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Eames-Sheavly recognized for teaching excellence

Marcia Eames-Sheavly in Belize leading students in the course Tropical Plants Extravaganza.

Marcia Eames-Sheavly in Belize leading students in the course Tropical Plants Extravaganza.

This spring, Marcia Eames-Sheavly (’83, MPS ’99), Senior Lecturer and Senior Extension Associate in the SIPS Horticulture Section, received the 2020 College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) Professor of Merit award. Since 1947, this award has recognized excellence in undergraduate teaching, and is considered particularly prestigious because the senior class chooses the recipient.

“Marcia goes out of her way to form deep relationships with her students,” wrote one of the seniors who nominated her for the honor. “She genuinely cares very much for student well-being above all else. Her instruction methods teach students how to reflect deeply on experiences to allow for maximum personal growth and development.

“In all my years at Cornell, I have not witnessed any other professor that had the same positive impact on their students as she does,” the nominator added.

Marcia has created and taught numerous courses, primarily focusing on the intersections between art and horticulture, garden-based learning, and plants and human well-being. They include The Art of Horticulture, the Seed to Supper two-semester course sequence, and several courses with travel experiences to Belize, including Healing Plants and the People Who Use Them. She recently developed Leadership through Peer Mentoring in the Plant Sciences which has served as one of the models for the new peer mentoring model in CALS.

“What those areas all have in common is that they are fundamentally about people’s engagement with our discipline, something students are longing for,” notes Marcia.  She was surprised to discover that during her last five-year appointment period that nearly 700 students had enrolled in her courses, many in smaller courses requiring lots of personal attention.

In spring 2003, she created and began teaching her signature course, The Art of Horticulture, which she handed off to Emily Detrick, horticulturist at Cornell Botanic Gardens, in 2018. She developed three online continuing education courses in botanical illustration, and later started using them as the backbone for the for-credit course Intensive Study in Botanical Illustration.

Other courses Marcia has led include Let Your Life Speak, Hortus Forum Officer Leadership Development, Undergraduate Individual Study in Horticulture, Community Facilitation Practicum, Tropical Plants Extravaganza, Experiential Garden-Based Learning in Belize, Food, Fiber and Fulfillment: Plants and Human Well-Being and Collaboration, Leadership, and Career Skills in the Plant Sciences (developed with Marvin Pritts).

“Marcia has fostered the most welcoming and genuine atmosphere I’ve ever experienced in a classroom or any setting on campus,” another senior nominator observed. “Her reflective and thoughtful approach to teaching emphasizes that learning rarely happens in one direction and is a lifelong endeavor of continual self-improvement. Her philosophies have shaped my personal and professional life in ways that will stay with me forever.”

“She teaches more than just subjects,” writes another student. “She teaches students about ways of knowing and being that will last a lifetime. Marcia is preparing students to not only be mindful and motivated in the classroom, but is also encouraging us to take our knowledge and go out into our communities to create change and reflect on our impacts.”

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