Professor brings the world to the table
By Heather Klopfenstein
Thomas Housley, Purdue University professor of agronomy, likes to play a gag on his students. He walks out of the classroom, puts on a black and white jester hat and cape and comes back as Super Joker.
Photo provided by Sherry Fulk-Bringman
Professor Housley lectures his agronomy class. Housley uses humor, diversity and costuming to make sure his seminars are interesting for Purdue students.
Super Joker will then ask the students what they think Housley will put on the exam, and so another review session begins. Housley comes up with these original ideas to help students understand the concepts of agronomy.
"I think that helps the students feel more comfortable in class, ask questions, interact," Housley said. "I like the interaction with the students. I try to present things in a way that helps them have fun and remember. As an added benefit, it keeps me from getting bored."
Ideas pop into his mind at three o'clock in the morning, and he isn't afraid to try them out the next day. Housley is willing to look a little silly if it helps his students learn. Housley bumps up the interaction in AGRY 285: "World Crop Adaptation and Distribution" by giving students what they love most–free food. The class covers cereals, legumes and edible roots.
Browse the menu to see what courses Purdue Agriculture is serving up:
- Food Science 161: The Science of Food
The chemistry, biology and nutrition of food from production to consumption. Food-diethealth relationship. Food facts, fantasies and practices that are important for making intelligent food decisions.
- Food Science 368: Dairy Products
Taste the science behind ice cream! Scientific and technical aspects of procurement, processing, packaging and quality control of fluid milk products and frozen dairy products. Emphasis is placed on process unit operations.
- Animal Sciences 181: Orientation to Animal Sciences
Introduction to the faculty, programs, opportunities, career preparation and personal development requirements needed to succeed in a career in animal industries.
- Entomology 295B: Introduction to Forensic Science
An introduction to the real world of forensic science. Its purpose is to introduce students to the many fascinating facets of forensic investigation.
After each section, the class is treated to a buffet of foods made fromt he major crop just discussed. Housley, with the help of two students, makes the dishes using recipes from around the world. Students try such things as injera, a fermented sorghum flat bread from Ethiopia. Housley dresses up in an Egyptian or Zimbabwean outfit to make the feast more interesting.
Housley brings diversity, not only to the classroom through food and culture, but also to Purdue. Housley received an award from the Future Black Scientist of America in 2000 for his work in minority recruitment.
He has been on the School of Agriculture's Diversity Team, which seeks to increase minority involvement in the University, for 16 years. "We try, not only to change attitudes of people, but to make the whole community more receptive to minorities," Housley said. "It's tough."
While Housley has seen progress, he says there is much more to be done. Meanwhile, he'll keep teaching his students and trying new ideas.