ISU College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Presents Outstanding Faculty and Staff Awards for 2017

Iowa State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences presented faculty and staff awards on March 8.

AMES, Iowa ­– Iowa State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences presented awards to faculty and staff March 9. The award winners included:

Chris Currey received the Early Achievement in Teaching Award. Currey is an assistant professor in horticulture and teaches classes related to greenhouse production. His teaching strategy is student-centered and he works to inspire, support, encourage and challenge students.

Clark Coffman received the Outstanding Achievement in Teaching Award. Coffman is an associate professor in genetics, development and cell biology. He began teaching at Iowa State in 1998 and is dedicated to helping students develop critical and creative thinking skills. Coffman says his greatest reward is seeing students learn and he believes that every student can learn if they are given the opportunity.

Dorothy Masinde received the Excellence in Teaching by a Lecturer Award. Masinde, a lecturer in horticulture, teaches students in global resource systems and the Uganda service-learning program. Both programs help student become global citizens as they learn to coordinate projects in developing countries. Her student-centered approach helps students develop technical, academic and professional skills.

Clark Ford received the Distance Education Teaching Award. Ford, an associate professor in food science and human nutrition, has taught a world food issues class since 1997. The class requires students to critically examine problems surrounding food issues throughout the world. 
Christen Burgett, a lecturer in animal science, received the Early Adviser Award. Burgett provides the guidance and encouragement that helps students successfully pursue their goals. Along with teaching, she coordinates the internship program, advises the Dairy Science Club and coaches the dairy judging team.

Mary Wiedenhoeft, a professor in agronomy, received the Outstanding Adviser Award. Wiedenhoeft is known for her commitment to students. Her welcoming personality, dedication and advising skills draws in students. Even the parents of her students know and remember her for her warmth and sincerity.

Jodi Sterle received the Outstanding Service in Student Recruitment and Retention Award. Sterle, an associate professor in animal science, reaches out to current students to get them involved while working with prospective students and parents to showcase the opportunities at Iowa State.

Desiree Gunning received the Learning Community Coordinator Award. Gunning, a program coordinator in biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology, is responsible for the organization and success of the biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology learning community, which she organized in 2008. Her goal is to provide freshman with the best experience possible at Iowa State. Along with this program, Desiree coordinates the summer orientation program for more than 70 freshmen.

Jean Batzer received the Professional and Scientific Research Award. Batzer, an assistant scientist in plant pathology and microbiology, is recognized as a leading expert worldwide on the diversity, morphology, ecology and taxonomy of fungi that causes the sooty blotch and flyspeck disease in apples. The disease was not understood prior to her research efforts.

Michael Castellano, an associate professor in agronomy, received the Early Achievement in Research Award. Castellano’s research, which centers on the management of nitrogen, is important to Iowa’s agriculture. He’s generated more than $1 million in competitive federal grants and established a first-rate academic research program that has benefited students, Iowa State and the state of Iowa.

The Mid-Career Achievement in Research Award goes to Jianming Yu, an associate professor in agronomy. Yu is considered one of the leading scientists in the world for his use of cutting edge genomic technologies and quantitative genetic theory to address important questions in plant improvement.

Robert Jernigan received the Outstanding Achievement in Research Award. Jernigan, a professor in biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology, has had a major influence on computational biology. Before coming to Iowa State 14 years ago, he worked with the National Institutes of Health for 30 years. He continues to share his knowledge with graduate students and is a recognized authority on protein and nucleic acid structures and molecular mechanisms.

Robert Hubert received the Professional and Scientific Excellence Award. Hubert, a teaching laboratory coordinator in animal science, has been an integral part of the undergraduate microbiology laboratory for almost 20 years. He has trained countless undergraduate and graduate teaching assistants.

Michelle Graham received the Faculty Award for Diversity Enhancement. Graham, an affiliate assistant professor in agronomy, has contributed her time and resources to diversity enhancement. Since 2013, she has provided summer internships to underrepresented students from non-research institutions. She’s also participated in STEM outreach events and has been recognized for her mentoring successes by both the U.S Department of Agriculture and the National Science Foundation.

Curt Youngs received the Outstanding Achievement in International Agriculture. Youngs, a professor of animal science, has made an impact on a global scale. He taught a global food security short course, spearheaded the first successful bovine embryo transfer in Kosovo and developed an animal science degree program in the Republic of Georgia. He has collaborated on research with Japan, Ukraine and Peru.

Patrick Gunn received the Early Achievement in Extension and Outreach Award. Gunn, an assistant professor in animal science, began his career in 2013 as the Extension Beef Cow-calf Specialist. Since that time he has made significant contributions to the Iowa beef industry. His programs expand herd profitability and assist beginning livestock producers. His first two heifer programs provided more than $1 million a year in economic benefits.

Alison Robertson received the Outstanding Achievement in Extension and Outreach Award. Robertson, an associate professor in plant pathology and microbiology, leads an innovative extension program and her efforts benefit Iowa farmers. Her recommendations to control Pythium diseases in corn and soybeans save Iowa farmers more than $10 million annually.

Aaron Brand received the Professional and Scientific Outstanding New Professional Award. Brand is the greenhouse manager in agronomy and manages 27,000 square feet of greenhouses, 31 growth chambers and Agronomy Hall. He has improved communication between faculty, staff and students to address facility needs in a timely manner. Brand has contributed to enhancing the research environment in agronomy.

Mary Lents received the Merit Award for Achievement and Service. Lents has been a secretary in animal science for 43 years and is an integral part of the animal science department. Lents interacts with more than 1,100 undergraduates and is always willing to help students, staff and visitors.

The Team Award went to the Bioplastics for the Green Industry Team. This interdisciplinary team has made significant contributions through research, extension and graduate education to improve the sustainability of specialty crop production. Producers in the United States use more than 4 billion single-use petroleum-based horticultural plant containers each year. The team developed a sustainable technology that replaces petroleum-based plastics with ones made from biorenewable materials. Their work will help sustain high-value specialty crop producers, reduce environmental impacts and create entrepreneurial opportunities. The team members include: William Graves, associate dean of the graduate college; Chris Currey, an assistant professor of horticulture; David Grewell, professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering; Darren Jarboe, program manager with the Center for Crops Utilization Research; Kurt Rosentrater, associate professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering; and James Schrader, associate scientist in horticulture.

The Raymond and Mary Baker Agronomic Excellence Award went to Steven Cannon, an affiliate professor in agronomy. Cannon is a research geneticist with the USDA Agricultural Research Service and is a collaborating associate professor in agronomy. The research group he leads maintains plant genetic databases for soybean and many other legume species.

The 2017 Rossmann Manatt Faculty Development Award went to Kevin Schalinske, a professor in food science and human nutrition. Since 1999, Schalisnke has mentored undergraduate and graduate students by providing research experiences. Students exposed to these opportunities often pursue graduate school. Schalisnke plans to use the award funding to provide undergraduate students the opportunity to conduct an independent project focused on the health benefits of egg consumption.

The Dean’s Citation for Extraordinary Contributions went to Bob Hartzler, an extension weed specialist and agronomy professor. Palmer amaranth is an invasive weed that was first discovered in Iowa last summer and poses a major threat to Iowa agriculture. Hartzler has been educating farmers, conservationists and Iowans about the weed since it’s arrival. He continues to share information through videos, blogs and meetings to help with weed identification and protect Iowa.


Editors note:
Photos are available by contacting Barb McBreen at

Award winners listed their hometown as Ames except for the following:
Aaron Brand, Huxley, Iowa
Christen Burgett, Perry, Iowa
Steve Cannon, Logan, Utah
Clark Coffman, Kalona, Iowa
Chris Currey, St. Cloud, Minnesota
Robert Jernigan, Pampa, Texas
Mary Lents, Greenfield, Iowa
Kurt Rosentrater, Cherokee, Iowa
James Schrader, Park Rapids, Minnesota
Jodi Sterle, Story City, Iowa