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UF CALS honors students at annual awards banquet

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – At its annual scholarship and leadership awards banquet held April 19, the University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) recognized the accomplishments of its top students.

Graduating seniors, outstanding juniors, college scholarship recipients, CALS Leadership Institute participants, CALS honors scholars, club of the year and outstanding teaching and advising awards were acknowledged.

“Each year, we are honored to highlight our distinguished students for their accomplishments and service to the college, university, community and agricultural and life sciences industries,” said CALS Dean Elaine Turner. “These students exemplify the college’s core values of integrity, diversity, collaboration and service in their academics, extracurricular activities and character. We are proud they chose to pursue their education through CALS. ”

The following students received college awards:

  • Amanda Desormeaux, an interdisciplinary ecology Ph.D. student from Deltona, Florida, received the Jack L. Fry Award for Teaching Excellence by a Graduate Student. The award is named after the former assistant dean for graduate programs in CALS and honors an outstanding graduate student who has excelled in classroom or laboratory teaching. Desormeaux has taught four different undergraduate courses as a teaching assistant or instructor of record. She is known for her empathy toward students and has a desire to help them along their journey to create new knowledge.
  • Wallace “Wally” Martin, a food and resource economics senior from Arcadia, Florida, earned the CALS Alumni and Friends Leadership Award. The award recognizes an outstanding senior who exemplifies leadership, scholastic achievement and citizenship. Martin serves the college as a CALS Ambassador, represents students on several university-wide task forces, is a brother in Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity and is a member of Florida Blue Key.
  • Huda Aziz, a nutritional sciences major from Coral Springs, Florida, received 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. Aziz founded a chapter of “Project Downtown” in West Palm Beach to provide hot meals to the homeless. In addition, she volunteers as a medical assistant intern at a primary care facility and holds leadership positions in Muslim-based campus organizations.
  • Jonathan “Jon” Novak, a biology major from Gainesville, Florida, 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. Novak is a U.S. Army veteran who works to acclimate fellow veterans into academia through VetSuccess on Campus tutoring at UF and Santa Fe Community College. In addition, he is a research assistant at the UF Honey Bee Research and Extension Lab.
  • Arun Jani, an agronomy Ph.D. student originally from Boston, Massachusetts, was the recipient of the Jimmy G. Cheek Graduate Student Medal of Excellence. The award is named after a former CALS dean and former UF/IFAS senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources. Award recipients are outstanding graduate students who demonstrate high academic potential and achievement, leadership and community involvement, and commitment to his or her chosen field of study. After serving in the Peace Corps, Jani developed an interest in finding ways to improve nitrogen use efficiency in crops. He has received numerous awards for his research posters and presentations, serves as a youth mentor, and is a student representative on the CALS Council for Teaching Enhancement and Innovation.
  • Catherine “Cat” Cropsey, a microbiology and cell science junior from Bradenton, Florida, 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. Cropsey conducts maize genetics research, serves as president of Sigma Alpha professional agricultural sorority, and volunteers at numerous organizations including UF Health Shands Hospital.
  • Heather Ryan, an agricultural education and communication senior from Lakeland, Florida, received 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. Ryan is a Florida Cicerone, Reitz Scholar, community engagement fellow with the Bob Graham Center, and volunteers in the community through the Boys & Girls Club of Alachua County and Florida YMCA Youth in Government program.

The following students were honored as finalists for the senior and junior awards:

  • Sara Alvarez, senior biology major – Larry J. Connor Medal of Excellence finalist
  • Robert “Chase” Brannan, senior agricultural education and communication major – Emelie L. Matthews Award of Excellence finalist
  • Sara do Nascimento-Emond, junior animal sciences major – E.T. York, Jr. Medal of Excellence finalist
  • Case Emerson, junior animal sciences major – E.T. York, Jr. Medal of Excellence finalist
  • Abigail “Abby” Marion, senior agricultural education and communication major – CALS Alumni and Friends Leadership Award finalist
  • Brandon McKee, food and resource economics major – J. Wayne Reitz Medal of Excellence finalist
  • Abigail Schirmer, senior earning dual degrees in nutritional sciences and microbiology and cell science – Emelie L. Matthews Award of Excellence finalist
  • Carson Smith, senior nutritional sciences and microbiology and cell science double major – CALS Alumni and Friends Leadership Award finalist
  • Max Van Belkum, nutritional sciences and microbiology and cell science double major – CALS Alumni and Friends Leadership Award finalist

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The College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) administers the degree programs of the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS). The mission of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences is to deliver unsurpassed educational programs that prepare students to address the world’s critical challenges related to agriculture, food systems, human wellbeing, natural resources and sustainable communities. The college has received more total (national and regional combined) USDA teaching awards than any other institution. Visit the CALS website at cals.ufl.edu, and follow CALS on social media platforms at @ufcals.

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