Texas A&M AgriLife

2015 Vice Chancellor’s Awards in Excellence

Congratulations to all the recipients of the 2015 Vice Chancellor’s Awards in Excellence!

 

The Teaching Award in Excellence is presented to
Dr. Sam Feagley, Professor, Department of Soil and Crop Sciences

Feagley has been at Texas A&M in the soil and crop sciences department since 1995. Feagley’s philosophy of teaching is that students are here to learn and it is his responsibility and passion to present learning opportunities in and out of the classroom and laboratory, said Dr. David Baltensperger, head of the Texas A&M department of soil and crop sciences in his nomination letter. “Dr. Feagley’s goal is for each student to learn and succeed at A&M and in their careers.” Since 2000, he has taught about 1,275 students. Many former students have said his classes helped them obtain a job with an environmental firm and/or has helped them when working with state and federal guidelines, rules and regulations. Feagley has been awarded the Special Achievement Award for Teaching in Soil and Crop Sciences, Outstanding Teacher in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Gamma Sigma Delta and Honor Professor Award in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He is involved in several national societies, and has received the Soil Science Society of America Council of Soil Science Examiners Outstanding Service Award. He also was honored with that society’s Irrometer Professional Certification Service Award and the American Society of Agronomy Fellow.

The Graduate Student Teaching Award in Excellence is presented to
Ms. Rachel Botchlett, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Nutrition and Food Science

Botchlett began work toward her doctorate in nutrition during the fall semester of 2011, and since then has contributed significantly to excellence in teaching in the department, according to the award nomination.  During her time as a doctoral student at Texas A&M University, her first experience as a teaching assistant was with an undergraduate nutrition course, where she was responsible for grading 300-plus diet analysis projects. “In spring 2015, (the department) was in a critical need of instructors to teach undergraduate courses,” wrote Dr. Chaodong Wu, associate professor in the nutrition and food science department, in his nomination of Botchlett. “Ms. Botchlett accepted an assignment to serve as an instructor and gave weekly lectures. At that critical time, she was ready and well prepared, perfectly exemplifying the Aggie Spirit. To the best of my knowledge, Ms. Botchlett was the first and only graduate student to serve as an instructor. This not only reflects her dedication to assisting NFSC undergraduate teaching, but also demonstrates her qualification in teaching at a level above her peers.” Botchlett’s additional teaching activities include her help on training undergraduate students in laboratory research, working with numerous undergraduate- and graduate-level students on how to conduct experimental assays, make buffer solutions and design simple experiments.

The Research Award in Excellence is presented to
Dr. Robert S. ChapkinDistinguished Professor, Department of Nutrition and Food Science

According to his nomination, Chapkin is an expert in dietary and botanical modulators related to prevention of cancer and chronic inflammatory diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease. His research centers on colon cancer prevention by investigating the impact of dietary fat, fiber and folate status on disease processes. Dr. Nancy Turner, AgriLife research professor in the department of nutrition and food science, in her nomination of Chapkin. “His excellence in research extends beyond standard metrics and includes the large number of students he has trained, the extensive number of times he has served on review panels for granting agencies, the number of journals for which he has served as a reviewer and as a member of their editorial board, and the number of large group proposals he has supported, helped to develop or has developed as primary investigator.” He has developed non-invasive methodology for monitoring global changes in intestinal gene expression, which has generated a patent as well as a National Institutes of Health initiated and sponsored clinical intervention trial. He has received a number of prestigious awards for his work, including the Osborne and Mendel Award from the American Society for Nutrition, NASA Space Act Award and Bio Serv Award in Experimental Animal Nutrition from the American Society of Nutrition.

The Graduate Student Research Award in Excellence is presented to
Ms. Claudia Marcela Castillo Gonzalez, Ph.D. Candidate,
Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics

Castillo-González is a graduate assistant in research for the biochemistry and biophysics department at Texas A&M University. “Claudia has already demonstrated her exceptional potential in scientific research,” said Dr. Xiuren Zhang, Castillo-González’s advisor and associate professor of biochemistry and biophysics. “She is clearly a rising, shining star in science.” Castillo-González began her doctoral program at Texas A&M in the fall of 2010 after earning a bachelor’s in microbiology and a master’s in biological sciences, both from the Universidad de Los Andes in Bogota, Colombia. The focus of her doctoral program pertains to understanding how a virus can invade a plant and cause disease by suppressing the natural defense mechanisms of the plant. Results from her studies were cited in the nomination as having “far-reaching effects and could allow for the development of plants that are more resistant to viruses, and thus the plants will be healthier and produce better.”

The County Extension Agent Award in Excellence is presented to
Mrs. Mandi Seaton, County Extension Agent–Family and Consumer Sciences, Lamb County

Seaton has served AgriLife Extension for 11 years in Bailey and Lamb counties. “She strives each day to serve as a role model for the people in her programs, for the communities she serves, and most importantly for her peers.” Her work has resulted in more than 170 youth participating in self-esteem, leadership, college/career preparation and service learning educational projects over the past five years. The program has not only allowed youth to become more self-motivated, but has also led to an increased appreciation for local career options in Lamb County. She works with health care facilities and professionals to coordinate programs and conferences that promote nutritious eating habits, chronic disease prevention and early cancer detection awareness. More than 250 individuals participate in the educational programs annually. “Mandi definitely has a servant’s heart and works tirelessly to assure she is doing her part to help AgriLife Extension meet the grand challenges facing Texans today,” Clawson wrote. Littlefield Municipal Court Judge Leslie Perkins summed up the tone of Seaton’s nomination when she wrote: “This year Mrs. Seaton was named Woman of the Year by the Littlefield Chamber of Commerce. Our community is better for having her here; she has touched so many lives, and it is difficult to put into words. She works tirelessly to provide education and training to every age and socioeconomic strata here. She is an exceptional person whose influence reaches far and wide.”

The Extension Specialist Award in Excellence is presented to
Dr. Paul Baumann, Professor and Extension Weed Specialist, Department of Soil and Crop Sciences

Baumann joined AgriLife Extension in 1989 and has devoted his career to addressing and solving weed management and environmental issues facing the agency’s stakeholders, according to the nomination made by Dr. David Baltensperger, head of the department of soil and crop sciences, where Baumann is also a professor. Weed management issues in corn, sorghum, cotton, wheat, peanut, soybean, turfgrass and pasturelands have been solved through Baumann’s 1,465 research demonstrations over his career, Baltensperger said. Data generated from these studies have provided the foundation for more than 1,300 educational programs, over 30 publications, graduate student training and consistent program financial support, he said. “The level of this activity is testament to his prowess as an educator and that people want to hear what he has to say,” Baltensperger wrote. “He has garnered over $3.3 million in sole program support and collaborated on another $1.2 million-plus in financial support. “Most importantly, he has developed solutions through several research trials that are now being adopted by our crop producers,” Baltensperger said.

The Public Service in Forestry Award in Excellence is presented to
James “Jim” Rooni, Central Texas Operations Department Head, Texas A&M Forest Service

Rooni has managed complex agency responses to a number of natural disasters including leading the recovery of the Lost Pines area following the Bastrop County Complex fire in 2011, which killed almost two million trees. During this time, he organized twelve public, private and non-profit organizations into one cohesive group, The Lost Pines Recovery Team. As a result, more than three million seedlings have been planted within the Bastrop County Complex fire footprint. “The success of the restoration would not have happened without Jim’s leadership skills. In my 35-year career, I’ve not seen anyone better at building relationships and leveraging the resources of our collaborators,” said Texas A&M Forest Service Associate Director Bill Oates. Rooni’s commitment to service and conservation extends to his work in developing self-sustaining urban forestry programs and leading the way in the management and suppression of the devastating oak wilt disease, the most serious threat to forest health in Central Texas. Also notable is his work in protecting and restoring the unique ponderosa pine species around the Davis and Guadalupe mountains; and reforesting areas devastated by the Blanco River flooding in spring 2015. “Excellence is precisely the word to describe everything Jim touches, along with a real touch of class and grace. The past few years have put him to the test, but he has not only succeeded, but flourished in his service to the people of Texas,” Texas A&M Forest Service Director Tom Boggus said.

The Diagnostic Services Award in Excellence is presented to
Mr. Travis Mays, Section Head-Analytic Chemistry, Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory, College Station

Mays started working with TVMDL as a student in 2001. He
graduated from Texas A&M University with a bachelor of science in animal science in 2002, and with a master of science in toxicology in 2009. Upon graduation, Mays worked at a horse breeding farm in North Texas before returning to TVMDL. Over the years in the lab, Mays has moved from student worker to technician to a position as a veterinary toxicologist to his current role managing two labs, the Drug Testing Laboratory and Toxicology Laboratory. Together, the sections comprise the Analytical Chemistry Section. “Travis Mays is a TVMDL success story. A seasoned professional with over a decade of experience in toxicology and a vast knowledge of toxins and drugs, Travis was a natural fit to oversee our Analytical Chemistry Section,” said Stacy Morris, TVMDL chief of staff. “Travis’ leadership, tenacity and expertise are the reasons the agency
has been able to achieve milestones in recent years.” Since 2012, Mays has worked diligently to boost the efforts of the Drug Testing Laboratory (DTL). The DTL annually performs more than 3,500 tests for livestock shows and 7,400 tests for canine and equine racing; it serves as the official testing laboratory for the Texas Racing Commission. In 2012 TVMDL sought to gain ISO17025 accreditation from the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation Competition Animal Drug Testing Laboratory Accreditation Program, which required the lab to make personnel and equipment changes and revise several quality assurance protocols. In 2014, the DTL was granted accreditation. Mays’ dedication to the agency’s mission – protecting animal and human health through diagnostics – has not gone unnoticed.

The Business and Operational Staff Award in Excellence is presented to
Ms. Anna Perez, Senior Administrative Coordinator, Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory

For more than two decades, TVMDL clients have looked to Perez for assistance locating test information and shipping samples to the agency’s headquarters. She started at the lab in 1994, moving to diagnostics from her previous work as a legal assistant and paralegal. Today, she oversees administrative functions and tasks for one of the nation’s busiest diagnostic laboratories, resolving sensitive and confidential administrative matters, maintaining the office reference and resource materials and communicating with clients regularly, among other duties. Perez’s long tenure with the laboratory now allows her to recognize clients and
anticipate their needs. Many of them ask by name for her assistance with locating information.
In addition to overseeing routine diagnostic administrative duties, Perez took on the import/export coordinator position in 2015. She is fluent in Spanish, and can assist clients located both in and out of the country. It is that attention to detail that endears Perez to TVMDL clients. “Anna has been a tremendous asset to our business,” said Cliff Honnas, DVM, owner of Texas Equine Hospital in Bryan, Texas. “We are a high volume, fast paced equine practice that sends a significant volume of samples to TVMDL for testing. Anna helps us in all facets of sample submission, tracking, reporting and every step in between.” Perez’s experience working under four laboratory directors is vital to the agency.
She serves as a training resource for new staff and a consistent “face” of the laboratory.

The Office and Administrative Staff Award in Excellence is presented to
Mrs. Grace Glenn, Senior Administrative Coordinator, Department of Animal Science

Glenn, who has worked in the animal science department since 1998 and for Texas A&M since 1982, was nominated for the award for exemplary work as senior administrative coordinator through the years. Highlights include assisting with three different transitions of department heads, three interim department heads, four associate heads for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, two associate heads for academic programs, two associate heads for operation and two assistant heads for undergraduate programs. Glenn serves as the sole administrative support for the department head, associate head for AgriLife Extension, associate head for operations and associate head for academic programs. Dr. Kerri Gehring, meat science and Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point coordinator in animal science, wrote in a nomination letter, “No matter how high her desk is stacked with her own work, she always smiles and offers assistance to everyone who walks into her office. Grace is one of the most productive members of the animal science staff, but she always manages to excel in accomplishing her responsibilities while taking time to listen and assist others with their needs.”

The Technical and Programmatic Staff Award in Excellence is presented to
Mr. Ray Riley, Manager, Rosenthal Meat Science & Technology Center, Department of Animal Science

Riley, a 36-year veteran of Texas A&M AgriLife Research, has managed the Rosenthal Meat Science Technology Center since 1981 and also serves as a lecturer in the Animal Science 307 meats course. He also serves as the laboratory coordinator for the course, where he has worked closely with over 100 graduate student lab instructors. As the manager of the Rosenthal Center, Riley handles many AgriLife Research and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service activities conducted by the meat science faculty. He coordinates the efforts of teachers, AgriLife researchers and AgriLife Extension faculty to maximize the use of carcasses, cuts and facilities, according to the award nomination. “His innovative approach to teaching allows Ray to take technical information and explain it in a way that is easily understood by students,” said Jason Bagley, beef resources senior manager for the Texas Beef Council. “Ray has also been at the forefront of designing and teaching classes that give students real world scenarios, preparing them for a career not only in the meat industry but the agriculture industry in general. As an employer, Ray fosters a positive attitude with a willingness to allow students to grow without micromanaging. Dr. Davey Griffin, AgriLife Extension meats specialist, wrote in his nomination letter, “(Ray) takes this job personally, especially his responsibility to live and pass on the Aggie spirit and traditions. Classes that are conducted at the Rosenthal Meat Science Technology Center take priority over all other activities – regardless if they are Ray’s own classes or others. He always seems to be there visiting with students and making sure the class products are in place and ready. I see him in the lab many evenings and Sunday afternoons just being sure things are ready for the next class. It is no wonder that during our departmental scholarship interviews the classes taught at Rosenthal are held in such high regard by the students.”

The International Involvement Award in Excellence is presented to
Dr. Sergio Capareda, Associate Professor, Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering

In a nomination letter for the Vice Chancellor’s Award, Dr. Stephen Searcy, head of the Texas A&M department of biological and agricultural engineering, wrote: “Through his collaboration with five universities — Mariano Marcos State University, the University of the Philippines at Los Baños, Xavier University, the University of the Philippines at Diliman and Central Philippines University — he has assisted with the upgrading of the biofuels and alternative energy research facilities and introduced various efficient and cost-effective non-conventional energy conversion processes. “His contributions are far-reaching — the village-level ethanol production technology he has introduced to small farmers and entrepreneurs in the Philippines has resulted in livelihood projects such as hand sanitizers from alcohol derived from sweet sorghum. The synergy he has developed through these bioenergy programs resulted in producing commercially available byproducts.” Much of the same work also contributed to Capareda being named an AgriLife Research Faculty Fellow. In addition, the Faculty Fellow documentation cited that his “work has found many applications around the world, and he has numerous patents for his mobile gasification and pyrolysis technologies. One technology has been licensed by at least three companies.”

The Diversity Award in Excellence is presented to
The Mission Possible Team, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

Team members are:

  • Dr. Darlene Locke, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service specialist-4-H Youth Development, College Station
  • Mrs. Laurinda Boyd, 4-H program assistant, retired
  • Maranda Revell, AgriLife Extension agent-family and consumer sciences, Young County
  • Matt Miranda, AgriLife Extension agent-4-H Youth Development, Guadalupe County
  • Wade Howard, AgriLife Extension agent-agriculture and natural resources, Eastland County

The Mission Possible Team has been an advocate for including youth and adults with disabilities into the traditional 4-H program since 2004, according to the award nomination. The summer of 2015 marked the eleventh consecutive year for Mission Possible, with 190 disabled youth joining 229 other 4-H’ers who served as mentors and helpers. In his letter of nomination for the team, Dr. Chris Boleman, state leader for 4-H Youth Development, College Station, wrote: “For eleven years, Mission Possible continues to be the prime example of programming efforts for diversity and inclusion. Simply put, Mission Possible is the most celebrated and well-known program that impacts and educates youth regarding diversity in the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.” The nomination also noted that Mission Possible has served as a catalyst for 4-H projects and events statewide that are strategically marketed to youth with disabilities. Mission Possible has served youth with medically diagnosed disabilities including cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, pervasive developmental disorder, traumatic brain injuries, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, spina bifida, hearing and visual impairments, diabetes, intellectual disabilities, autism and more. Regardless of their medical diagnosis, each youth participates in camp to the extent of their abilities, with the team and the mentors adapting the program to meet each individual’s needs, the nomination states.

David BaltenspergerThe Administration Award in Excellence is presented to
Dr. David Baltensperger, Professor and Head, Department of Soil and Crop Sciences

Baltensperger has been department head since 2006 and served as interim head of the ecosystem science and management department from 2012 to 2014. Baltensperger is actively involved in all aspects of the department, from research to Extension to undergraduate and graduate education, said Dr. Sam Feagley, AgriLife Extension state soil environmental specialist in College Station, in his nomination. During his tenure, the department experienced stagnant or declining budgets and the loss of senior faculty through retirements, death and resignations.“David has been a steadying influence on the department, constantly encouraging faculty, mentoring young and new faculty members, aggressively seeking cooperative support for our research, teaching and Extension programs, and advocating for our department with administration,” Feagley said. Feagley continued, “David truly believes that our mission alleviates poverty and hunger around the world by training plant breeding scientists who can apply that knowledge in developing improved crop cultivars. He has strengthened our AgriLife Extension programs by advocating and soliciting partnerships with different clientele groups and industries served by our state and regional specialists and program specialists across the state and nationally.”

Jordan BrodThe Special Services Award in Excellence is presented to
Mr. Jordan Brod, Agency Operations Manager, Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory

Brod graduated Texas A&M University in 2000 with a bachelor of science in animal science. He joined TVMDL upon graduation; he transitioned from a student worker at the lab to a full time position working as a technician in the Histopathology Section. He moved from Histopathology to quality assurance and safety manager to his current position within 10 years. As agency operations manager, Brod plans, directs and monitors the activities and
facility operations of all TVMDL locations. In 2013, he joined the team to plan the new 90,000-square-foot, $53 million diagnostic laboratory to be built in College Station. The building broke ground in 2014, and Brod has been the point man on the building project, monitoring construction while also performing his duties for all current laboratory buildings. “Jordan’s career trajectory at TVMDL, and the impact of the job he performs everyday, is nothing short of outstanding,” said Bruce L. Akey, DVM, MS, TVMDL director. “Maintenance of TVMDL’s facilities is arguably one of the most important jobs at TVMDL. Without properly maintained laboratory space, TVMDL could not
serve its clients with accuracy and timeliness that is the hallmark of our agency.” “Jordan understands the mission of the agency and the purpose of the facilities,” said Amy K. Swinford, MS, DVM, TVMDL associate director. “Jordan is known as the go-to person for so many issues at TVMDL. No day is the same for him, and the category of this award – ‘special services’ – perfectly describes what he does each day. He provides facility tours to all sorts of groups, speaks to and trains visiting scientists and dignitaries, and handles each maintenance problem in a calm, confident and measured manner.” Brod’s ability to handle any situation that arises, whether it facility maintenance or equipment malfunction or a surprise dignitary in need of a tour, is what makes his role vital to the agency.

The Partnership Award in Excellence is presented to
Agricultural Policy and Analysis and Education Team, Department of Agricultural Economics

Team members are:

  • Dr. James Richardson
  • Dr. Joe Outlaw
  • Dr. Henry Bryant
  • Dr. George Knapek
  • University of Missouri: Dr. Patrick Westhoff and Peter Zimmel

The two teams have collaborated to assist the House and Senate agriculture committees in drafting each farm bill since 1985. According to the nomination, the key to the team’s success with policy analysis has been the collaboration of two modeling approaches and the willingness to cross check and support each other. “The unique approach that AFPC takes is of essential value to Congress because it clearly illustrates the actual impact of federal policy proposals on representative farms,” wrote Frank Lucas, Chairman of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee. “Rather than merely quantifying the benefits to a farm or universe of farms under particular policy proposals, your work demonstrates the expected net effect of such policies on a producer’s bottom line. “The Committee on Agriculture is grateful to the team for sticking with Congress for (a nearly three-year farm bill deliberation process, providing countless analytical runs, often called for late at night and under demanding timeframes, and for your prudential judgment that always accompanied your exceptional work.” “The partnership of the Agricultural and Food Policy Center at Texas A&M and the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute at the University of Missouri has been a valuable resource for policy makers and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. For the last 27 years, various entities of the USDA and Congress have relied on the partnership’s unbiased analysis of farm policy changes when crafting the last five farm bills, as well as many other capacities.”

The Team Award in Excellence is presented to the
Lubbock Cropping Systems Research, Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Lubbock

Team members are:

  • Dr. Wayne Keeling, Texas A&M AgriLife Research professor-cropping systems and weed science
  • James Bordovsky, AgriLife Research senior research scientist
  • Dr. Terry Wheeler, AgriLife Research professor-plant pathology
  • Dr. Megha Parajulee, AgriLife Research professor, Faculty Fellow and Regents Fellow-cotton entomology
  • Dr. Jason Woodward, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service plant pathologist
  • Dr. Jane Dever, AgriLife Research professor-cotton breeding

Dr. Jaroy Moore, the center’s resident director of research, wrote in his letter of nomination that the team was assembled to address the unique crop-production challenges producers face on the Texas High Plains. Their objective has been to address important cotton production decision-making issues at the farm level. The overall goal has been to assure the profitability and future viability of cotton production in the Texas High Plains. A few of the team’s notable achievements Moore cited, included a recent four-year study that showed limiting early season cotton irrigation could potentially reduce annual water requirements by more than 27 million gallons of water per year on the High Plains with only a relatively small decline in lint yield. He also noted their work to increase sustainable yield and quality of cotton, their work with new root-knot nematode resistant cotton varieties and a six-year Lygus bug damage study. “I strongly believe that this team has been the most cohesive and productive group of scientists who exemplify the value of team research,” Moore concluded.

Please click the year below to view the gallery and read about each of the award recipients.

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