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Spring 2006 - Cheesy

Destination Purdue > Spring 2006 - Cheesy

Being cheesy is just part of his job

By Jenn Stewart

"I'm the dairy geek." Saying things like this is one way Kirby Hayes, a Purdue University food science professor, has been bringing his sense of humor to the classes he teaches.

Beth Scholer and Kirby Hayes

Photo by Jenn Stewart

(From left) Beth Scholer, lab teaching coordinator at Purdue University, and Kirby Hayes, a food science professor, watch as a student pours liquid nitrogen into a container used to freeze homemade ice cream.

Now, after six years of teaching a popular course that covers the dairy industry from the farm to the dinner plate, Hayes finds himself in front of classrooms full of students from all backgrounds and majors. His relaxed persona and teaching style, along with enthusiasm for what he does, keeps students coming back to his classes, according to those who know him.

"Kirby does a great job of connecting with his students," said C.J. Fleenor, a junior agribusiness management major from Orleans, Ind. "He has the ability to explain in-depth processes in simpler terms, and make all aspects of dairy products enjoyable and fun."

It's not only Hayes' students who find his courses amusing and beneficial. Beth Scholer, who coordinates the lab portions of Hayes' class, said she also enjoys his teaching style. Whether it's his jokes or his dedication to his profession that have contributed to Hayes' reputation as an educator, his hard work has earned him accolades that he never thought possible at this stage of his career.

Class offers a taste of the dairy industry
By Jenn Stewart

The Purdue University Department of Food Science offers FS/ANSC 368 (Dairy Products), a couse about common dairy products that lets students make their own. The class is taught by Kirby Hayes, professor of food science.

The class meets twice a week to learn about manufacturing practices, parlor management, sanitation, safety and many other subjects. The class also mets once a week for two-hour, hands-on dairy lab in which students create, then eat their own dairy products. This includes cheddar cheese, pasteurized chocolate milk, yogurt and mozzarella cheese (which is then used to make fried cheese sticks).

No prerequisites are required, nor do students enrolled have to be food science majors.

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In April 2005, the College of Agriculture presented Hayes with the Outstanding Teacher Award. Although he says he was honored, Hayes admits he was surprised because the award came so early in his career. "I was dumbfounded, and completely caught off-guard. It was an incredible honor," said Hayes. "I was really happy that the students in the class and my peers in the college both valued what I've been doing in the dairy class."

Many of his students think he deserved the award. "Kirby not only does an excellent job of teaching his material, but he is the most entertaining person I have ever met!" said Lindsay Marasco, a senior animal science major from Rochester, N.Y.

Hayes, who grew up in Madison and Delaware counties in Indiana, started his college career at Vincennes University. There, he says many of his instructors were role models who inspired him to pursue a teaching career. "While I was at VU, I had some professors who spent a lot of time with me - helping me, showing me how to become a learner," Hayes said.

Once he decided to come to Purdue, even more encounters kept pointing him in the direction of teaching. After he started teaching at Purdue, Hayes says he found his calling. "I realized how important it was to spend some time trying to help other people learn. I found that there was a real drive in me that I didn't really know existed until then."

After completing his master's degree, Hayes decided to gain some real-world experience in the food science industry. While working in the "real-world," however, his passion for teaching remained. It was this passion that brought Hayes back to Purdue for his doctorate. "I came back to Purdue after that experience with the whole purpose of getting the Ph.D. and becoming a university professor."

When Hayes isn't in the classroom, he can be found in a campus food science lab conducting dairy products research. His research focuses on dairy chemistry, specifically examining how enzymes in dairy products "affect the quality of fluid milk all the way through to how they affect flavor development in cheeses."

Hayes is no stranger to this sort of dairy research; he's been participating in it since 1996. "Almost 10 years now I have been doing research on enzymes in milk and dairy," said Hayes. "So dairy has really been the focus for what I do."

With Hayes' passion for teaching and devotion to the dairy industry, it's no surprise his students and peers speak so highly of him. His teaching style and methods for drawing student interest in his lectures keep students signing up for Hayes' classes semester after semester.