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Sean F. O'Keefe recognized for teaching excellence in Virginia Tech's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences


Sean O'Keefe Sean O'Keefe

BLACKSBURG, Va., April 21, 2011 – Sean F. O’Keefe of Blacksburg, Va., professor of food science and technology, was awarded the 2011 Certificate of Teaching Excellence from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech.

O’Keefe’s teaching philosophy is simple: learning should be fun. Taking cues from an ancient Chinese proverb, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime,” O’Keefe’s strives to “give students a love of learning that will provide a lifelong education.”

Allowing students to explore ideas, learn on their own, and discuss what they have learned with their peers is a major focus of O’Keefe’s teaching approach. Students collaborate in groups and challenge each other’s ideas to stimulate discussion that will improve product ideas.

“Students gravitate to Dr. O’Keefe and he is patient and very generous with his time,”said Joe Marcy, head of the Department of Food Science and Technology. “Sean is the most involved teacher I have met. He is constantly engaged in some student activity.”  

In addition to teaching three courses annually, he advises seven graduate students and finds time to offer research opportunities for undergraduate students as well as high school in the Multicultural Academic Opportunities Program (MAOP) as summer interns. He finds that allowing students to explore on their own and get excited about what they are discovering in the laboratory is very rewarding. He also serves as a sponsor for the Food Science Club and an advisor for the award winning Product Development Team.  

O’Keefe has also been instrumental in the development of several new courses over the years including Flavor Chemistry, Brewing Science, and Oxidation at Interface of Chemistry and Biology. He is currently developing a new undergraduate course on the history of food and culture.

O’Keefe earned his bachelor’s degree from St. Francis Xavier University, his master’s degree from Technical University of Nova Scotia, and his Ph.D. from Iowa State University.

Nationally ranked among the top research institutions of its kind, Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences focuses on the science and business of living systems through learning, discovery, and engagement. The college’s comprehensive curriculum gives more than 3,100 students in a dozen academic departments a balanced education that ranges from food and fiber production to economics to human health. Students learn from the world’s leading agricultural scientists, who bring the latest science and technology into the classroom.