Professor of Environmental Science Cinzia Fissore’s significant impact in her students’ Whittier College experience was recognized with the 2023 Nerhood Teaching Award.
The annual award honors a full-time professor for overall excellence in teaching, in recognition of Professor Harry W. Nerhood, professor emeritus of history.
Several excerpts from students’ nominations were read at the announcement of the award at the 2023 Honors Convocation. They praised Fissore’s inspiring enthusiasm, expertise, strong standards, and the supportive environment that she fosters.
“Dr. Fissore is the most welcoming teacher on campus. Not only is she an expert in her field but she is constantly looking after her students’ well being and mental health,” a student wrote in their nomination. “She always encourages that the classroom is ours and thus we should have a say in what is best suited for us to learn. She is aware that times have changed thus the way we learn must change as well.”
“It is safe to say that I have spent a great deal of time with Professor Fissore and have seen what an excellent professor, advisor, mentor and person she is,” one student wrote. Another lauded Fissore as “an invaluable asset to the environmental science program” who creates a safe, inclusive learning environment and “tailors every class so each person can learn to the best of their ability.”
Fissore has over 15 years of research experience in the field of soil science and terrestrial biogeochemistry across ecosystems, from forest to urban ecosystems. Her work focuses on understanding the role of soil carbon in offsetting CO2 emissions to the atmosphere and, therefore, mitigating climate change.
In recent years, Fissore has led the sustainable coffee orchard project on the Whittier College campus. The outdoor learning lab, consisting of avocado and coffee plants growing alongside each other, creates a new space for students and professors to explore issues of agriculture, ecology, the economy, and the environment, centered around the theme of coffee.
Whittier was awarded a $300,000 grant from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundation to help propel the orchard’s growth and provide students with research and internship opportunities. Thanks to Fissore’s leadership, the grant has enabled the College to expand its collaboration with the newly emerging California coffee grower’s agricultural community, including its partnership with Frinj Coffee—an organization at the forefront of promoting and supporting California coffee production.
Previously, Fissore has conducted work for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources, the USDA Forest Service, and non-profit organizations. She has led in-depth investigations pertaining to environmental issues and sustainability across the world, and conducted projects focused on best practices and effective integration of local ecological and cultural priorities within a solution-centered approach to pressing environmental challenges.
Fissore earned her Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Sciences from the University of Torino, in Italy, and her Ph.D. in Forest Science from Michigan Technological University.