Food sensory scientist Carolyn Ross earns Sahlin Excellence Award for instruction

Carolyn Ross, professor and sensory scientist in the WSU School of Food Science, was honored this spring with the Sahlin Faculty Excellence Award as part of the 2021 WSU Showcase.

Sahlin Awards honor WSU faculty members who epitomize the highest level of excellence. Four awards are made every year in the areas of instruction, leadership, outreach and engagement, and research, scholarship, and arts.

Carolyn Ross
Carolyn Ross, sensory scientist in the School of Food Science, is a 2021 recipient of WSU’s Sahlin Faculty Excellence Award in instruction. “Each student has different life experiences, learns differently, and has different strengths,” says Ross.

Receiving the 2021 award for instruction, Ross is a teacher as well as a researcher into how our senses perceive food and wine. She combines theory and practice in her courses to equip students for professional success in food science, drawing on her industry experience and discovery to share real-world challenges and solutions.

As an educator, Ross aims to nurture students’ critical-thinking abilities, and provides non-traditional learning opportunities along with salient information.

“I am a firm believer that skills beyond technical know-how are important to career achievement,” Ross said. “The capacity to communicate technical information, and the ability to work in teams, underpin success. Rarely is innovation accomplished in isolation. Food and sensory scientists are part of large, multidisciplinary teams that address complex, difficult questions. It is imperative that students learn to communicate effectively and act cooperatively with a diverse pool of team members.”

“At the core of my teaching philosophy is the recognition that each student has different life experiences, learns differently, faces different challenges, and has different strengths,” she added. “Reaching out to students who appear to be struggling with the work, offering research opportunities for promising students from all backgrounds, and making myself available outside of class time are all priorities for me.”

Under Ross’s direction, the WSU Sensory Science Center has earned national recognition. It offers students hands-on experience conducting research, working with industry clients, and participating in sensory evaluation studies.

Her Sensory Evaluation of Food and Wine lecture and lab have one of the largest enrollments in the School. Ross keeps the course lively by updating its content with new food examples. When she found finding that the Food Chemistry lab course frustrated students, Ross updated the curriculum to create a course they enjoy.

“I am humbled to have received this award, given how many other amazing instructors there are at WSU,” she said. “I would like to thank past and current students for the opportunity to teach them about food science and share my passion and interest in the topic. I am also grateful for the support that I have received from colleagues over the years.  Receiving this award is such an honor, and is ‘icing on the cake’ to be recognized for a job that I love doing.”

See all current and past WSU Sahlin award winners here.

Learn more about Ross’s work here.