College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences

Clemson professors earn national agricultural teaching awards


Clemson, South Carolina — Two faculty members from Clemson University’s College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences were honored for their teaching excellence by the society of North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture.

Elena Mikhailova

Elena Mikhailova, professor of soil science in the Department of Forestry and Environmental Conservation, and Michael Vassalos, associate professor of agribusiness in the Department of Agricultural Sciences, both earned NACTA Educator Awards.

Mikhailova is a National Science Foundation ADVANCE Fellow who is internationally recognized for her highly collaborative, multidisciplinary research in the areas of soil, and soil science education.  Her collaborative educational innovations have introduced hundreds of Clemson University students to a range of cutting-edge topics from spatial analysis to sensor technology in soil science. These efforts included interdisciplinary collaboration with five undergraduate students, seven graduate students, nine faculty, and three staff members on thirteen peer-reviewed educational articles. Several educational grants, including USDA/NIFA Higher Education Challenge (HEC) grant, and the Clemson University Creative Inquiry program, supported these efforts.

She also leads a community-oriented undergraduate student project focused on soil inventory of private lands to create soil management plans for land-owners. The project uses a combination of web-based technologies and soil analysis results from South Carolina and the U.S. The data is then shared with land-owners to assist them in managing their land.

Mikhailova has also received numerous Clemson University teaching awards, and her collaborative educational research is widely published in peer reviewed journals such as Education Sciences, and Natural Sciences Education.

Michael Vassalos

Vassalos’s serves as advisor to Clemson’s Agribusiness Association and has led the association to national prominence, in addition to his teaching duties.

The association was named Outstanding Chapter of the Year in 2016 by Agricultural and Applied Economics Association. Under Vassalos’s guidance, the club has had an unprecedented string of success, with students ranking in the top four quiz bowl teams the last three years.

Clemson agribusiness club members have been members of teams that have finished in the top three in the Southern Agricultural Academics Bowl every year since 2013. Students from the team finished as high as second in the regional quiz bowl competition in 2017 and placed as high as fourth in a national quiz bowl competition at the annual meeting of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association in San Francisco.

Vassalos took over a club with only two members in 2013. In 2017, the club was named a Clemson University Student Organization of the month.

Vassalos focuses his research on agribusiness management and production economics. He is interested specifically in economic research that focuses on farm decision making and the influence of risk on growers’ decisions. His work is published in journals such as Agribusiness, Choices, and Agricultural and Applied Economics.

“I am very pleased that Elena and Michael earned this prestigious award. This is a great honor showing that they are not only well-respected among the students and faculty at Clemson but also on the national stage. They are examples of the talented faculty we have here in Clemson’s College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences,” said Jean Bertrand, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies in the college.


The North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture (NACTA) is a professional society focused on promoting, recognizing and rewarding excellence in teaching agriculture and related areas at the post-secondary level in North America. Through the use of competitive awards, NACTA annually recognizes outstanding teaching and publication.

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