2020 Superior Accomplishment Awards

Due to measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19, the 2020 UF/IFAS Superior Accomplishment Awards ceremony, originally scheduled for March 17 at the Rion Ballroom on the UF Campus, has been cancelled.

However, it is especially important during this challenging time that we recognize our UF/IFAS colleagues for their outstanding service to the university and the people of Florida. Therefore, we officially announce the winners of the 2020 UF/IFAS Superior Accomplishment Awards.


  • Betsy Duncan, Administrative Support Assistant, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences
  • Melony Gay Hale, Research Administrator I, Animal Sciences Department

Support Services

  • Peter DuBose, Electrician, Plant Science Research and Education Unit
  • David Witt, Maintenance Generalist III, IFAS Facilities Planning and Operations


  • Elizabeth Jannaman, Chemist II, Animal Sciences Department
  • Maria Mendes, Biological Scientist II, Entomology and Nematology Department
  • Karen Williams, Biological Scientist II, Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center

Administrative Supervisory

  • Dee Boyle, Administrative Specialist III, Department of Environmental Horticulture
  • Jordan Callaham, Scientific Laboratory Manager, Horticultural Sciences Department
  • Jose Castillo, Farm Supervisor, Tropical Research and Education Center
  • Dewayne Hyatt, Systems Administration/Programmer IV, IFAS Information Technology
  • Jennifer Otto, Contract Administrator I, IFAS Facilities Planning and Operations
  • Michael Sisk, Academic Programming Specialist I, Soil and Water Sciences Department

Academic Personnel

  • Anne Mathews, Associate Professor, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition
  • Todd Thrift, Associate Professor, Animal Sciences Department

Diversity and Inclusion

  • John Diaz, Assistant Professor, Gulf Coast Research and Education Center
  • Keith Diem, Professor, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences

Community Service

Clerical/Office Support




Betsy Duncan is an Administrative Services Assistant II for the Department of Family, Youth, and Community Sciences. Her responsibilities include supporting the Department Chair by handling the calendar, coordinating travel, arranging meetings, formatting documents, coordinating space and

inventory, asset management, and IT support for the department’s faculty, staff, and students. She handles reception duties and clerical work on behalf of the chair and faculty members as well.

In the past fiscal year, five FYCS faulty retired in the space of 12 months, due to the IFAS retirement incentive for faculty who had 30 years or more of service. With over 100-plus years of knowledge and experience leaving the department, Ms. Duncan recognized that these faculty needed to be

recognized and that each person had a unique story and history to be celebrated. Ms. Duncan assisted these retiring faculty by helping them sort through their files, donate their books, pack up, move things to storage and other tasks. She applied for Emeritus status for each faculty member, set up a shared Emeritus office space and a calendar to coordinate its use. Ms. Duncan worked tirelessly to coordinate five unique retirement celebrations, ranging from a tea ceremony to a barbeque to a New Year’s Eve event. This is above and beyond Ms. Duncan’s job description and due to the social committee being on hiatus, Ms. Duncan balanced her regular work with making these five special events happen. Retiring after decades of work at UF can be an overwhelming and emotional experience; Ms. Duncan was seen as the rock and the anchor for the department’s senior faculty.

Her letter of support states that Betsy Duncan is a valued member of the department’s administrative staff. She cares about the department and its faculty, staff and students. She is always proactive, professional and self-motivated.


Clerical/Office Support




Gay Hale is a Research Administrator I for the Department of Animal Sciences. She is their Pre- and Post-Award Research Coordinator, assisting 40 faculty members with preparing grant proposals from federal and state agencies, private organizations, and corporate sponsorships. Pre-award responsibilities involve reviewing budgets for accuracy, including indirect-cost calculations, submitting scope-of-work, budget, cost share and all other documents required for submission through UFIRST. As post-award responsibilities go, Ms. Hale ensures that all awards are fully executed and provides guidance and oversight of all sponsored projects’ administrative and fiscal operations for all the different requirements of the sponsors. She has never failed to get a grant submitted by the deadline.

Ms. Hale came to the department during a major administrative change and restructuring of the business office. Throughout this period, she not only maintained the high quality of her work, but she assumed other essential roles, such as effort reporting, faculty activity reports and managing the departmental indirect cost and overhead accounts. One of her nominators said Ms. Hale actually made grant-writing fun and efficient again. Her efforts have helped to increase the grants received by the Department of Animal Sciences, which ranked 9th in IFAS for the amount of research dollars last year.

In support of Ms. Hale’s nomination, one colleague writes, “Gay is a pleasure to work with. She is a particularly accommodating member of our staff who can always be relied on to go above and beyond her normal duties to ensure the success of our faculty.”


Support Services




Peter DuBose is an electrician at the Plant Science Research and Education Unit in Citra. He is responsible for maintenance and repairs to electric, irrigation, security, generators, buildings and greenhouse electronics. As part of his duties at PSREU, he maintains a fleet of 32 generators that are used during emergency response operations throughout UF/IFAS.

In October 2018, Hurricane Michael struck the Florida Panhandle, causing widespread destruction to homes, agricultural fields and infrastructure from the coastline far inland. In the wake of the category 5 storm, UF/IFAS facilities suffered significant structural damage and extended power outages. As part of the emergency response team, Mr. DuBose was instrumental in restoring power to critical parts of the North Florida REC in Marianna.

Losing electricity in an office building or classroom is disruptive; in a facility holding sensitive research samples, it can be disastrous. Within forty-eight hours after the storm, Mr. DuBose was on site and hooking up generators for cattle wells and seed coolers and freezers. His quick and decisive actions

restored power to provide water to 793 cattle and prevented subzero freezers from overheating. By restoring power to elevators in four damaged drying sheds, he helped to save 1.6 million pounds of peanut seed stored by the Florida Foundation Seed Producers. Throughout the recovery effort, Mr. DuBose and others essentially camped at Marianna, connecting and maintaining generators throughout the facility.

One nominator recalled, “Mr. Dubose was calm, positive and willing to go beyond the call of duty to do whatever he could to help.” Another added, “If it were not for him stepping up and understanding the importance of helping in a crisis, UF/IFAS would have lost even more beyond the damage we sustained.”

Support Services




David Witt is a Maintenance Generalist III for IFAS Facilities Planning and Operations. As a skilled electrician he works a great deal with fire safety issues and coordinates contract work as needed for extensive repairs. In October of 2018, he went to North Florida REC in Quincy and Marianna after Hurricane Michael as part of a response team sent to make buildings safe, secured and powered up with generators during what proved to be a 12-day period of intense recovery. Working under difficult conditions, with limited access to roads and supplies, Mr. Witt was able to keep the power going at graduate student housing, wells supplying the beef research operation for 500 cows, and administration buildings that had become a temporary housing and shower facility for responders.

However, it was his efforts in “people care” that caught the notice of the colleagues who ultimately nominated him for this award. With virtually no food and bedding services available, Mr. Witt took on cooking duties, making sure everyone working on the site was well fed, had relief from the heat and an air-mattress to sleep on at the end of the day. His good humor and hard work helped to make a difficult situation more bearable. As one nominator said, “Hurricanes can be your friend, because when we rebuild we make things better—but it’s a painful process. It’s having people like David on our team that make it less painful.”





Elizabeth Jannaman is a Chemist II in the Animal Sciences Department. Ms. Jannaman’s regular duties include managing the research laboratory, performing independent research in the biology of the preimplantation embryo, contributing to the intellectual activities of the lab by defining research project goals, assisting with research projects of other lab members, writing research papers, and participating in seminars and journal clubs.

Ms. Jannaman’s position involves extensive work with in vitro fertilizations and work with cattle and other large animal species. As an expert at in vitro production of mammalian embryos, she has not only trained her department personnel in this complicated procedure, but also visiting scientists from other laboratories and universities.

Ms. Jannaman’s care extends even outside of her laboratory. She assists the UF Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology in their efforts to freeze ovarian tissue from cancer patients. Ms. Jannaman has previous experience with ovary cryopreservation in humans and is sharing her experience with the obstetrics and gynecology researchers at UF. The UF/IFAS Dairy Unit is involved in producing a unique genetic line of dairy cattle called slick Holsteins, and Ms. Jannaman manages this project on a week-to-week basis. In 2019, the dairy unit generated $25,000 in profits due to her efforts.

Ms. Jannaman assists the smooth functioning of the Animal Sciences Department in many other ways, from organizing the annual retreat for the Animal Molecular and Cellular Biology (AMCB) graduate program for another faculty member, to collaborating with IFAS Facilities to renovate the atrium used by undergraduate students. Since Ms. Jannaman joined the department, the lab has averaged more than 11 papers per year, and she has played an important role in this increased productivity. As her supervisor states, “One of the best things I did in my career was hire Liz Jannaman.”





Maria Mendes is a Biological Scientist in the Entomology and Nematology Department. Her regular duties include managing all day-to-day activities in the lab and greenhouses, conducting lab and greenhouse experiments, making purchases, supervising OPS employees, training and assisting graduate students, serving as lab safety coordinator, and maintaining nematode cultures. Dr. Mendes is also the primary lab instructor for the Nematode Diagnostics course.

Nematodes can be difficult to raise in the greenhouse and each species has different requirements for upkeep. While typical nematology labs might maintain just a couple of species of nematodes, Dr. Mendes currently maintains 15 different species. Her expertise is invaluable, since starting a single species isolate may take up to two years to develop.

When another faculty member left UF in 2018, Dr. Mendes took on the role of primary lab instructor for the Nematode Diagnostics (NEM 6905) class to assist her faculty supervisor. She also helps teach lab sections of Plant Nematology (NEM 5707C) and Nematode Diagnostics (NEM 6942).

Dr. Mendes works in excess of 40 hours per week to keep the department running smoothly and efficiently. She does this voluntarily and without complaint or fanfare. Even with her busy workload, Dr. Mendes finds time to advise and mentor graduate students. Not only does she inspire them to become better professionals, she shares her knowledge of applied nematology with them so they can become better scientists. Her dedication to her work is such that students have said, “You need to tell Maria to go home.”

For many years Dr. Mendes has been an active member of the Organization of Nematodes of Tropical America (ONTA), an international professional society that has members in 28 countries. Last year she was elected as their secretary. Dr. Mendes’ election as ONTA secretary not only reflects well on her department and IFAS, but also carries the University of Florida internationally to a new level in this discipline. In her free time, Dr. Mendes volunteers at her church garden. As her program director states, “Maria is the glue that holds my program together.”





Karen Williams is a Senior Biological Scientist at the Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center (FLREC). Ms. Williams’ duties focus mainly on the turfgrass research program and involve data collection and recording, sampling for groundwater contaminants and pesticides, turfgrass response to fertilizers, and plant tissue sampling. She also develops sampling methods and procedures for nutrients and pesticides in soil-water samples, develops procedures to model plant evapotranspiration, prepares research manuscripts and graphics, and leads turfgrass Extension programs at FLREC.

Ms. Williams has been a valuable resource to the South Florida turfgrass industry and the FLREC since her career began over 30 years ago. But in the summer of 2018, she faced her greatest challenge to date. A lead faculty member for the turfgrass program departed their position and the sustainability of the turfgrass program was in jeopardy. Karen filled the gap quickly, saving over four acres of turfgrass that were associated with eight grant-funded research and Extension programs. In addition, she assumed responsibility for two graduate students that were in the process of finishing their degrees and took over supervisory responsibilities for several staff and OPS positions. To cap it off, Ms. Williams also renovated a new turfgrass area for two new projects, a NIFA-funded grant and a project for the National Turfgrass Evaluation Program.

One letter of support for Ms. Williams states: “Without Karen’s assistance and commitment to the UF turf program, we would not have been able to maintain our current level of activity at FLREC. She has kept the program alive and prepared it perfectly for the new incoming faculty member.”

Another colleague noted how Karen became the go-to person for the turfgrass program and truly exemplified what it means to be superior.

Administrative Supervisory




Dee Boyle is an Administrative Specialist III within the Department of Environmental Horticulture. Her responsibilities include working with the Department Chair to align departmental financial and administrative procedures. This includes monitoring payroll and all fiscal operations for the department, hiring and supervising support staff, facilitating departmental renovations and as serving as the IFAS Shared Services liaison for accounts.

Among the many hats Dee wears in her position, she also serves as backup for other administrative staff as the need arises. In the spring of 2019, Dee stepped in to assume the role of Graduate Programs Specialist when the new specialist went on maternity leave – all while maintaining her own position duties as an Administrative Specialist. Dee’s previous experience in the position allowed her to fill the gap seamlessly and keep the department’s graduate program running smoothly. However, it did not

lighten her workload, as she took on the challenge of managing paperwork, letters of appointment, tuition waivers and assistantships for students on and off campus.

Ms. Boyle’s nominator wrote, “Dee goes above and beyond for the department every day. She is the point person for nearly everything. She handles everyday emergencies with professionalism and empathy, and is highly regarded by faculty, staff and students.” One colleague described Dee as “an exemplary member of our team” and went on to say, “it is an honor to work with her.”

Administrative Supervisory




Jordan Callaham is the UF Space Plants Laboratory Manager in the Horticultural Sciences Department. Her primary responsibilities lie in supporting the department’s overall research program. She excels at balancing a variety of experiments within the lab, all while managing the day-to-day needs, coordinating environmental health and safety functions, and supervising various personnel. Some of these personnel include undergraduate research assistants, whom Ms. Callaham specifically mentors to ensure their experience is both positive and rewarding as they explore research, many for the first time. Additionally, she develops and pushes social media content and manages education and public outreach for the lab, which has gained an international recognition.

Although Ms. Callaham’s efforts every day are worthy of recognition, she went above and beyond the call of duty when she stepped up to take the lead on a suborbital flight experiment in the absence of the project’s principal investigators, who were overseeing another experiment in Antarctica. Her management and execution of the experiment entailed extensive travel to the launch site in Texas, along with connecting with the principal investigators at the Antarctic research station throughout the process. Ms. Callaham’s efforts saved an experiment that otherwise would have been impossible, allowing valuable data to be collected and used in a recently funded grant proposal.

Ms. Callaham’s nominator wrote, “She did an amazing job, and we could not be more proud. Preparing for a single flight or field experiment is a challenge…[it] takes the kind of dedication that only comes from the heart when you love what you do. Jordan was a key player in every aspect of preparing for these experiments.”

Administrative Supervisory




Jose Castillo is a Farm Supervisor at the Tropical Research and Education Center (TREC). Mr. Castillo’s duties revolve around managing the farm and field maintenance operations of the 160-acre agricultural research facility. Examples of these duties include overseeing planting, harvesting, and cultivation of many crops, maintaining pesticide and farm records, and monitoring the maintenance program for farm facilities. He also consults with research staff in planning field activities, planning and developing objectives for farm operations, and maintaining the farm in a safe and sanitary condition.

Mr. Castillo has a knack for saving money. During the eligibility period for this year’s award, he was able to save TREC over $40,000 in farm expenditures. He found innovate and efficient methods to carry out field activities with a limited budget and skeleton crew. He also took it upon himself to assist with designing a new recreational area for faculty, students, and staff that has greatly improved the quality of life at TREC. Mr. Castillo also developed a pesticide application scheduling tool that is sent out on a weekly basis to ensure the safety of employees, visitors, and students at TREC. In addition, TREC faculty have a deep appreciation for his knowledge on field operations, specifically irrigation design and construction which has supported new funding for irrigation-related projects.

Numerous colleagues speak highly of Mr. Castillo’s efforts and skills in accomplishing their projects. One colleague writes, “Jose has the ability to make you feel like you are his only client. He is very responsive to my requests and always carries a smile on his face.” Another letter of support states, “Jose is dedicated to his job, provides outstanding services to all our at our center, and shows creativity in performing his job.” It is easy to see how Mr. Castillo has an excellent rapport among his peers and is considered a superior employee.

Administrative Supervisory




Dewayne Hyatt is a Systems Administrator on the UF/IFAS Information Technology Server Administration team. He is responsible for the systems that support the centralized operating system, software and update deployment for Windows computers in IFAS, and for the deployment, configuration and maintenance of the nearly 70 servers located in IFAS Extension county offices, research and education centers, and teaching and demonstration sites across the state.

In the past year, Mr. Hyatt has led efforts to adopt Microsoft Teams as a collaboration platform for UF/IFAS. Mr. Hyatt saw the potential of Microsoft Teams to help faculty, students and staff collaborate more effectively, not just among themselves, but also with people inside and outside the university. However, introducing a new technology is one thing; getting people to use it is another, and Mr. Hyatt recognized the need to develop training resources tailored to IFAS that would encourage adoption.

From May to August 2019, Mr. Hyatt presented Teams training in person to more than 450 IFAS faculty and staff across the state. He has gained distinction for his dinosaur-themed trainings, including the “IFAS Jurassic County” team, where people can ask questions and participate in a monthly online training.

In letters of support, Mr. Hyatt’s colleagues said that “early adoption of Teams at IFAS would not have been possible without Dewayne’s efforts to bring exciting new technology to IFAS.” Other nominators noted that Mr. Hyatt’s approach to helping others is why Teams has taken root in IFAS.

“Dewayne’s personality makes people want to work with him,” said one Extension agent. “He is forthright but with a smile, and he wants to help people. He provides excellent customer service and is always looking for ways to help Extension agents do their jobs.”

Administrative Supervisory




Jennifer Otto is a Contract Administrator for UF/IFAS Facilities Planning and Operations (FPO). She is responsible for the oversight of a $2 million maintenance budget and a $30 million budget for construction projects at IFAS facilities across the state. She works meticulously with her team to ensure compliance throughout the construction process, including funding sources and payment. She also works to balance FPO’s budgets and process a variety of invoices, purchase orders, and purchase card transactions each year.

Over the course of the past fiscal year, the university and state legislature altered rules for funding construction projects. As a result, Ms. Otto had to review more than 100 projects with thousands of lines of data to ensure funding met new regulations and FPO remained in compliance. Her ability to gracefully and uncomplainingly take on this increased workload prevented 100 open IFAS projects across the state from being suddenly lost. She did all of this shortly after working through a recent leadership change where she served as a guide to her new supervisor. Furthermore, she served as the only financial processor for the last two months of the fiscal year, working to independently close a $15 million operational budget and a $30 million project budget.

Ms. Otto’s nominator wrote, “Jennifer once again set the example of an extraordinary person by completing an impossible task while remaining calm and passionate about the FPO.” Colleagues described her as a highly regarded friend in the office, a team player who keeps the team running smoothly, with a tireless work ethic, a willingness to do whatever it takes, and someone who is incredibly generous with her time.

Administrative Supervisory




Michael Sisk is an Academic Programs Specialist for the graduate and undergraduate programs in the Department of Soil and Water Science. He is responsible for course scheduling, academic activities reporting, course-teacher evaluations and grade authorizations, in addition to serving as the primary source for information about the department’s on-campus and online academic programs. Mr. Sisk works with more than 100 graduate students, 120 undergraduates and more than 60 students in the graduate certificate program.

Mr. Sisk has a reputation in the Soil and Water Sciences Department as, in the words of one letter of support, a “living Alexa.” He is the go-to person for questions about everything from academic policies to scholarship opportunities. This past year, his expertise was invaluable to the department, which was welcoming a new chair and three new faculty members. The department itself is made up of 50% junior faculty who are still getting up to speed on its undergraduate and graduate programs. However, this new challenge has allowed Mr. Sisk’s talents to shine even more brightly. He kept track of large amounts of vital and time-sensitive information important to faculty and students, while also remaining a responsive source of knowledge and advice. Mr. Sisk not only participates in student recruitment but also goes out of his way to make sure students are transitioning well into UF.

The 15 letters of support submitted with Mr. Sisk’s nomination testify to the critical role he plays in the soil and water sciences department. A student recruited this year by Mr. Sisk had this to say: “With Mike’s help and reminder, I was able to receive the Board of Education Fellowship, a Grinter Fellowship, and a Doris Lowe and Earl and Verna Lowe Scholarship. Mike is a dedicated, resourceful, and exceptional staff member, who is patient willing to listen, apt to respond to student’s questions and concerns…Mike inspires me to be more dedicated, efficient, and patient and kind to people regardless of the number of times I encounter them in a day.”

Academic Personnel




Dr. Anne Mathews is an Associate Professor in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition and a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN). As an associate professor her responsibilities include the teaching and mentoring of students, conducting research, and contributing to the Extension and service mission of IFAS and the university. Dr. Mathews teaches courses in Nutrition and Disease (HUN 4446) and Preventative Health Experience (HUN 4936, 6940) among others, and has an active research program focused on evaluating the effects of programs to enhance the adoption of healthy lifestyle behaviors. Her research seeks to better understand the relationship between obesity, lifestyle behaviors, genetics and chronic disease. She has won numerous awards for both her teaching excellence and research accomplishments.

In addition to her exceptional work as a teacher, mentor and researcher, Dr.Mathews has gone above and beyond through her collaborations with UF on major initiatives that seek to improve the health of students, faculty and staff in the UF community. The Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) Healthy Campus Initiative has brought together units from across the UF campus, including IFAS, the Field & Fork Program, RecSports, GatorWell,Student Affairs, and Housing and Residence to provide healthier food and beverage options at campus dining facilities, wellness programs and greater opportunities for physical activity. Dr. Mathews co-chairs both the steering committee and the nutrition subcommittee while also serving as advisor to the research team. According to one of her nominators, “Without Dr. Mathews’ idea to make PHA at UF a reality and her influence in bringing these groups to the table (food pun intended) we may not be as successful as we currently are in transforming our campus towards greater health.”

Dr. Mathews has also provided leadership to the Find Your Happy Plate Nutrition Health Communication Campaign (NHCC). The purpose of the campaign is to improve student health by promoting the consumption of more nutrient-dense foods. With the assistance of a doctoral student, Dr. Mathews pulled together research at UF and beyond to help frame the NHCC, understand our audience better, and find the most appropriate target goals. As one nominator put it, “It’s pretty amazing what can happen in 18 months when working with someone whose values and passions align so closely to the Division of Student Affairs.”

Academic Personnel




Dr. Todd Thrift is an Associate Professor and Extension Beef Specialist in the Department of Animal Sciences. Dr. Thrift’s teaching responsibilities include six undergraduate courses, while his Extension responsibilities focus on four main programs: Beef Quality Assurance, National Animal ID/Traceability, Florida Fed-Beef Challenge, and the Florida Beef Cattle Short Course. Dr. Thrift is an Extension program leader, curriculum developer, and lead educator for each of these major programs. Additionally, Dr. Thrift provides Extension educational activities addressing cattle reproduction, nutrition, and management for county-level events.

While Dr. Thrift has continued to demonstrate excellence in teaching in the many courses he is assigned, he has gone above and beyond in developing, creating, and delivering new and innovative Extension programs. Dr. Thrift’s nominator noted that with a small Extension appointment, specialists are expected to develop and deliver one, maybe two, programs. In the span of six weeks, Dr. Thrift delivered four programs that serviced county faculty, beef cattle producers, and associated industry participants in Extension education opportunities. The first program is an in-service train-the-trainer program focused on new education tools and techniques and current industry issues. The second program, the Florida Beef Cattle Short Course, is the largest Extension program conducted by the Department of Animal Sciences. Dr. Thrift was instrumental in developing the program agenda, delivering topical information and demonstrating practical applications of the information. In, Beef 706, he was responsible for organizing, designing, delivering, and coordinating experiential learning activities. The final program was the Florida Fed-Beef Challenge, where Dr. Thrift coordinated the enrollment of beef calves from producers, monitored the cattle’s growth and harvested, facilitated the data collection and analysis, and returned the results to the producers.

In his teaching, mentoring, and Extension efforts, Dr. Thrift received praise from students and faculty. In the words of his supporters, “Dr. thrift has his hands in so many pieces of the puzzle around this school and balances it with all of his Extension duties and manages to not shortchange any of them. He does this because he genuinely cares for the well-being of everyone in the program and the industry.” Another wrote, “Dr. Thrift is one of my most inspirational mentors, who truly exemplifies the Anima Sciences Department, IFAS, and the beef industry as he is a true asset to the University of Florida’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.”

Diversity and Inclusion




Dr. John Diaz is an Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist in the Department of Agricultural Education and Communication. His teaching, research and Extension work focuses on program evaluation, behavior change, social marketing and local resilience.

Although his main focus is to advise and teach students and community members, Dr. Diaz’ efforts span across the state of Florida and speaks to his commitment to the inclusion, progress, and growth of all the communities UF serves. Utilizing his expertise and knowledge of program evaluation, Dr. Diaz worked to understand how to best support the Latino/Hispanic community across the state. As founder and chair of Café Latino, a working group that is focused on training Extension agents on how to be more culturally inclusive and supportive when working with Florida’s growing diverse communities, he strives to increase culturally relevant and sensitive outreach to Latino communities. Within two years, his efforts have increased the membership, strength, and reach of Café Latino, creating an executive board, recruiting members across the state, and working to streamline translation services. Due to his leadership, Café Latino has presented at the UF/IFAS Symposium in 2019, and has provided regional and statewide in-service training sessions on Navigating Differences, a cultural awareness program for Extension professionals. Participants in the ISTs state that they now have a framework to navigate cultural differences and apply the framework to developing programs that effectively connect with Latino/Hispanic audiences.

One nominator writes: “John’s leadership of this group is very impressive and commendable, as it extends beyond the scope of his responsibilities. As the number of Latinos continues to increase across Florida, it is imperative for UF to understand and support this community in a way that is meeting the true needs of this community, and Dr. Diaz is assisting UF to do just that.”

Diversity and Inclusion




Dr. Keith Diem is a Professor in the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences. Throughout his 37-year academic career, Dr. Diem has been a scholarly expert and strong advocate for diversity and inclusion, multicultural collaborations and international cooperation. Whether he’s teaching undergraduate and graduate courses, conducting orientation and in-service training for Extension faculty, leading training for UF departments, working with community organizations and non-profits, teaching 4-H youth throughout Florida, or engaging in international outreach, Dr. Diem is focused on promoting human diversity and inclusion and serving underrepresented audiences.

Among his many leadership roles, Dr. Diem has served on the UF President’s Council on Diversity, which accomplished its key goal of hiring UF’s first Chief Diversity Officer in 2018. On a national level, he has been Chair of the Champions for Underserved/Underrepresented/Diverse, Racial-Ethnic Youth and a member of USDA-NIFA’s National Vulnerable Populations Committee.

Dr. Diem has put his scholarship into practice at the department level by serving as a founding member of the FYCS Diversity & Inclusion Committee, as well as developing and teaching a new online graduate course of Principles and Practices in Diversity and Inclusion. He has also developed seminars on diversity that he has taught to peers at the CALS Teaching Enhancement Symposium and the National Association of Extension 4-H Agents, as well as to youth throughout Florida at 4-H University. He is a trained IFAS search advocate, responsible for serving on search-and-screen committees to ensure that best practices in diversity and inclusion with respect to candidate recruiting and selection are being followed.

One nominator writes: “Dr. Diem is an active, committed advocate of diversity and inclusion in all its forms. He actively practices what he preaches; he is highly successful in educating his students, his peers and his clientele as to how to be more inclusive.”

Community Service




Dr. Adegbola Adesogan serves his community through both his professional and his personal life, and on a scale that spans from local to global communities.

Dr. Adesogan is a Professor of Animal Nutrition in the Department of Animal Sciences. His research focuses on ruminant nutrition, with special emphasis on increasing forage quality and enhancing the performance of dairy cows. Since 2015, Dr. Adesogan has served as the Director of the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Livestock Systems, which conducts research on small-scale livestock systems that improve human nutrition, health, livelihoods and incomes for people in developing countries. In that capacity, he provides overall leadership to over 40 research projects in six African countries and two Asian countries, implemented by UF faculty, as well as US and international partner organizations.

In addition to his considerable duties as a lab director, Dr. Adesogan continues to supervise Masters and PhD students, and welcomes new students to campus and helps them settle in. His insistence on educating graduate students reflects his strong commitment to teaching and mentoring students. He is also known for taking visiting scientists and professors on trips to other parts of Florida so they can appreciate all aspects of American life and culture.

Dr. Adesogan is a man of faith who, as one nominator put it, “talks the talk and walks the walk.” He serves as the president of the University of Florida Christian Faculty Fellowship Steering Committee and as an Elder in his church, preaches at UF Christian student organization meetings, offers appropriate prayer and counsel to students, staff and faculty, and encouragement to friends and colleagues during hospital stays. “Whatever he does,” one nominator wrote, “it is imminently clear that love and compassion drive him.”

Community Service




Dr. Martie Gillen is an Associate Professor in the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences. Through her teaching, research and Extension work, her volunteer hours, and her daily life, Dr. Gillen serves the most vulnerable of Floridians—children in the foster care system who have often been the victims of abuse and neglect. As a licensed foster parent with Partnership for Strong Families, she has welcomed 11 children in her home—some for a few days, some for months—and two children forever through adoption.

Since 2018, Dr. Gillen has also served as a court-appointed Guardian ad Litem child advocate volunteer to represent the best interests of children who are involved in court proceedings and have been abused, neglected or abandoned. As a family scientist, Dr. Gillen has made it her mission to educate people within the UF community and throughout Florida on adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), the effects of trauma on brain development, and trauma-informed approaches to working with children and families. In 2018 she developed a new Extension program area, which has provided trauma-informed education to more than 900 individuals.

She also continues to teach undergraduate personal finance courses to approximately 200 students every semester and administers her Extension program, Women and Money: Unique Issues, throughout Florida. She is in great demand as a guest speaker on issues of financial literacy, adverse childhood experiences, trust-based relational intervention, child advocacy, foster parenting and adoption. As one nominator put it, “People trust Dr. Gillen not just because of her credentials, but because she walks out her convictions and passions as a foster and adoptive mom. Dr. Martie Gillen serves her community well, and we are honored to walk alongside her to support, defend and reach the most vulnerable in our community, and those who care for them.”


Avatar photo
Posted: April 20, 2020

Category: UF/IFAS, UF/IFAS Extension, UF/IFAS Research, UF/IFAS Teaching
Tags: Superior Accomplishment Awards

Subscribe For More Great Content

IFAS Blogs Categories