The highest achievements in research, outreach, education, support and other efforts were recognized Friday, Jan. 11 during the Arkansas Agriculture Awards, honoring excellence from the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture and Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural Food and Life Sciences.
The annual event, held this year at the C.A. Vines Arkansas 4-H Center near Little Rock, honors outstanding work of division faculty and staff toward supporting and improving agricultural industries and life in Arkansas and beyond.
“There’s nothing like starting the year on a high note – recognizing the individuals and teams for the excellent work they do for Arkansas year in and year out,” said Mark Cochran, vice president-agriculture for the University of Arkansas System and the head of the Division of Agriculture.
“These annual awards give us the opportunity to showcase the research, outreach and teaching we and the Bumpers College do for the whole of Arkansas,” he said. “This is an opportunity for all of our employees to see what’s happening in fields outside their own.”
Division of Agriculture honors
John McCalla, department of horticulture, and Connie Stewart, department of animal science, both received the Non-Classified Support Personnel Award. McCalla has become an integral part of the turfgrass science program over his 17 years with the Division of Agriculture. Since joining the division in 1997, Stewart has been promoted from accountant to program specialist II, overseeing accounting and grants, supervising employees and helping to create and maintain a database of feed ingredients.
Cathy Howard, a research technologist at the Southwest Research and Extension Center, and Kelley Cochran, administrative support supervisor for the Cooperative Extension Service Delta District, both received the Classified Support Personnel Award. Howard began working at SWREC in 1984 as an hourly worker and later as a secretary for nearly 18 years before becoming involved in the center’s research activities. Today, she helps manage the processing and analysis of up to 5,000 samples each year in the nematode lab. In her 19 years with the Cooperative Extension Service, Cochran has advanced from accounting technician to administrative support supervisor. She assists with the administrative and program operations in all 25 counties of the Delta District, including handing performance evaluations, reports and files for the district’s 133 staff members.
Bumpers College honors
Four awards were presented within Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences.
Jason Apple, professor of animal science, received the Outstanding Honors Faculty Mentor Award. The award recognizes Apple’s contributions to undergraduate honor students through advising, international research opportunities, classroom instruction, project development, published work and other activities that help Bumpers College students succeed in their educations and careers.
Kathleen S. Jogan, instructor of equine science in the department of animal science, received the Outstanding International Educator Award in recognition of her outstanding contributions to the undergraduate and graduate international programs, and increasing the marketability of students to employers and graduate programs. In addition to equine instruction, Jogan leads study abroad trips for the Human and Animal Interactions program in New Zealand, the Trekking Australia: Animals, Aborigines, Rainforests and Reef program, and the Comparative Studies in Panamanian and U.S. Agricultural Practices study abroad programs.
Jill Rucker, assistant professor of agricultural communications and leadership in the department of agricultural education, communications and technology, received both the Bumpers College Alumni Society Outstanding Advising Award and the Jack G. Justus Award for Teaching Excellence.
Rucker teaches 11 graduate and undergraduate courses as well as University Perspectives, a freshman-level course designed to enhance student engagement with the university and strengthen student learning. Her research focuses on agricultural leadership and communications curriculum development, career skill preparation and student success factors. Rucker created agricultural leadership minors and concentrations, three new courses and has developed, implemented and disseminated 16 agricultural leadership curriculum supplements.
Don Johnson, professor of agricultural systems technology management in the department of agricultural education, communications and technology, received the Spitze Land Grant University Faculty Award for Excellence. The award recognizes Johnson’s career of tying research and teaching together to challenge his students to explore how things work in the world around them.
Johnson is co-director of the University of Arkansas Teaching and Faculty Support Center. He serves on the Faculty Senate Executive Committee, the All-University Academic Integrity Board and is vice chair of the University Committee on Appointment, Promotion and Tenure. He has produced about 90 refereed journal articles across multiple disciplines, including food science, applied engineering, agricultural education, computers and education, and applied turfgrass science. He has been active statewide, conducting workshops with 4-H students, extension personnel, teachers and adult community groups.
The Spitze Land Grant University Faculty Award for Excellence recognizes meritorious and comprehensive scholarly performance in the areas of academic responsibility unique to the Land Grant mission: teaching and advising, research and publication, extension and public service, and participation in professional associations and faculty governance. Tenured faculty members with at least 10 years of continuous service with the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences or the Division of Agriculture are eligible for consideration.
John W. White Awards
The John W. White Awards, the centerpieces of the awards program, were presented to four individuals and one team.
Kristofor Brye, professor of applied soil physics and pedology in the department of crop, soil and environmental sciences, received the John W. White Outstanding Research Award. Brye’s areas of research include tension-lysimetry, solute leaching, groundwater contamination issues, natural and managed ecosystem evaluation and characterization, carbon and nitrogen cycling, sustainable agriculture, prairie restoration, carbon sequestration, soil quality and trace gas emissions from rice.
Catherine “Kate” Shoulders, associate professor of agricultural education in the department of agricultural education, communications and technology, received the John W. White Outstanding Teaching Award. Since joining the Bumpers College faculty in 2012, Shoulders has taught 409 undergraduate students and 251 graduate students. She has also conducted 20 teaching-related workshops.
Karen Ballard, professor of program evaluation in the program and staff development department, received the John W. White Outstanding Extension State Faculty Award. Ballard provides support to extension administrators, state faculty and agents for statewide program planning and evaluation. She also created the Arkansas Soybean Science Challenge, which brings agriculture to science education in the classroom.
Blair Griffin, Johnson County Extension staff chair, received the John W. White Outstanding County Extension Educator Award. Griffin is a 31-year veteran of the Cooperative Extension Service. Since joining the Division of Agriculture, he has created many programs, including the Tri County Forage Meeting with Johnson, Franklin and Logan counties and the beginning beef production short course “Basic Beef.”
The Division of Agriculture’s dicamba team received the John W. White Outstanding Team Award. When a trickle of complaints about off-target dicamba herbicide applications turned into a torrent, the team mobilized research and extension resources to investigate the situation and share that information with growers, the public and the Arkansas State Plant Board.
The team members are Tom Barber, Jason Davis, Jason Norsworthy and Jeremy Ross of the department of crop, soil and environmental sciences; Bob Scott, director of the Rice Research and Extension Center; Ples Spradley, department of plant pathology; Julie Robinson, program and staff development; and Mary Hightower, Division of Agriculture communications.
Division of Agriculture researchers were also recognized for 12 patents issued over the preceding year. These included patents for new rice, soybean, wheat, blueberry and blackberry cultivars; development of a stalk cutter device and method for use; multiple products and methods for enhancing immune responses in poultry; a new method for creating CLA rich vegetable oil; and a method for yeast fermentation of rice bran extracts.
To learn more about Division of Agriculture research and extension, visit the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station website: https://aaes.uark.edu; or the Cooperative Extension Service website:www.uaex.edu.Follow us on Twitter at @ArkAgResearchand @UAEX_edu.