Courtney Meyers Honored for Teaching Excellence
Part of TTU's top-ranked agricultural communications program, this driven educator added the Texas Tech University System's highest faculty honor to her list of accolades.
It’s great to be No. 1. But Courtney Meyers’ expectation for students and herself has always been excellence, regardless of the ranking.
Meyers, an associate professor in Texas Tech’s agricultural education and communications program, is proud to be among students and faculty who are the best in the nation. Ranked No. 1 in the U.S. in 2015, the program continues to hold the top spot in ongoing rankings from the University of Arkansas.
Setting the pace draws plenty of attention from the agriculture industry.
“I want the students in all my classes to be better writers, designers, problem-solvers and critical thinkers than when they entered the course.”
“What’s been interesting in the past 10–15 years of agricultural communications is that a lot of agricultural businesses have realized they need communicators,” Meyers said, “and now they are trying to find the most qualified people for the roles they have created.”
Students in Texas Tech’s program have a lot to offer.
“I want the students in all my classes to be better writers, designers, problem-solvers and critical thinkers than when they entered the course,” she said. “I want my students to continue growing and learning; it’s hypocritical not to expect the same in myself.”
Meyers’ efforts have been recognized repeatedly by Texas Tech. She’s a member of the university’s Teaching Academy and has received a number of teaching awards at the college, university, and national levels. Most notably, she received the 2015 U.S. Department of Agriculture’s New Teacher Award — a highly competitive award given to only two educators nationwide each year.
In honor of her career of achievement, Meyers was awarded the Chancellor’s Council Distinguished Teaching Award, the most prestigious honor given to faculty members throughout the Texas Tech University System.
She received $5,000 and a medallion for her excellence, funded by annual membership gifts to the Chancellor’s Council — a giving society that supports the priorities of the chancellor by impacting student lives through scholarships, recognizing faculty achievement and encouraging excellence across all four system universities.
Challenging students to excel
“I’m doing what I love, and it’s so rewarding to know others appreciate it,” Meyers said. “I spend a lot of time on the classes I teach. I teach a writing-intensive course, and I tell the students before I hand back that first major paper that all the purple marks on their paper mean I love them enough to give them feedback.”
Meyers also encourages her students to take risks.
“I try to be up front with my students. I tell them, ‘I’d rather you try something and fail bravely than to never try,” she said. “I talk to them about how writing is my sport, and the only way we get better is to practice, have a coach, get feedback and commit time.”
Not satisfied with pushing her students to improve, Meyers also challenges herself. Every semester she looks for ways to improve the courses she teaches and her interactions with students — using her web design course as an example.
“I started a screencast of video feedback, so students could hear me talk about their projects and see my face and the mouse movements on the computers so that they don’t just read what I thought about their website. They could see me talking about it in the moment. Those have been pretty powerful,” she said.
Communicating with the other 98 percent
Agricultural communications was a good fit Meyers when she was a freshman at Kansas State University.
“I grew up in a rural town in southeast Kansas — population pushing 200 if you count the dogs,” she said. “My parents were English teachers, and my grandparents farmed. When I got involved in [the National FFA Organization] in high school, I found this whole new way to use some of my natural talents, writing stories and taking photos, putting together newsletters for an industry that I had an interest in learning more about.”
Meyers planned to study a general agriculture program, but at orientation, Jackie McClaskey (now Kansas’ Secretary of Agriculture), steered her down another path.
When McClaskey asked her if she was more comfortable with math or writing, Meyers remembers saying she would “much rather write a story, interview someone and put that information together in a meaningful way.”
Her adviser suggested agricultural communications.
“That made a world of difference in my life,” she said, “It showed me the importance of slowing down and getting to know students at a level that goes beyond their [student ID] number.”
“These students have a bright future in front of them because they can communicate agriculture in a way that their family understands.”
Meyers emphasized it isn’t necessary for her students to have a rural background like hers.
“Only 2 percent of the country’s population has a direct connection with agriculture.”
However, she emphasizes the opportunities students have to connect the other 98 percent of the population with the industry that feeds and clothes them.
“I think there is a lot to be said for having students without a traditional agriculture background coming into our field. They provide the prospective that the majority of the public has,” Meyers said. “These students have a bright future in front of them because they can communicate agriculture in a way that their family understands.”
While some students will run a one-person communications and marketing shop for a commodity organization, others may use their education in related fields such as law school, lobbying, policy strategy, public relations, sales and recruiting.
After 10 years at Texas Tech University, Meyers said she is looking for ways to give back to the university.
“I would love the opportunity to lead an international experience,” Meyers said, recalling how she learned more about agriculture from a global perspective during a study-abroad experience with the International Grains Program while she was an undergraduate student at Kansas State.
“It was a fascinating job to converse with people who came to K-State from across the world to learn more about feed manufacturing and flour milling while purchasing grains for their countries.”
It’s just one of many ideas Meyers has for giving her students an edge and keeping Texas Tech’s agricultural communications program on top.