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Kojis Receives J.S. Donald Short Course Teaching Award

An enthusiastic instructor who strives to connect with his students, William P. Kojis has taught more than a thousand short-course students about the principles and practices of forage production. This year, the College honors him with the John S. Donald Excellence in Teaching Award for the UW Farm and Industry Short Course program.

“Bill really connects with his students and makes their education both valuable and enjoyable,” says Chris Boerboem, a professor of agronomy and one of Kojis’ colleagues. “He teaches in the spirit of the Farm and Industry Short Course.”

A senior research specialist with the agronomy department, Kojis spends the bulk of his time managing maize genetics research plots and seed stocks. However, for 22 years he has also taught the forage crops class for the Farm and Industry Short Course, a 17-week program designed to prepare students for careers in agriculture. Kojis also coordinates the department’s curriculum assessment and the plant biology group of the UW Integrated Biological Sciences Summer Research Program

Kojis’ students say that he is an effective, knowledgeable instructor who provides practical information, which is key to the Farm and Industry Short Course mission. His objectives for his students are to understand forage crop production and management practices, and be able to apply that knowledge to their own forage production system. This includes understanding how plant physiology and morphology, pests, environmental factors, equipment, livestock and economics influence forage production. Kojis also teaches his students about the scientific principles behind production practices, giving them both hands-on experience and theoretical background.

“The best thing was I learned so much stuff I can bring home to our farm,” one student stated in a written evaluation of the course. “I learned lots that will help me better manage my crops,” writes another.

Kojis’ innovative and interactive teaching methods include an honors section that uses greenhouse materials for hands-on plant analysis, laboratory tours and informal discussions. He makes extensive use of live plant materials and hands-on demonstrations in class, and created a course reader and take-home reference for his students that draws upon more than 30 UW-Extension publications to cover almost all aspects of forage crop production in the upper Midwest.

And, perhaps most importantly, Kojis’ colleagues say that he creates an informal atmosphere where students are encouraged to ask questions and share their experiences, illustrated by one student who wrote, “The best thing was the instructor’s teaching ability and openness to questions.”

“The department greatly appreciates Bill’s high-quality and enthusiastic teaching, and his many years of contributions,” adds Boerboom.