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Inspiring Teacher: Tom DeSutter, professor of soil science and program lead in the School of Natural Resources

Tom DeSutter is considered the salt of the earth when it comes to his knowledge of soils and his compassion for his students.

DeSutter is a respected expert in soil salinity and sodicity, and his extensive research examines the reclamation of soils impacted by the extraction of energy resources. He teaches such courses as Soil and Land Use, and Environmental Field Instrumentation and Sampling.

You’ll find him in the NDSU School of Natural Resource Sciences, a multi-disciplinary unit that explores the areas of entomology, natural resources management, range science and soil science.

In his field work and person journedy, DeSutter extensively travels the backroads of North Dakota and Minnesota. That provides him with a fundamental connection with his students.

“I understand where my students are from; I know the region and the landscapes they see every day. I think that makes teaching at NDSU special,” said DeSutter, who joined the NDSU faculty in 2006. “The time allows me to think about how I can help my students and what teaching practices will best give them information.”

DeSutter is terrific at what he does. He recently received the H. Roald and Janet Lund Excellence in Teaching Award in the NDSU College of Agriculture, Food Systems and Natural Resources.

In class, DeSutter uses a book titled “40 Chances: Finding Hope in a Hungry World,” by Howard Buffett. During the exercise students learn how they personally fit in the agricultural sector, specifically within the issue of food security. Many students say the lesson changes their perspective on the world.

“A big part of teaching is building trust,” DeSutter said. “I reach out and try to relate information back directly to each student. That enhances their experience; they feel like I am teaching only to them and not the entire class.”

DeSutter’s teaching philosophy goes beyond the subject matter. He emphasizes volunteerism, helping people in need and stepping up to the task.

“My students will be leaders in their communities at some point,” DeSutter said, noting statistics show that for every 23 people in North Dakota, there is one elected position. “The odds of a student being elected in the future are quite high. So, we often talk about leadership to get students prepared for that conversation when it comes up.”

DeSutter earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at South Dakota State University and his doctorate in agronomy from Kansas State University.

Student Focused. Land Grant. Research University.

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North Dakota State University
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