Agribusiness professor earns prestigious USDA award

Aleksan Shanoyan's agricultural experience began on a small farm in Armenia, where he was born and raised. (Archive photo by Jordan Koster | Collegian Media Group)

From teaching undergraduate students to leading his graduate case study team to national victories, Aleksan Shanoyan, associate professor of agribusiness economics and management, made an impact on the College of Agriculture in his 10 years at Kansas State.

Shanoyan recently received the USDA’s Excellence in College and University Teaching Award for Food and Agricultural Sciences at the regional level — one of the USDA’s most prestigious awards.

Shanoyan competed with people in the College of Agriculture, including animal science, agronomy and agricultural communications.

Allen Featherstone, department head of agricultural economics, said Shanoyan does an excellent job in the undergraduate classroom and receives positive feedback from the students. He said student evaluations play a big role in the importance the department places on teaching.

“They like his enthusiasm, the clarity of his lectures and they also like the compassion he has for students,” Featherstone said.

Elizabeth Yeager, associate professor, said Shanoyan brings a lot of energy, especially in terms of engaging students.

“He’s very passionate about engaging students and making sure that their needs are being met, but encourages them to think a little more deeply about some of the problems and questions that they’re working toward and facing,” Yeager said.

Yeager said Shanoyan is a great person to be in the same department with and to have as a colleague and a great friend.

Shanoyan’s agricultural experience began on a small farm in Armenia, where he was born and raised.

After studying accounting and economics for a year, he decided to put his degree on pause to start a meat retail business in Russia. He returned to Armenia two years later to join the military, then later resumed his studies.

“I decided to go back to school but this time I knew I wanted to finish my accounting degree,” Shanoyan said.

Texas A&M introduced an agricultural business program in collaboration with an agricultural university in Armenia, so Shanoyan pursued an agricultural business degree alongside his accounting and economics degree.

From there, he received a master’s in agricultural economics from the University of Illinois and a Ph.D. in agricultural, food and resource economics from Michigan State University.

Around the time Shanoyan was finishing his degree, K-State opened a position that was a perfect match for his ideal career.

“When I saw this job posting from Kansas State, if somebody asked me to write a perfect job position for myself, that would have been it,” Shanoyan said.

Though building a career in Kansas — the heart of the agricultural industry — impacted his success, Shanoyan said his students and colleagues have also contributed.

“There are several factors that have impacted [my success], number one is having the most hardworking, respectful and just amazing students that I have ever met and I could have asked for,” Shanoyan said. “Number two is having wonderful colleagues to work with and a lot of great role models in the department and the college [of agriculture], and in the university.”

Shanoyan said he is trying to bridge the gap between the classroom and the real world for his students.

“Teaching management concepts in the context of food and agribusiness is kind of like teaching people to swim in the classroom,” Shanoyan said. “You put them in the classroom and you can lecture them about how to move their arms around in the water, but until you put them in the water they won’t really appreciate what it’s like.”

Though the pandemic has been hard on professors and their lesson plans, Shanoyan found a way to utilize the circumstances.

“Because everybody moved to remote working, everybody got comfortable with Zoom and it made it easy to invite top-level agribusiness executives to do guest presentations,” Shanoyan said. “They don’t have to travel and it doesn’t take a lot of time from them.”

Shanoyan said his goal is to have more of these kinds of engagements with the industry.

“It’s a pleasure and a privilege to work in an environment where you get to teach people who want to learn and are engaged,” Shanoyan said. “And you are working alongside people and leaders who know and appreciate the value of high-quality instruction and provide all the support you know they can.”