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2018 CALS Scholarship and Leadership Awards Banquet

The 12th annual College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Scholarship and Leadership Awards Banquet took place on April 19th, 2018 at the Wyndham Garden, Gainesville, Fl.

The following is an excerpt from the Dean R. Elaine Turner ‘s message:

Elaine Turner

Elaine Turner

“We are proud of the fact that CALS is one of the largest, most diverse colleges of agricultural and related sciences in the country, enrolling more than 6,100 students in this year. What I hope you will see tonight is that we are not only a large college, but arguably one of the best colleges, based on the nature and quality of our students, faculty, and staff. An astounding 1,120 students, which represents 27 percent of our undergraduate student body, made the Dean’s list during fall semester 2017. Of those students, 108 were on the President’s honor roll, meaning the earned a perfect 4.0 grade point average while carrying at least a 15-credit course load. This is an outstanding achievement.

CALS students have access to a broad range of experiences that promote leadership and engagement. The CALS Honors Scholar certificate program requires students to complete five honors experiences including a research program that results in an honors thesis; about 4 percent of our graduates complete this rigorous program. In addition, 37 undergraduates participated this year in the national award winning CALS Ambassador program, assisting with recruitment and alumni activities. The CALS leadership Institute continues to thrive with our ninth cohort beginning their experiences this year. Our faculty have received more national teaching awards from the USDA than any other land-grant college in the country. Clearly, we have much to be proud of, and I hope you will enjoy hearing more about the talented people who have continued this tradition of excellence that makes CALS one of the best colleges in the nation.”

Graduate Teacher/Advisor of the Year

Gail Kauwell

Gail Kauwell

Dr. Gail Kauwell is most often described by her students as a selfless instructor and role model. Colleagues remark how often they see her in the office on weekends providing copious notes and feedback on her students’ assignments. “She is generous with her time both in and out of the classroom, incredibly kind in her communication and actions, and persistent in her attempts to push students to learn,” said one of Dr. Kauwell’s former students. “She creates a unique, challenging learning plan that develops students into better versions of themselves.”

As the program director for the Master of Science – Dietetic Internship in the UF/IFAS Food Science and Human Nutrition¬†Department, Dr. Kauwell teaches numerous courses as part of the program’s curriculum. She uses various tools in the classroom that promote critical thinking such as case studies, peer reviewed journal articles, community service projects, and the opportunity for students to develop nutrition curricula for the public. Students consistently notice and appreciate Dr. Kauwell’s well-structured, organized class presentations that reflect the most current, evidence-based information available in the field. She has been recognized on campus and across the nation for her excellence in teaching.

According to her students, a defining characteristic of Dr. Kauwell is her ability to challenge students through rigorous assignments all the while comforting and cheering them on along the way. Students mention that event after they graduate, they never forget her phrase, “Do you want to be good or do you want to be rock stars?” A Former student said, “Dr.K made a point to prioritize my success, sometimes even more than I did.” This teaching and advising philosophy of Dr. Kauwell’s is based on the premise that learning and self-discovery occur best when students are actively engaged, feel supported and encouraged, and see a connection with their future.

J. Wayne Reitz Medal of Excellence Outstanding Senior Award Finalist

Max Van Belkum, Kristina Von Castel

Max Van Belkum, Kristina Von Castel

Max Van Belkum of Destin, Florida is a Nutritional Sciences and Microbiology and cell science double major. He leads the UF iGEM Team, a university-wide undergraduate genetic engineering project. His research and thesis project with Dr. Mansour Mohamadzadeh’s lab, which engages a molecular process to create engineered symbiotic bacteria to treat disease, was selected for the University Scholars Award. Max is the president of the UF Chapter of the American Physician Scientists Association, volunteers with Streetlight at UF Health/Shands, and is a independent contractor with Aces in Motion. Max aspires to become a physician-scientist to research and treat metabolic, digestive, and autoimmune diseases.



CALS Alumni and Friends Leadership Award Finalist

Carson Smith, Nutritional Sciences and Microbiology and Cell Science


Emelie L. Matthews Award of Excellence Finalist

Abigail Schirmer, Nutritional Sciences and Microbiology and Cell Science


Robert J. and Jane H. Barben Family Scholarship

Nurul Azma Ahmad Tarmizi


Agricultural Woman’s Club Scholarship

Amy Jones