Gainesville, Fla. — Several College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) students were recognized for their accomplishments and successes of their collegiate program during the annual banquet held on April 12.
CALS students have shown adaptability and determination as the University of Florida transitioned back to in-person classes, events and professional development opportunities.
“Our students have faced a number of challenges over the past two years, but they have continued to build relationships with each other, develop skills for their future careers and thrive during their educational experience,” said CALS Dean Elaine Turner. “Our college has some of the best students in the world, and I’m excited to celebrate their success at an in-person awards banquet.”
The following students were recognized as some of the most exceptional in the college and show exemplary scholarship, leadership and dedication to the community:
Carley Rusch, a nutritional sciences Ph.D. student from Safety Harbor, Fla., received the Jimmy G. Cheek Graduate Student Medal of Excellence, an award named after a former CALS dean and former UF/IFAS senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources. Recipients of this award are outstanding graduate students who demonstrate high academic potential and achievement, leadership and community involvement and commitment to their chosen field of study. Rusch has been an integral part of establishing a clinical and research program in nutrition at the Fixel Institute for Neurological Diseases (FIND). While working in the clinic, she has had more than 700 patient interactions. She also authored or co-authored six peer-reviewed journal articles and received a number of awards recognizing her efforts focused on understanding the relationship between nutrition and neurological diseases.
Bradley Coleman, an agricultural education and communication Ph.D. student from Ponchatoula, La., received the Jack L. Fry Award for Teaching Excellence by a Graduate Student. This award is named after a former CALS assistant dean for graduate programs and recognizes excellence and efficacy in classroom or laboratory teaching, in addition to high academic achievement. Coleman taught eight courses with students located in both Gainesville and Plant City. During this time, he worked
with agricultural education faculty and more than 150 undergraduate students. Outside of the classroom, he has developed and presented professional development sessions to teachers and worked with the Florida FFA Association.
Gina Tran, animal sciences student from Orlando, Fla., received the E.T. York, Jr. Medal of Excellence. This award is presented each year to an outstanding junior who exhibits a distinguished academic record and demonstrates leadership success. The award is named after a former UF provost of agriculture, interim UF president and chancellor of the State University System of Florida. Tran has always been involved the beef industry and has continued this involvement while at the University of Florida. She has supplemented her coursework with an internship at Archbold’s Buck Island Ranch, learning about the cow-calf segment of the beef cattle industry, as well as a study abroad trip in the Dominican Republic, where she helped provide medical care in rural areas.
The top seniors in the college were recognized for their outstanding achievements in academics and leadership. This year’s top ten seniors are Payton Bogert, biology; Shea Booster, agricultural education and communication; Allyson Fleischer, family, youth and community sciences and criminology; Kyle Garner, agricultural education and communication; Hannah Henry, wildlife ecology and conservation; Annabel Henson, agricultural education and communication; Brett LaBella, entomology and nematology and microbiology and cell science; Karisya Moran-Adames, family, youth and community sciences and finance; Jordyn Ranfone, entomology and nematology; and Robbie Sistrunk, food and resource economics.
From left: Booster, Bogert, Fleischer, Ranfone, Sistrunk, Garner
Four of the top ten Seniors received additional awards. Henson, originally from Myakka City, Fla., was awarded the Emelie L. Matthews Award of Excellence. The award is given to an outstanding senior who entered UF as a transfer student. The award is named in honor of contributions made by Emelie Matthews, a former CALS employee of 35 years. Henson has been part of more than eight student organizations as a student and developed an undergraduate honors thesis focused on consumers’ grocery shopping choices and perceptions. She also has completed communication internships with UF/IFAS Extension Manatee County and the animal sciences department.
Moran-Adames, a River View, Fla. native, received the Larry J. Connor Medal of Excellence. The award, established in 1999 and named after a former CALS dean, recognizes a senior student who fosters diversity and inclusion, has a distinguished scholarship record and a high degree of leadership. During her time at UF, Moran-Adames was selected to attend the Harvard Public Policy and Leadership Conference, completed a congressional internship at the U.S. House of Representatives through the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, founded the “Project SonrYsa” food resource program and served in leadership roles for the Association of Latino Professionals for America and the Hispanic Student Association.
LaBella, from Spring Hill, Fla., earned the CALS Alumni and Friends Leadership Award. This award is presented to a senior who has shown exemplary leadership, scholastic achievement and citizenship in departmental or college organizations, and supports the agriculture, natural resources and life sciences industries. LaBella has been involved in the Entomology Club, Alpha Zeta professional fraternity, CALS Leadership Institute and the CALS ambassador team. Since freshman year, he has conducted undergraduate research, finding alternative ways to kill mosquito larvae and understanding non target effects of mosquito pesticides on honeybee larvae.
Henry, originally from Orlando, Fla., was presented with the J. Wayne Reitz Medal of Excellence. This award, established in 1967, is awarded to an outstanding senior for distinguished scholarship and leadership and is named after J. Wayne Reitz, UF provost for agriculture from 1949 to 1955, and UF president from 1955 to 1967. Henry has been highly involved in the college while also working on research projects with both Dr. Katie Sieving and the interdisciplinary Land and Water Lab. Henry works for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) at the Ocala National Forest to conserve natural resources for their long-term well-being. She will also spend seven weeks of her summer in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines conducting conservation research on the St. Vincent Amazon Parrot.
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.