Jill Zarestky recognized with prestigious early career award

Jill Zarestky holding her award smiling.

Colorado State University School of Education Assistant Professor Jill Zarestky is the 2019 recipient of the Early Career Award from the Commission of Professors of Adult Education (CPAE), a subgroup of the American Association for Adult & Continuing Education (AAACE). Zarestky is being recognized for her outstanding research and service in the field of adult education.

The Early Career Award, one of the top national awards given to non-tenured faculty in adult education, was presented to Zarestky at the CPAE conference in St. Louis, Missouri, on Oct. 10.

Zarestky, who has been a faculty member in the CSU Adult Education and Training Program for four years, watched her adviser win the same award when she began attending the conference. “I was so impressed and proud of her for doing that,” she said, “that it became a personal goal for me to build a career that would merit winning the award.”

Scholarly accomplishments

Glass CPAE award on Jill Zarestky's desk.
Zarestky’s CPAE award on display.

Zarestky was nominated for the award by her faculty colleagues in the Adult Education and Training specialization for her research and service excellence.  Zarestky’s research focuses on STEM education, non-profit and non-governmental organizations and international adult education. She is the lead researcher on a significant National Science Foundation grant to study informal science learning at biological field stations, which are places where researchers study topics in nature and the environment.

Zarestky’s project explores field stations as centers of informal STEM learning for the public. Zarestky and her research team are investigating how people learn from the outreach programs conducted at the sites, such as summer camps, field trips, nature hikes, and more. Her research, which was published in Bioscience, one of the most highly ranked journals in the biological sciences, has determined that the nation’s biological field stations are unique places for the public to learn about science and nature.

“Education is one of the big ways that people can change their situations in life. So, I’m thinking about the ways that we as educators can support learners and teachers and help get people where they want to go,” Zarestky said.

Achievements in service

The award also recognizes service, and Zarestky has served the AAACE for almost a decade, seeking volunteer opportunities immediately following her first conference in 2010 as a doctoral student.  After being elected to the secretary position in 2014, which she held until 2018, she chaired a taskforce to overhaul the association’s bylaws, updating them to reflect a new partnership with a management firm, and another to revise the association’s governance structure to meet the needs of the changing field.  Zarestky continues to serve as an active volunteer for AAACE.

In one of her many service roles to the field, Zarestky also serves as the assistant editor of the journal New Horizons in Adult Education and Human Resource Development. She strives to collaborate with and support her colleagues and graduate students as well, inviting them to join research projects. Through her collaboration and mentorship, her students have been able to submit manuscripts to journals and attend and present at conferences.

Zarestky’s colleagues wrote in their nomination statement, “Dr. Zarestky clearly understands the importance of strengthening and supporting the field of adult education and has already made significant contributions…We are privileged to have her as one of our colleagues.”

Zarestky has a few upcoming projects – for example, she was recently awarded a College of Health and Human Sciences grant to partner with Extension to help citizens identify and track native bees. This project will start in the spring of 2020.

About the CPAE Award Early Career Award

Zarestky holding her award and smiling.
Zarestky holding her award.

The Commission of Professors of Adult Education, part of the American Association for Adult & Continuing Education, seeks to honor one individual at the assistant professor level or equivalent who demonstrates excellence in research and publication and potential capacity for leadership in the field. This award focuses on scholarly and service accomplishments and is one of the top national awards given to non-tenured faculty in the field of adult education. According to the AAACE website, “The AAACE is dedicated to the belief that lifelong learning contributes to human fulfillment and positive social change.”

The School of Education is part of the CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.