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2023 Excellence​ in Teaching Award: JP Dundore-Arias​

JP Dundore-Arias was born in Costa Rica. He earned his B. S. in Agronomy at Universidad de Costa Rica in 2005, a M.S. in Plant Pathology in 2010 from Iowa State University, and a Ph.D. in Plant Pathology in 2015 from the University of Wisconsin—Madison. After an NSF Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Minnesota, JP joined the faculty at California State University-Monterey Bay (CSUMB) as an Assistant Professor of Plant Pathology. He has formally trained in scientific teaching through two prestigious fellowships: the HHMI Teaching Fellowship and the National Academies Education Fellowship in the Life Sciences.

JP creates inclusive learning environments that make all individuals feel their contributions and perspectives are valued and respected. He fosters a growth mindset to allow students to comprehend that their aptitude and talent may be cultivated and are not innate. This approach reinforces the scientific process and increases students' self-confidence, sense of belonging, and scientific identity. JP's mentorship helps students overcome the prevailing societal taboo against failure by proving that advancement in science and research results through experimentation, failure, adaptation, and improvement.

As the coordinator of the CSUMB Agricultural Plant and Soil Science Major (AGPS), JP oversaw activities related to the creation, approval, and implementation of this major. He created a multifaceted cohort-based learning approach to foster the academic performance, leadership, and social capital of students from diverse backgrounds and identities, including those working in the Salinas Valley's agricultural sector. He collaborated with local high schools and community colleges and developed 4-year and 2+2 transfer pathways to the AGPS B.S. degree. Despite the COVID pandemic's challenges, the inaugural cohort of students—all who identified as first-generation and Hispanic/Latinx—graduated and found jobs quickly. In just two years, enrollment in the AGPS major has increased tenfold.

JP is a dedicated educator who goes above and beyond for his students, as evidenced by his high course evaluations. He has designed and instructed multiple courses offered as part of the AGPS and Biology majors. JP created a curriculum that is appealing and relevant to a broader audience while maintaining the core concepts and material required for students interested in graduate programs or technical careers. The content and design of his courses underscore his dedication to providing students with a solid foundation by emphasizing the topics central to the region's agricultural economy and ecology. His BIO 322-Plant Pathology has become a highly sought-after course offered every semester to satisfy the high demand. In this class, he incorporates active learning modules, including a problem-solving hands-on diagnostic module offered in collaboration with professional plant disease diagnosticians.

JP provides learning opportunities where students translate the course material into strategies to address real-world challenges. During the COVID-19 pandemic's transition to virtual instruction, JP formed close relationships with colleagues in Central America via Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL). In one of the COIL modules, students participated in a classroom-adapted "H-Ag-athon" and designed sustainable production plans to enhance agricultural production, food sovereignty, and economic prosperity for agricultural communities in El Salvador negatively impacted by climate change-related issues. In his Biotechnology for Agriculture course, he combines modern molecular techniques with business modules. His students, in collaboration with business students and faculty, create business plans inspired by current industry needs. They "pitch" the projects to their peers and a panel of guests: a grower, a local entrepreneur, and an investor. As a positive outcome, the students identified themselves as CEOs in their business plans even though the assignment did not explicitly ask for it. Before the project, most students perceived themselves as working technical jobs for other business owners.

JP empowers his students by developing active and meaningful learning experiences and resources. To reinforce scientific understanding and strengthen communication skills, JP's students carry out assignments to review the course material and the published literature and summarize complex, technical information into educational materials for non-expert audiences. For example, in the plant pathology class, students write a disease note on a locally relevant crop disease in the style of APS Disease Compendia. These notes are published in the "Plant Disease Otter Compendium" and presented to local growers and Master Gardener Clubs.

JP's curriculum connects students to professional opportunities. JP leveraged his professional connections to include remote presentations by guest speakers who are agricultural biology experts. Students conversed with experts on complex or contentious issues while honing their professional networking skills. In several cases, the connections resulted in the recruitment of students for internships or permanent jobs. JP designed a series of Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experiences (CUREs) that scaffold through numerous AGPS 2+2 transfer pathway courses to increase student access to research experiences. Focusing on the central theme of diversity and function of soil bacteria, students isolate and characterize soilborne Streptomyces, including their genetic identity, antibiotic inhibitory profiles, and disease-suppressive capacities. To promote recruitment and transferring success, he offers these modules to students at partnering community colleges, introducing research experiences built upon when those students transfer to CSUMB.

In a three-year period, JP has mentored 37 undergraduate and 4 graduate students working on plant pathology research projects. He provides customized mentoring to his students, and he has helped them apply to and to obtain permanent positions at USDA-ARS, Monterey County Departments, and local companies. Four former undergraduate students are now pursuing M.S. or Ph.D. degrees in Agricultural-related sciences. Moreover, JP mentored students to present at national meetings, including SACNAS, Plant Health, and the Conference on Soilborne Pathogens. In recognition of his superior mentorship, JP was awarded the campus-wide CSUMB UROC Mentor of the Year Award.

Overall, JP carries out meaningful actions to build community and a sense of belonging among his student cohorts. Throughout establishing and carrying the new AGPS major through the turmoil of the Covid-19 pandemic, JP has made a commendable effort to provide students with equitable resources and access to opportunities. His efforts have enhanced the recruitment and retention of students from Historically Marginalized Groups commonly underrepresented and underserved in higher education and have promoted their participation in plant pathology.