IANR faculty, staff honored at virtual awards ceremony

East Campus
December 9, 2020

Lincoln, Neb. —Faculty and staff from the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln were honored at a virtual awards ceremony on Dec. 9.

Awards presented, nominees and recipients were:

Outstanding Employee Award: The award recognized employees who have gone above and beyond their job responsibilities. Recipients received $750, a certificate, and a lapel pin.

  • Recipient: Lew Sieber, Nebraska Forest Service- A dedicated and passionate team member for the Nebraska Forest Service, Lew is currently the Fire Shop Manager in Mead. Lew was on the response team for the historic floods that affected much of eastern Nebraska in 2019.  Under Lew’s leadership, the Nebraska Forest Service provided trucks and equipment which proved crucial to volunteer fire departments. One short year later, during the beginning of this pandemic, Lew was a vital component in helping create 200,000+ gallons of hand sanitizer for essential institutions throughout Nebraska. He delivered sanitizer to UNL’s Food Processing center, K-12 schools, emergency managers, fire departments, and chambers of commerce throughout the state. Lew is a valued member of the NFS, IANR and UNL.
  • Recipient: Taylor Hart, College of Agricultural Science and Natural Resources Dean's Office - Taylor Hart is a recruitment associate for the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources. Taylor utilizes innovative and creative avenues increasing involvement, recruitment, and social media followers for CASNR.  Recognized by the National Agricultural Alumni and Development Association, Taylor received their ‘Up and Coming Award’ highlighting her leadership, impact, inspiration and passion for agriculture and higher education. During COVID-19, she produced the ‘Change-Maker’ competition - a program combining a marketing strategy, stakeholder engagement platform, mentoring program, and media creations. Taylor consistently demonstrates willingness and interest to step out of her element and assist as needed.
  • Recipient: Calvin Schrock, Animal Science - Calvin has been the manager of the USDA inspected, Loeffel Meat Laboratory since 1987. He oversees daily operations, trains and supervises student workers, collects and maintains food safety and regulatory compliance documentation. The Pork Cares program was developed because of the negative COVID-19 impact on the meat processing industry and the need to euthanize pigs. As a result, the Loeffel Meat Lab partnered with the Nebraska Pork Producers to process pigs and donated 9,000 pounds of pork to area Food Banks and other organizations servicing those in need.  Additionally, Calvin developed a plan to safely reopen the Leoffel Meat Lab sales which included curbside pickup and reopening the salesroom.  Not only an asset to IANR, but Calvin is also an asset to the Nebraska Pork Producers Association.
  • Recipient: Linda Tesch, Agricultural Economics - Linda is an Administrative Support Associate in the Department of Agricultural Economics.  With a ‘can do,’ diligent attitude, Linda willingly learns new things, is proactive, and truly cares. When UNL closed last spring, she was first in line to come to campus and distribute mail.  Additionally, Linda retrieved other office materials for faculty and staff and made special deliveries bringing them what they needed. Linda has been instrumental ensuring classrooms are set up for in-person learning and that technology is working. She coordinated meetings with IT and went through dry runs in classrooms to anticipate and solve any potential issues. She went beyond the typical PPE orders and made sure each faculty member had their own set of dry erase markers to lessen COVID-19 contamination potential. Linda is dependable and a true joy to be around.
  • Nominees:
    • Nominees: Paula Adams, Biochemistry; Fran Benne, Agronomy and Horticulture; Alan Boldt, Biological Systems Engineering; Allie Claypool, Nebraska Food for Health Center;  Jennifer Dush, Animal Science; Christy Jochum, Plant Pathology; Kaelie Kellner, Child, Youth and Family Studies; Kay McClure-Kelly, Agronomy and Horticulture; Julie McManamey, Food Science and Technology; Jacki Musgrave, West Central Research, Extension and Education Center; Perry Ridgway, Eastern Nebraska Research, Extension and Education Center at the South-Central Ag Laboratory; Rodney Rohrer, Biological Systems Engineering; Zachary Rystrom, Entomology Department; Tyler Smith, Biological Systems Engineering; Daniel Trotter, IANR Vice Chancellor's Office

The Exemplary Service Award: The is a career award that recognizes and rewards employees who have made significant and sustained contributions to the University during their career.  This award focuses on staff members who contribute to the essential work of IANR at the highest level of excellence. The winner received $1000 and a plaque.

  • Recipient: Marilyn Weidner, Entomology - Marilyn works for the AEM business center in a myriad of roles including administrative support, personnel management, data documentation and archiving, review preparation, promotion and evaluation tracking, payroll for 15 departments, and much more. She is not content to just do the basics of any job and does her work at the highest level. Marilyn’s deep knowledge of department history extending to the beginnings of the university are remarkable and extremely valuable. Over her 35 years at UNL, she recalls successful ideas and programs and accurately identifies those that failed placing them in context to help her department understand why. Her insights are invaluable as the Department of Entomology adjusts curriculum and facilities becoming more diverse and inclusive. Those who work with Marilyn, love and value her tenacity, thoroughness, and high-quality work ethic.
  • Nominees: Alan Boldt, Department of Biological Systems Engineering; Terry DeVries, South Central Ag Laboratory; Jeff Golus, West Central Research, Extension and Education Center; Lisa King, Child, Youth and Family Studies; Michael Livingston, Agronomy and Horticulture; Rita Yeggy, Biochemistry

Omtvedt Servant Leader Award: The award recognizes outstanding managerial/professional and office/service employees. This award is made possible through the generosity of Lee Harland and her late husband, Neal, in honoring Irv Omtvedt and his distinguished career at the university. The recipient received $1,000 and a plaque.

  • Recipient: Leann Galusha, Biochemistry - Leann is the Administrative Associate and Assistant to the Chair of the Department of Biochemistry and is often referred as the backbone of departmental operations. She immerses herself in diverse task sets and jobs as she engages to advance the department in a positive manner. She has streamlined the Promotion and Tenure process and takes initiative while exercising great discretion. She knows the ins and outs of any job, and consistently willing to help others. Through example, Leann leads the Biochemistry office staff setting a familial tone always willing to answer questions or give advice to staff members. Her knowledge, professionalism, and encouragement inspire others every day.
  • Nominees: Laura Leger, School of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Veterinary Diagnostic Center; Sherri Pitchie, Animal Science; TJ McAndrews, Agronomy and Horticulture; Catia Guerrero Child, Youth and Family Studies; Brenda Sale, NE Extension in Dakota/Thurston Counties

Dinsdale Family Faculty Award: The award honors faulty members for outstanding teaching, research and outreach at IANR. It is especially focused on untenured faculty who have demonstrated a strong commitment to academic excellence. This award is funded by the Dinsdale family in honor of Roy Dinsdale, a 1948 graduate of the University of Nebraska, College of Business Administration who worked in a family farming and cattle operation. The recipient received $2,000 and a plaque.

  • Recipient: Ajai Ammachathram, Nutrition and Health Sciences - Ajai is the Assistant Professor and Food and Beverage Extension Specialist in Hospitality, Restaurant and Tourism Management. He is well known in Nebraska, regionally and nationally as an exemplary hospitality educator. He is the Vice President and President-Elect for the Central Federation Council on Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Education. His experience and inclusive excellence are major factors in designing a Commercial Teaching Kitchen in the academic space in the Scarlet Hotel at Nebraska Innovation Campus. Ajai’s communications regarding COVID-19 and Nebraska’s floods have been disseminated throughout the hospitality industry, educational publications, and in BIG10 media. Ajai is a committed professional who believes in expanding his innovative experiential methods in hospitality education for his students and Nebraska Extension communities.
  • Nominees: Andrea Basche, Agronomy and Horticulture; Erin Bauer, Entomology; Vikas Belamkar, Agronomy and Horticulture; Forrest Kievit, Biological Systems Engineering; Sathish K Natarajan, Nutrition and Health Sciences; Gilbert Parra, Child, Youth and Family Studies; Jamilynn Poletto, School of Natural Resources; Meghan Sindelar, Agronomy and Horticulture; Elizabeth VanWormer, School of Natural Resources & School of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences; Limei Zhang, Biochemistry


Omtvedt Innovation Awards: These awards recognize exceptional service for innovative research and teaching. The recipients of the individual award for teaching, research, and extension each received $2,500 and a plaque. The recipients of the team awards received $5,000 for the team and a team plaque.

  • Teaching Recipient: Brad Goetsch, Center for Grassland Studies - Brad teaches the majority of classes in the PGA Golf Management Program. He is well respected by his students and does an excellent job integrating application with theory in the concepts he teaches. Additionally, he integrates technologies to enhance his students’ learning. Engaged students result in increased motivation, enriched learning, and provides immediate and informative assessment of his instruction. Brad created ‘Launch,’ the program’s own podcast channel where he interviews recent graduates to provide a unique perspective for prospective students and their parents. Brad’s work and commitment to the education of students is commendable. His PGA graduates are well prepared to enter the industry where they often compete very well for the best entry-level positions in the gold industry.
  • Teaching Nominees: Kathleen Brooks, Agricultural Economics; Jenny Dauer, School of Natural Resources; Lisa Karr, Animal Science


  • Research Recipient: Andrea Cupp, Animal Science - Andrea has established an internationally recognized research program making exponential strides in improving beef cattle fertility.  Her initial studies examined the role of Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor. Currently, her research focus stems from the seminal discovery that a subset of beef cows produces excess levels of androgens which correlates to increased rates of sporadic ovulation. Andrea has published 85 peer-reviewed publications, 9 symposium or proceeding paper and 27 state-beef-related reports. Her excellence in research has been recognized with more than 50 invitations to speak and numerous research awards. She also provides mentorship to many of the junior faculty training more than 20 masters and PhD students. Andrea has a true vision and scientific passion.
  • Research Nominees: Humberto Blanco, Agronomy and Horticulture; Lilyan Fulginiti, Agricultural Economics; Patricio Grassini, Agronomy and Horticulture
  • Extension Recipient: Maria De Guzman (Cherry), Child, Youth and Family Studies/Nebraska Extension - Maria (or Cherry) has generated knowledge for the direct benefit of external audiences and the public welfare by addressing real-world issues related to the synergy among culture, migration, family life and human development. She has presented 54 refereed papers and 26 posters at national and international conferences and has developed numerous Extension Bulletins and Neb Guides. Maria’s (or Cherry) national impact on Extension is exemplified by her leadership in two curricular projects, the National 4-H, Health Rocks! program and the Seeing i2i curriculum. She developed the curricula, led the national pilot, and co-leads the national program evaluation for the National 4-H, Health Rocks! Program reaching more than 700,000 youth across the country. Additionally, Maria (or Cherry) served as lead author for the Seeing i2i curriculum focusing on skill development for youth around diversity and cultural awareness.
  • Extension Nominees: Jody Green, NE Extension in Douglas-Sarpy Counties; Sarah Sivits, Engagement Zone 3


  • Team Category Recipient: Food Processing Hand Sanitizer Team - In response to COVID-19, this team went from brainstorming on April 1 to successfully blending more than 1,200 gallons of hand sanitizer by April 5. To assemble the necessary equipment, devices, and supplies to establish a functioning facility in the parking lot west of the Food Innovation Center showed ingenuity and innovation. Over the four-month period the hand sanitizer production facility operated, almost 200,000 gallons of hand sanitizer and disinfectant were blended and packaged. Product was shipped directly to 70 of the 93 counties in Nebraska and distributed to K-12 public schools, county fairs, and throughout the NU system.  Additional units went to USDA FSIS inspectors across the US and numerous medical providers and health agencies.  
  • Representing the department of Food Science and Technology and the Food Processing Center:
    • Terry Howell, Sarah Herzinger, Russell Parde, Julie Reiling
  • Team members outside of Food Science and Technology:
    • Lewis Sieber, Nebraska Forest Service, Pete Hilsabeck, UNL, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Leonard Akert, UNL, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Hunter Flodman, UNL, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, TJ Bond, UNL Environmental Health and Safety, and Jan TenBensel, Nebraska Ethanol Board
    • Plant Science Teaching Team - representing Agronomy and Horticulture: Stacy Adams, Christian Elowsky, David Holding, Don Lee, Leah Sandall, Meghan Sindelar, Anne Streich
    • Crop-Livestock Integrated Production Systems (CLIPS) - Mary Drewnoski, Animal Science; Jay Parsons, Agricultural Economics; Daren Redfearn, Agronomy and Horticulture
    • Testing Ag Performance Solutions (TAPS): Matt Stockton, Agricultural Economics; Daran Rudnick, Biological Systems Engineering; Chuck Burr, West Central Research & Extension Center
    • UNL Bee Lab - Representing Entomology: Judy Wu-Smart, Autumn Smart, Dustin Scholl, Luke Norris, Sheldon Brummel, Courtney Brummel, Natalia Bjorklund, Surabhi Gupta Vakil, Bridget Gross, Rogan Tokach, Shelby Kittle, Madison King, Helen Little.
    • Hiep Vu, Fernando Osorio, and Asit Pattnaik Team: Hiep Vu, Animal Science and Nebraska Center for Virology; Fernando Osorio, School of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and Nebraska Center for Virology; Asit Pattnaik, School of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and Nebraska Center for Virology.
    • The Food Safety Team: Georgia Jones, Nutrition and Health Sciences; Brianna Buseman, Animal Science; Byron Chaves Elizondo, Food Science and Technology; Andreia Bianchini Huebner, Food Science and Technology; From West Central Research and Extension Center: Brenda Aufdenkamp, Nancy Frecks, Carol Schwarz, Carol Larvick, Ann Fenton, Cami Wells, Brittany Spieker, and Kayla Hinrichs. From the Eastern Nebraska Research and Extension Center: Tara Dunker, Nancy Urbanec, Cindy Brison, Jordan Luxa, And from the Panhandle Research and Extension Center: Pat Jones, and Tammie Ostdiek.
    • Plant Phenomics Core Facilities Team: Yufeng Ge, Biological Systems Engineering; Vincent Stoerger, Greenhouse Innovation Center, Agricultural Research Division; Sruti Das Choudhury, School of Natural Resources; David Scoby, Agricultural Research Division; Frank Bai, Biological Systems Engineering; Nathan Duffy, Agricultural Research Division.


To learn more about IANR faculty and staff awards, visit http://ianr.unl.edu/ianr-awards-and-recognition.

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