UACES Facebook Division of Ag bestows highest honors on faculty, staff
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Division of Ag bestows highest honors on faculty, staff

By Mary Hightower
U of A System Division of Agriculture
Jan. 10, 2020 

Fast facts   

  • Division of Agriculture, Bumpers College bestow highest honors
  • Awards honor excellence in extension, researching and teaching
  • Download event program here 

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Faculty and staff from the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture were honored Friday for work that included battling hunger, mentoring some of the Fayetteville campus’s most outstanding students and going above and beyond to support Arkansas’ land grant extension, research and teaching mission.

Division of Agriculture Awards

The annual Agriculture Awards are given by the Division of Agriculture and the Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences, which fulfill the land grant university mission in Arkansas. This year, the event was hosted in Fayetteville in the Don Tyson Center for Agricultural Sciences, the headquarters of the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station, the Division of Agriculture’s research arm. John W. White awards are named for the U of A System's first vice president for agriculture when the Division of Agriculture was made a statewide unit of the U of A System in 1959.

“These awards are an important moment for the Division of Agriculture and its faculty and staff,” said Mark Cochran, vice president-agriculture for the University of Arkansas System. “These honors are nominated and selected by peers – people who understand what constitutes excellence. That’s exactly what makes these awards so special: we are recognized by our own.” 

To see full summaries of each of the winners, download the event program here.

John W. White Outstanding Research Award - Larry Purcell

Larry Purcell, distinguished professor and holder of the Altheimer Chair for Soybean Research in the Department of Crop, Soil, and Environmental Sciences, works to bridge the gap between crop breeders, plant biochemists, plant physiologists and field-oriented agronomists. An expert on the response of soybean to drought, particularly the response of nitrogen fixation, Purcell has been among the first to identify germplasm and molecular markers associated with prolonged nitrogen fixation, delayed wilting and water use efficiency. He developed a digital image analysis system for determining nitrogen nutritional status of corn, which resulted in two of his three patents. His research has been documented with 125 peer-reviewed manuscripts, with five more in review, 20 book chapters and more than 200 abstracts. He has helped bring $19.7 million in funding to the Division of Agriculture, including $5.9 million to his own research.

Outstanding Teaching Award – Lisa Wood

Lisa Wood, clinical associate professor in the department of Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences, teaches an average of four classes per semester – six different classes in all. She advises around 60 undergraduates, manages three graduate teaching assistants and is mentoring or serving on the thesis committees of nine honors students. She has developed two new courses – Wetland Soils and Honors Environmental Science – while also restructuring the Plants and Environmental Restoration class as a service-learning class and developing more robust Environmental Science Lab classes. Wood also serves as the director of the Bumpers International Programs Office and is interim director of the Bumpers Honors Program. In addition, Wood co-advises the CSES Undergraduate Club, working with students on volunteerism, networking and being fully engaged in their major. A member of the college’s faculty since 2012, she was selected for the U of A Teaching Academy in 2018 and earned the Gamma Sigma Delta Teaching Award of Excellence in 2017.

John W. White Outstanding Extension State Faculty Award – Jason Kelley

Jason Kelley, extension corn, wheat and feed grains agronomist and professor of Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences, has been with the Division of Agriculture since 2003. In his current role, he provides timely information on wheat, corn and grain sorghum production to county agents, producers and agriculture industry professionals so that growers can improve their overall profitability and sustainability. Since 2009, Kelley has authored or co-authored more than 300 book chapters, peer-reviewed journal articles, abstracts, papers, reports and trade press articles. He has made more than 400 presentations at the local, regional, national and international levels. Kelley has successfully worked to serve and communicate with growers through a vast array of approaches, ranging from verification programs, demonstrations and agent training to newsletters, blog posting and social media outreach. Kelly has been repeatedly recognized by his peers for advancements in his field, through awards including the 2018 Corn Researcher of the Year Award from the National Conservation Tillage Conference.

Outstanding Extension Faculty Award – Leigh Ann Bullington

Since 2017, Woodruff County Extension Staff Chair Leigh Ann Bullington has worked with county leaders and the City of McCrory to impact health outcomes through work with the Centers for Disease Control and 15 other partners. An example of her outstanding work is The Warehouse. Built with public and private funds in what was a vacant property, The Warehouse has become a hub for clinical screening services, nutrition education classes, cooking demonstrations, prescription assistance and food pantry distribution, all under one roof. Over the past year, more than 400 people received more than 16,000 pounds of food to prepare the demonstrated recipes at home. Her programs have been recognized by her peers in the state and on the national level. She was also the spark for creation of a local farmers’ market, which has helped increase availability of fresh food and helped the local economy. Bullington still found time to return to the University of Arkansas to receive a master’s degree in Agricultural and Extension Education in 2018, the same year she was also named McCrory Citizen of the Year.

Non-Classified Support Personnel Award – Michael Emerson

Michael Emerson has been a program associate for the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology since July 2005. During his initial appointment, he was responsible for evaluating soybean cultivars for foliar disease reaction to frogeye leaf spot. As he gained experience working with soybean diseases, he started designing and implementing field plots, evaluating fungicide efficacy plots, supporting the Asian Soybean Rust Project, harvesting plots, and planting the variety testing plot. In 2008, Emerson assisted with an expanding program to help growers in northeast Arkansas. The program focused on research in cotton, soybeans, corn, peanuts, and milo; however, its main focus was to develop a disease screening nursery that allowed for the evaluation of soybean cultivars for reaction to frogeye leaf spot. Today, Emerson continues to conduct research in cotton, soybeans, corn, and peanuts and conduct root-knot nematode trials on soybeans and cotton. Emerson’s most significant contributions has been development of new equipment that has allowed the program to be more efficient in the field and provide better data to growers. 

Non-Classified Support Personnel Award – Eric Friend

Eric Friend filled a crucial void in the Department of Food Science when he joined the staff as fiscal manager. His supervisory experience in business services provided a smooth transition thanks to his knowledge and expertise in university business and accounting practices. He began immediately to clarify department and university policy expectations for procurement, travel and general accounting to all faculty and support personnel. Friend’s professionalism set the standard for ongoing trust and mutual respect between the fiscal manager and faculty members. His work with faculty on budget, staff salary support and graduate student stipend and tuition waiver issues resulted in timely budget reports for faculty. Friend provides fiscal support for units like the Arkansas Food Innovation Center and the Sensory Research Lab as well as individual budget needs of specialized research initiatives, special events and student recruiting.

Division of Agriculture Classified Support Personnel Award – Katie Hanshaw

Katie Hanshaw began her career with the Experiment Station in 2008, rising to the level of Administrative Specialist III in 2009. In her first days on the job at the Fruit Research Station, Hanshaw was thrown into planning a field day. She designed a flyer, coordinated with speakers, and successfully helped prepare the station for a group of more than 400. Hanshaw has sustained this initial success in her 10-plus-year career with constant attention to detail, a remarkable work ethic, and an infectiously positive attitude. As the only administrative employee at the Fruit Research Station, Hanshaw’s list of duties is extensive. She carries out accounting duties for the Station and helps with hiring. She coordinates large events at the station and serves as a mentor to many students and staff. She helps maintain facilities and is instrumental in assisting with research activities. 

Outstanding Honors Faculty Mentor Award – Jill Rucker

Jill Rucker, associate professor of agricultural communications in the department of Agricultural Education, Communications and Technology, is in her seventh year as a member of Bumpers College’s faculty. Rucker has mentored students who have become Truman Scholars, a Marshall Scholar, U of A Seniors of Significance and earned U of A Senior Honor Citation awards, which recognizes the top male and female graduate of the university. She has served as the honors thesis adviser for one graduate with six more in progress and serves as adviser to three Registered Student Organizations on campus – Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow, Sigma Alpha and Collegiate 4-H. Rucker created the agricultural leadership minor in fall 2016 and concentration, in fall 2017.

Bumpers College Alumni Society Outstanding Advising Award – Nathan Kemper

Missouri native Nathan Kemper began work for the UA System Division of Agriculture in 2005, conducting research focusing on economic impact analysis, poultry economics and agricultural sustainability. Kemper also coordinated a regional program for the Cooperative Extension Service: the Trade Adjustment Assistance for Farmers program that provided training and business planning to southern farmers and fishermen. He joined the faculty of the department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness in 2014 and completed his Ph.D. in 2016 with a specialization in food policy economics. He accepted a position as clinical assistant professor and undergraduate coordinator in 2017.

As an adviser, Kemper focuses on needs of individual students and their development and encourages them to take ownership of their academic future. Kemper also serves as adviser to the Agricultural Business Club and the Academic Quiz Bowl team. Kemper currently teaches courses in applied economics, and agribusiness management and marketing.

Jack G. Justus Award for Teaching Excellence and Spitze Land Grant University Faculty Award for Excellence – Kris Brye

A double-award winner this year, Kris Brye, professor of applied soil physics and pedology in the Department of Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences, currently teaches four undergraduate and two graduate-level courses while administering the environmental, soil and water science portion of the CSES internship course and coaching the undergraduate soil judging team. Brye earned the U of A Gamma Sigma Delta Teaching Award of Excellence in 2008, the John W. White Outstanding Teaching Award in 2013, the Bumpers College Alumni Society Outstanding Advising Award in 2017 and the Academic Advising Council’s Outstanding Faculty Academic Advisor award in 2019, and he was a finalist for the John and Lois Imhoff Award for Outstanding Teaching and Student Mentorship in 2018. Brye was elected to the U of A Teaching Academy in 2012, and in 2018 was named Fellow by both the Soil Science Society of America and the American Society of Agronomy.

The ceremony also recognized innovation, in the awarding of seven patents for crop varieties and other research.

Follow the Division of Agriculture on Twitter at @AgInArk.


About the Division of Agriculture

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system.  

The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.  

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.   

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Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A System Division of Agriculture
(501) 671-2006