Kristin Kiesel Wins ASUCD Excellence in Education Award

Agricultural Economics Professor Prioritizes Inclusive Learning and Support

Kristin Kiesel (Jael Mackendorf / UCDavis)
Kristin Kiesel (Jael Mackendorf / UCDavis)

If you asked students what it’s like to take a managerial economics or other class with Kristin Kiesel, they will tell you she is kind, empathetic, a role model and so much more. 

The associate professor of teaching in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics is being awarded the Excellence of Education Award from the Associated Students of the University of California, Davis, or ASUCD.

Winners are nominated by students and the award honors teaching faculty for their dedication to students and undergraduate education.

Kiesel, who joined UC Davis in 2015, researches the economics of information with an eye toward food policies, marketing and consumer behavior. She also studies teaching methods and practice.

“I think effectively teaching our students challenges us to do more than explaining what is already written in textbooks,” Kiesel said. “We need to listen to and learn from each other, combine and grow our expertise together.” 

Kiesel’s teaching is student-centered and incorporates hands-on learning and research. At the beginning of a quarter, she asks students to reflect on what expertise they already bring with them and encourages them to think about their own learning goals. Students also submit weekly reflections sharing what they learned as well as what worked and didn’t work, feedback that helps Kiesel to directly respond and continuously refine her teaching. 

Her applied economics research further refines her teaching philosophy. For instance, a review of the literature on the effectiveness of soda taxes found that policies meant to help disadvantaged communities were doing the opposite. 

“The mistake we often make when designing these policies is that the people we are trying to help are not part of the conversation,” she said, “and that’s also true when discussing teaching and learning outcomes.”

Mentor and role model

Adam Francis, a transfer student and senior majoring in managerial economics who was one of the students to nominate Kiesel, said she has a passion for helping students excel in their classes, research and career development. 

“I often refer to her as a mentor, role model and my favorite professor,” he wrote. “I am lucky to have had the chance to develop such an amazing relationship.”

Students also say Kiesel champions inclusion and a welcoming environment for students of all backgrounds to study economics, which is home to few historically underrepresented minority groups. 

“She tirelessly works to ensure every student is afforded the same opportunities, feels acknowledged and has their potential nurtured,” senior managerial economics major Nicole Arias wrote in her nomination.

James Hasbany, a Ph.D. student in agricultural and resource economics, echoed that sentiment, writing, “She is the go to authority for us Ph.D. students who want to learn how to teach with compassion, empathy and passion to connect with and inspire students.”

Many views needed

Kiesel believes the field of agricultural economics allows studying many issues, including climate change, health inequities and food security, and that finding solutions to those pressing problems requires considering new perspectives and ideas contributed by people with a variety of experiences and worldviews. 

“We are missing out by not attracting new talent to our discipline and helping these students to succeed,” Kiesel said. 

She is a program director for DIRECT, which stands for Diversity and Inclusion in Research, Education, and Career Training, a comprehensive outreach and support program that aims to attract and lower barriers to academic success for underrepresented students in applied and agricultural economics. Kiesel is also one of the leaders of a new series of inclusive coffee chats for educators that focuses on how to better serve and ensure a sense of belonging for all students. 

“Her empathy and dedication create a supportive environment where every student feels valued and understood,” said Ngoc Hoang Anh Nguyen, a junior studying managerial economics. 

“Beyond academia, Professor Kiesel is also a great mentor in life, guiding me through personal challenges and helping me navigate my path with confidence and resilience.”

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