College of Agriculture & Natural Resources
Institute of Applied Agriculture

Communication: IAA's Surprise Expertise

Dr. Ed Priola
Ed Priola (pictured at right) mock-interviews a participant during communication training in the Hornbake Media Studio.

“Communication” probably isn’t the first topic that comes to mind when you think of academics at the Institute of Applied Agriculture (IAA). Most folks are surprised to discover that nine of IAA’s 14 faculty teach INAG110: Oral Communication to more than 1,500 students from across the University of Maryland each year. The number of communication faculty has steadily increased since 2012, when three lecturers joined the IAA as part of a university-wide effort to increase the oral communication proficiency of undergraduate students.

As the communication expertise at the IAA increased, so did its communication-related academic offerings. A new concentration in Agricultural Leadership and Communication was approved in 2016, including newly-developed courses in Agricultural Policy and Communication, Agricultural Public Relations, and Agricultural Strategic Communication. The first three students enrolled in this program in the Fall of 2017.

IAA’s focus on increasing communication proficiency hasn’t been limited to the undergraduate classroom. Since 2016, the IAA’s communication faculty team has been offering a diverse menu of communication workshops, seminars, and coaching sessions to administrators, faculty, scientists, and graduate students from the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (AGNR) and other units across the university. Topics have included message development, media interviews, public speaking, and improvisational theater. Some trainings took place on campus (e.g., the Media Studio at Hornbake Library), while others hit the road (e.g., the Maryland Inn in Annapolis, where IAA faculty trained fellows of LEAD Maryland, a program that increases the numbers and capacity of leaders serving agriculture in our state).

It didn’t stop there. Undergraduate students have also benefited from the communication trainings provided by IAA faculty. For example, competitors in AGNR’s 2017 Agriculture Innovation to Commercialization (AgI2C) Competition received one-on-one coaching that dramatically improved their presentation skills. Similarly, competitors in the 2018 edition of the competition received training on the “DOs and DON’Ts for a Perfect Pitch.”

IAA’s team of communication experts brings an amazing array of real-world experience, ranging from corporate public relations to broadcast journalism to advocacy. If you would like to know more about the communication trainings offered, and explore how the IAA could increase your organization’s communication competence, please contact Ed Priola at

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