UF CALS seniors, juniors earn honors at annual banquet

The University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) celebrated the accolades and accomplishments of its top students at the annual awards banquet held April 18.

Graduating seniors, CALS Ambassadors, CALS scholarship recipients, CALS Leadership Institute participants, CALS Honors Scholars, Club of the Year and outstanding juniors were recognized for their academic success, leadership and service.

“Recruiting and retaining the very best students is a top priority for our college,” said CALS Dean Elaine Turner. “Our annual Scholarship and Leadership Awards Banquet celebrates the achievements of those outstanding students. We are honored these students pursue their education through CALS, and are proud of the service and leadership they provide at UF and in the community.”

The following students were recognized as some of the most exceptional students within the college:

  • Michael Vickers, an entomology and nematology Ph.D. student from Decatur, Ill., received the Jack L. Fry Award for Teaching Excellence by a Graduate Student. The award is named after the former dean for graduate programs in CALS and honors an outstanding graduate student who has excelled in classroom or laboratory teaching. Vickers’ students often describe him as the “best TA at UF,” and appreciate his field trips and hands-on experiences that bring course lessons to life. On May 5, Vickers will receive a Graduate Student Teaching Award from UF.
  • Alessandra Della Porta, a microbiology and cell science senior from Ponte Vedra Beach, earned the CALS Alumni and Friends Leadership Award. The award recognizes an outstanding senior who exemplifies leadership, scholastic achievement and citizenship. Della Porta serves as the president of Sigma Alpha Professional Agricultural Sorority, will graduate as a CALS Honors Scholar and held leadership roles on the Center for Undergraduate Research Board of Students.
  • Esther Olasoji, a food science and human nutrition and microbiology and cell science double major from Winter Haven, won the Larry J. Connor Medal of Excellence. The award is named after a former CALS dean and recognizes a senior student who has achieved a distinguished scholarship record, demonstrated a high degree of leadership and fosters diversity. Olasoji conducts research in the department of animal sciences, leads the Ronald E. McNair Scholars Program Ambassadors as president and volunteers with GRACE Marketplace.
  • Chase Labiste, a microbiology and cell science senior from Miami, received the Emelie L. Matthews Award of Excellence. The award is named in honor of the contributions made by Emelie Matthews, a CALS employee of 35 years. The award recognizes an outstanding graduating transfer student. Labiste works in neurology and pathology labs, serves as a teaching assistant in the molecular genetics course, earned the UF President’s Volunteer Service Award and created a gut and brain health curriculum for the Boys and Girls Club.
  • John Hargrove, a wildlife ecology and conservation Ph.D. student from Granite Bay, Calif., was the recipient of the Jimmy G. Cheek Graduate Student Medal of Excellence. The award is named after a former CALS dean and former IFAS senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources. Award recipients are recognized as outstanding graduate students who demonstrate high academic potential and achievement, leadership and community involvement, and commitment to his or her chosen field of study. Hargrove has an impressive publication record, extensive volunteer work including lesson plan development for local schools, and has mentored 15 students at a variety of education levels.
  • Connor Michael Hartzell, a microbiology and cell science junior from Navarre, received the E.T. York Jr. Medal of Excellence. The award is named after a former UF provost of agriculture and recognizes an outstanding junior with a strong academic record and demonstrated leadership. Hartzell volunteers with the Climb for Cancer Foundation, serves as a tutor for the Office of Academic Support, and is completing his honors thesis on metastasis in small cell lung cancer.
  • Adriana Della Porta, a microbiology and cell science senior from Ponte Vedra Beach, won the J. Wayne Reitz Medal of Excellence. The award honors a former UF provost for agriculture and UF president. Award recipients have a distinguished scholarship record and have demonstrated a high degree of leadership. Della Porta is a CALS Ambassador, member of the Dean of Students Office Student Conduct Committee, volunteer tutor with the Broward Teaching Center, and researcher through the NSF Plant Genome Research Project.

By: Dana Edwards, 352-392-1963, dana.edwards@ufl.edu

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