like Dr. Nunez in our college.”
To prioritize student learning objectives and accessibility, Nunez actively seeks feedback from his peers and students alike, and he applies adapted teaching methods to improve his courses. He limits his own lecture time in the classroom, implementing virtual reality “field trips” and problem-based learning to encourage students’ natural curiosity in horticulture.
A former student of Nunez, Christopher Imler, wrote in a letter of support, “One aspect of Dr. Nunez’s performance which sets him apart from his colleagues is an innovative use of modern tools that result in a highly engaged learning environment.”
As an advisor, instructor and mentor, Nunez seeks ways to provide students with advice and feedback that is both constructive and compassionate. He has mentored students in research both in his own lab and by offering a Classroom Undergraduate Research Experience (C.U.R.E.). He also engages in co-curricular programs such as the University Multicultural Mentor Program, UF Preparing Future Faculty Program and Cientifico Latino.
“In our college, we try to prepare students to be society-ready upon graduation,” Turner said. “Dr. Nunez is achieving this by ensuring his students have the problem-solving skills and technological literacy to be successful.”
Nunez’s award was presented at the 135th annual meeting of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, held in Denver, Colorado.
ABOUT THE UF/IFAS COLLEGE OF AGRICULTURAL AND LIFE SCIENCES
The College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) administers the degree programs of the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS). The mission of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences is to deliver unsurpassed educational programs that prepare students to address the world’s critical challenges related to agriculture, food systems, human wellbeing, natural resources and sustainable communities. The college has received more total (national and regional combined) USDA teaching awards than any other institution.