Link to home

​​2020 APS Excellence in Teaching Award​

​This award recognizes an APS member for excellence in teaching plant pathology. Preference will be given to active teachers with responsibility for one or more courses in plant pathology.

Marc Cubeta
North Carolina State University

Marc Anthony Cubeta was born in Charleston, South Carolina. He received his BS, MS, and PhD degrees from the University of Delaware (1980), University of Illinois (1983), and North Carolina State University (1991), respectively. He was a post-doctoral researcher at Duke University in the mycology laboratory of Rytas Vilgalys for 3 years and is currently a professor in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology and associate director of the Center for Integrated Fungal Research at North Carolina State University. He is also the current president of the Mycological Society of America. Cubeta began his academic teaching career as an undergraduate student at the University of Delaware, where he served as a teaching assistant for Tom Pizzolato's botany II course to fulfill a requirement for his Basic Educational Opportunity Grant that provided funding to students of low socioeconomic status to attend college. This experience ignited Cubeta's desire to help others through a life-long pursuit of education, mentoring, research, service, and teaching. ​

For the past 18 years at North Carolina State University (NCSU), Cubeta has taught and developed one distance education and seven traditional face-to-face courses to address the needs of undergraduate, graduate, and professional students. These early experiences contributed to his philosophy and approach for teaching. For example, Cubeta often states that the single most important characteristic a teacher can have is the willingness to help others. This ultimately requires a mutual respect between the student and instructor, patience, and many hours of listening and hard work. According to Cubeta's course and student evaluations that are consistently above the departmental and college mean (greater than 4.5 on a 5.0 scale), he is rigorous but fair and strives to stimulate curiosity and independent thinking. He also recognizes that each student has a unique history and style of learning. Cubeta has a Socratic style of teaching, but also incorporates inquiry oriented, collaborative, and experiential learning activities in his classes to promote group collaboration and learning. He has recently adopted newer electronic teaching technologies but does not allow technology to be the primary factor that determines his approaches to educating himself and the students. Cubeta is very interested in understanding how students learn and frequently observes the educational and pedagogical methods used by other instructors to improve his teaching. He is particularly interested in promoting education in society and providing educational opportunities for underrepresented populations and first-generation college students.

The majority of his teaching related activities at NCSU have involved undergraduate and graduate students. His primary goal is to use bacteria, fungi, insects, plants, and soil to introduce them to the scientific disciplines of genetics, microbiology, mycology, and plant pathology that contribute to understanding ecological and evolutionary processes in biological systems. In his classes, Cubeta emphasizes the importance of applying and generating science-based knowledge while minimizing science sensationalism. For these reasons, he has always recognized that research and teaching are complementary activities and worked diligently to improve his ability to transfer complex subject matter from science-based studies in an understandable manner to the students. He often finds it very useful to provide pragmatic examples, particularly those that he has experienced, so that students can relate to them in their everyday lives.

Cubeta is extremely committed to educating and mentoring graduate, undergraduate, and high school students and teachers, and the public. He has the inherent capability of teaching at many educational levels, ranging from middle school to advanced graduate students. While at NCSU, he has served as an advisor and mentor for 52 high school teachers, 33 high school students, 39 undergraduate students, 17 graduate students, and 7 post-doctoral scientists. Cubeta has also served as a member of 74 graduate student committees and in a leadership role for various summer education and outreach programs for high school biology/environmental science students and teachers that include the NCSU Summer College in Biotechnology and Life Sciences, Larry F. Grand Mycological Herbarium, USDA Ag-Discovery, National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates, iDigBio Education and Outreach Working Group, and North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. He also found time to develop fungal education exhibits entitled Fungi and Plants: an Intimate Evolutionary and Life History, for the NC Museum of Natural Science that was attended by approximately 1100 people each year it was conducted. In July 2015 and 2016, he participated in and served as a mentor for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) faculty for U.S. academic institutions as part of the American Association of Colleges and Universities Project Kaleidoscope program. This program focuses on developing approaches that transform undergraduate STEM education through plenary seminars, experiential leadership exercises, group discussions, and personal reflection time. The program empowers and energizes participants to better equip themselves with the knowledge and skills to become agents of change and leaders in STEM education on their respective campuses. In November 2015, he was invited by the President's Office of Science Technology and Policy to participate in a group discussion and meeting at the White House on the future of agriculture and STEM education in the United States. In 2016, Cubeta was elected to the NC Academy of Outstanding Teachers and received the Outstanding Alumnus Award in 2018.

Cubeta's interest in pedagogy and teaching has expanded well beyond NCSU and was part of his Fulbright Scholar Program sabbatical at the Swedish Agricultural University in Uppsala, in 2012, where he provided numerous lectures in two undergraduate/graduate courses, Introductory Plant Pathology and Diseases/Pests of Forest Crops. While in Sweden, Cubeta and his Fulbright sponsor, Jan Stenlid, conducted a video teleconference that provided North Carolina high school biology/environmental science teachers and undergraduate students with an opportunity to interact with a Swedish scientist and learn about forest mycology and plant pathology in Sweden. Cubeta invests considerable time and effort in mentoring and teaching because he truly enjoys the challenges and potential rewards that accompany one-on-one and group interactions with students in classroom and research settings.