David Berle, an associate professor of horticulture, won the 2011 Scholarship of Engagement Award for his public service and outreach work and the service-learning opportunities he has provided to students.
Where did you earn degrees and what are your current responsibilities at UGA?
I earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agriculture from North Carolina State University and a master’s degree in landscape architecture from the University of Georgia. My current appointment is 85 percent teaching, 15 percent Cooperative Extension. I teach several sections of a large intro to horticulture course, a GIS/GPS course, a course in sustainable community food production and a course in organic agriculture. I serve as program coordinator of the Local Food Systems Certificate and adviser to the UGArden student organization.
When did you come to UGA and what brought you here?
I moved to Athens in 1992 to work as head horticulturist at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia.
What are your favorite courses and why?
HORT 2000 Intro to Horticulture Science is my favorite course, because it’s a chance to reach a large number of students (450 fall and spring semesters). While it can be challenging, I enjoy helping students make the connection between science and their everyday world.
What interests you about your field?
Horticulture is at the center of a lot of relevant issues of today, such as sustainable food production, carbon sequestering and water conservation.
What are some highlights of your career at UGA?
Probably the most significant thing that has happened to me has been my involvement with the Office of Service Learning. I consider the service learning work I have done to be my greatest professional achievement.
How does your research or scholarship inspire your teaching, and vice versa?
I teach from experience, either practical work or current research. It makes it very easy to teach a class and discuss changes in theories or research over time if you have lived it. I have been practicing horticulture in one form or another for more than 30 years. So much has changed-from our view on pesticides to how we breed new varieties of plants.
What do you hope students gain from their classroom experience with you?
My primary objective is to get students to understand the connection between scientific aspects of horticulture and how horticulture can play a major role in solving many of the problems of today.
Describe your ideal student.
My ideal student is one who wants to know how and why things are done, and who is not just interested in doing the minimum to get the grade. I especially like the students who actually READ the material I assign and even more so if they read it ahead of time.
Favorite place to be/thing to do on campus…
…is the Founders Garden. I proposed to my wife there.
Beyond the UGA campus…
…I like to travel to places with cooler weather and less humidity than Athens.
Community/civic involvement includes…
I do a lot of class projects that engage students in community projects. I teach several courses with an “S” suffix, which means there is a significant service-learning component to them. I feel that we, as a major flagship university, have an obligation to help those in need and share in our collective wealth whenever possible.
Favorite book: A Clearing In The Distance: Frederick Law Olmsted and America in the 19th Century. Olmstead was an amazing person. I wish I could do half the things he did. Favorite movie: Any of the Coen brothers movies, especially Raising Arizona, Fargo, The Big Lebowski and O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Proudest moment at UGA?
Receiving the D.W. Brooks teaching award from the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and being inducted into the university’s Teaching Academy in the same year (2009).
Other pertinent information you wish to share:
In the 20 years I have been connected with UGA as a staff member, student and now faculty, I have met some great people, many who do some really cool things that nobody ever hears about. I have been lucky to see the university from several different angles.