2018 Alumni Society Award Recipients

Milestone Mentor: 5 years

David Shimota ‘88, Grain Millers

A 1988 grad with majors in Animal Science and Applied Economics, David joined the mentor program to help students gain knowledge and perspective in today’s work environment as well as to gain insight into new technologies and experiences students are learning on campus. His current mentee Alex shared, “David has helped me prepare for my summer internship by teaching me more about the grain merchandising industry. He’s helped me get a real life perspective that really adds to my classroom experience”.

Paul Hugunin

Milestone Mentor: 10 years

Paul Hugunin ‘99, Minnesota Department of Agriculture

A 1989 grad of CFANS, Paul has been involved with the program for nearly 20 years, serving as an alumni chair from 1999-2001 and again from 2011-2015. He played an instrumental role in creating the volunteer structure that is in place today. In addition to mentor 10 students, he has made countless trips to campus to participate in mentor program orientations and is an un-official mentor for many students.

Milestone Mentor: 15 years

John Foley ‘71 ‘73 ‘78, retired from Cargill

John, is unable to join us tonight.  John received his BS, MS and PhD in Animal Science from CFANS is our first mentor in the history of the program to have mentored 15 students! He continues to keep in contact with many of his mentees and some of his mentees have become mentors themselves. In addition, as a certified trainer in Gallup’s strengthsfinder program, John has volunteered to facilitate workshops for students and mentors and participated in the training of new CFANS mentors.

Outstanding Membership Recruitment

University of Minnesota Horticulture Club

 UMN Horticulture Club

The University of Minnesota Horticulture Club is one of the oldest student organizations on campus. However, lack of recruitment and leadership after spring 2014 caused the club to cease operations. In January of 2017, several students worked to meet the need for an undergraduate horticulture club. The newly formed club re-registered as a Campus Life program with SUA, and met with Horticulture Department staff and faculty to ensure a successful beginning and future longevity. The spring of 2017 was mostly focused on recruitment and getting the word out that the HortClub was back! Members went to various groups and all horticulture classes on campus to promote their meetings and activities. Their campus involvement includes being present at Classes Without Quizzes, HortSci Grows, and Ag Awareness Day. One of the best recruitment tactics was creating green "HORTICULTURE" buttons , which were distributed at public events. These CFANS students re-built the Horticulture Club from zero members to 15 regular attendees and a 47-person email list.

Outstanding Organizational  Programming

Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS)


In the Fall of 2017 MANRRS collaborated with CFANS to create the first-ever Multicultural Student Kick-Off event. The event welcomed and informed students of color and they had the opportunity to interact and connect with 80 other students of color in CFANS. Furthermore, at this event, students were introduced to the various CFANS resources that promote and support diversity within the college such as MANRRS and The Office for Diversity and Inclusion. This event encouraged students of color to build a sense of community within CFANS. Additionally, this inaugural event provided students with access to some of the resources that are beneficial to their success while here at the University of Minnesota.

Outstanding Organizational Partnership

Agricultural Education Club

UMN Agriculture Education Club

On September 26th and 28th, the Agricultural Education Club and the Applied Plant Science Club hosted a screening for the film ‘Food Evolution’ to educate students and faculty at the University of Minnesota about Genetically Modified Organisms. The film focuses on the scientific data behind GMOs and illustrates the reasoning behind implementing them. One movie screening was held in the St. Paul Student Center, and the other was held in Coffman Memorial Student Union. At each screening, the Agricultural Education Club and the Applied Plant Science Club provided pizza, chips and beverages for the students in attendance. After the showing of Food Evolution in the St. Paul Student Center, there was a panel of 5 industry professionals and individuals in academia who specialize in agronomy and plant science. The panelists were brought in to create a constructive discussion after at the conclusion of the film. While they accomplished this, they were able to relate science to students everyday lives. Between the two screenings, there were nearly 300 students that attended.

Outstanding Philanthropic Event

Alpha Gamma Rho

Alpha Gamma Rho

In the fall of 2017, Alpha Gamma Rho hosted their annual fall philanthropy event called the Fall Festival. They made the event kid friendly, engaging and fun by renting out a 32-foot inflatable obstacle course, where attendees could race their friends and see who had the fastest time. They also had a dunk tank, where attendees could throw balls at a target to try to dunk AGR members. A big attraction to the event was the petting zoo consisting of calves, lambs and puppies. The puppies were a big hit! There was also a date auction, where members would come up with a fun activity, and auction it off. In total AGR raised $1,970 to donate to Habitat for Humanity.

Outstanding Philanthropic Event

Beta of Clovia

Beta of Clovia Sorority

Hope for the Homeless was the Beta Chapter of Clovia’s fall 2017 service event, designed to directly help the homeless individuals that live in the local Twin Cities community. The goal of this event was to increase Clovia members’ awareness about the people in need that surround us in our everyday lives.  Beta of Clovia purchased items to be made into care packages for the Twin Cities homeless community and partnered with Catholic Charities to distribute these care packages. Through this philanthropic event, Clovia spent just under $300 to produce 80 care packages in just over one hour. Through debriefing, members of Clovia shared one main takeaway from this powerful event. It’s extremely important to support those who are in need. Making a big difference only requires a little amount of time, and a small effort, yet it can have unending positive effects.

Outstanding Professor Award

Tade Okediji

Tade Okediji

Department of Applied Economics

Tade Okediji is a fantastic professor who teaches in multiple departments at the University of Minnesota. He is especially good at instructing Introduction to Microeconomics through his interactive teaching style. Regardless of the large class size of over 200 students in this introductory class, he manages to give individualized attention to all students in his class and put an emphasis on assuring that the entire class understands the concepts that he teaches. Along with teaching the content of the class very well, Tade encourages class involvement by asking individual questions, encouraging students to ask questions and personally reaching out to students that struggle with the material so that they better understand it. Tade hosts informational and fun review sessions before exams. He even brings pizzas and bagels for a class of over 200 students to encourage their attendance at the session. Tade has a very genuine personality and wants each of his students to be successful.

Gary Cooper

Outstanding Professional Advisor Award

Gary Cooper ‘05, M.B.A.

One CFANS staff member that assists students in achieving success is Gary Cooper. Gary cares so much about each and every one of his students, whether he’s acting as a professor, or as an academic advisor. He cares so much about their success. In order to help students reach their potential, Gary works to get to know each of his advisees. He learns about their families, and their interests. By learning about these areas of his students’ lives, Gary is able to give them the best guidance he can in their academic career. Because of this, many of Gary’s students graduate on time, if not early. This is all made possible due to Gary’s skillful and heartfelt advising for each of his students. By carefully helping students plan out their schedules, Gary has built strong relationships with his students, and has helped them to have successful undergraduate careers throughout their time in CFANS.

Outstanding Faculty Advisor Award

Francesca Cuthbert

Francesca Cuthbert ‘81, Ph.D. Ecology

Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology

Professor Cuthbert is a shrewd, sharp and extremely insightful teacher. She is not only an academic mentor, but also a caring and supportive role model for many students. Although Professor Cuthbert manages many responsibilities on a daily basis, she never fails to make time to meet individually with students to help talk through career crossroads, coursework decisions, and personal happenings. Professor Cuthbert has been a positive, motivating, and knowledgeable faculty mentor who has helped guide students on a path to success. She has provided this type of help to countless undergraduate students in CFANS and is one of the primary professors who actively works to help undergraduate students succeed.

Mary Buschette

Outstanding Club Advisor Award

Mary Buschette ‘87, Agricultural Economics

CFANS Undergraduate Student Board Advisor

Mary Buschette is an advisor that is strives to be an inclusive student advisor and encourages all ideas and contributions. Mary brings resources and ideas to the Undergraduate Student Board that inspire diversity and success. She has perspectives on topics that help accurately represent the entire student body. She also keeps an open mind to all new opportunities that are presented to the board while encouraging members to think creatively and take action on their ideas. Mary is very deserving of this award and continues to serve the University through everything she does for CFANS.

Little Red Oil Can, Student

Haleigh Ortmeier-Clarke ‘18, B.S. Plant Science

Haleigh Ortmeier-Clarke

Haleigh has served on the CFANS Undergraduate Student Board as Vice President and CFANS Representative to the Provost of Undergraduate Education. In those positions, she has contributed to campus connectivity and inclusivity by being an advocate for mental health awareness. She helped to recruit future Undergraduate Student Board executive members and has provided advice and guidance to team members. Haleigh also served on the National Student Advisory Team with the Agriculture Future of America and has exposed students to the opportunity to network with agriculture professionals and develop their leadership skills. Haleigh's work as Student Advisory Team member also fostered connection between CFANS students by attending a leadership conference together. At the conference, those students were also able to meet other young agricultural leaders from colleges around the country. She consistently works to help others and is an advocate for mental health on campus. Haleigh gives so much of her time and energy to other people in order that they can have a better student experience at CFANS.

Little Red Oil Can, Faculty/Staff

Colleen O'Connor

Department of Forest Resources

Coleen O'Connor

During her multi-decade tenure in CFANS, Colleen’s kind spirit, friendly smile and consistent compassion has touched literally thousands of students and other University community members. Colleen’s significance reaches across the breadth of categories suggested by the award description. Within the last few years, the administrative burdens have increased while time frames have been compressed, yet Colleen’s attention to detail and determination to serve and improve our student relations stands regardless of these constraints. She has cheerfully and masterfully moved beyond her position description and performed these ‘other and more job duties as assigned’ with a positive attitude. All who enter the department office are warmly welcomed and quickly accommodated to ensure their needs are addressed and department, collegiate and sometimes University processes run as seamlessly as possible. In addition, Colleen positively contributes to the personal side of the student and faculty experience. Colleen excels in her job, goes beyond expectations and makes the Department of Forest Resources and CFANS a better place to work. As we consider the various campus climate and efficiency challenges we face, we feel lucky to have Colleen in CFANS.

Student Leadership Award: Undergraduate

Shantal Pai

Shantal Pai ‘18, B.S. Plant Science

Shantal Pai has demonstrated outstanding leadership skills and ability to encourage and inspire student involvement within CFANS in numerous ways this past year. Shantal served as the CFANS Senator and was then elected as U of M Student Senate Chair, where she served as a major contributor to the Student Board’s mission. Shantal has helped plan and execute many Student Board programs and initiatives, such as the Student Thoughts Forum, CFANS Spirit Day, Picnic on the Plaza and more. Specifically, Shantal has advocated for St. Paul Campus improvements through her contributions to a St. Paul campus task force. Shantal has also assisted in developing CFANS curriculum by utilizing input from CFANS students and industry representatives to develop the “Agronomy Production” area of specialization for Plant Science majors. We are very grateful for Shantal’s ability and willingness to serve as an effective and prominent voice for CFANS undergraduate students, the St. Paul campus and the University of Minnesota Student Body.

Morrine Omolo

Student Leadership Award: Graduate

Morrine Omolo ‘15, M.S. Food Science

Ph.D. candidate Morrine Omolo embodies and exceeds the qualities of an exceptional student leader. Morrine is actively involved in student groups - up to the highest University level, where she specifically served as the student representative on the Board of Regents. Morrine was also a part of the inaugural leadership team for the CFANS Artemisia Leadership Initiative, and an executive board member on the Council of Graduate Students. Within the Department of Food Science and Nutrition, Morrine has served as the student representative at all faculty meetings, where she continuously provides valuable input and suggestions that undeniably help the department evolve and improve. Morrine grew up in Kenya and worked to excel into the University research environment by focusing on the math, science and writing skills required to do so. She aspires to continue exercising her leadership abilities in the future, by obtaining a Ph.D. and becoming a professor at a Kenyan university. Morrine’s inquisitive leadership talents, remarkable work ethic, and impressive accomplishments make us proud to honor her with this year’s Graduate Student Leadership Award.

Don and Sandy HenryOutstanding Friend Award

Don and Sandy Henry

As a relative of Norman Borlaug, Don, and his wife Sandy make it a priority to share the remarkable legacy of Dr. Borlaug with the world by helping the next generation of “Norman Borlaugs” emerge from CFANS. Don and Sandy created the Vaala-Henry Endowment, which supplements the support of the Norman E. Borlaug Fellows in International Agriculture. These funds help to prepare CFANS graduate students to continue Dr. Borlaug’s work in small grain cereal crop research. Just like Borlaug’s efforts in underdeveloped countries, Don has added a preference for student’s whose research takes them to such places. Don and Sandy actively contribute to their fund, and Don has worked with the Plant Pathology department to create a new Minnesota-centric Norman Borlaug webpage. Don and Sandy’s ideas and energy are limitless, and we thank them for all they have done to support CFANS and preserve Dr. Borlaug’s legacy.

Brian BarberDistinguished Staff Award

Brian Barber

Brian Barber is a dedicated leader and innovative educator who has positively impacted both CFANS students and faculty members. Six years ago, Brian took over the Soil Testing Lab and has since utilized his analytical experience and exemplary management to transform the aging lab into a modern, esteemed facility. These improvements directly benefit CFANS faculty and graduate students who require sample analyses, as well as local farmers and gardeners. Brian also collaborates with individual researchers to develop new methods and assist in verifying results. It’s common knowledge among scientists in the Soil Testing Lab that their training from Brian has not just taught them how to complete a task but instead, provided them with the opportunities required to develop in-depth knowledge of new instrumentation. Brian’s enthusiasm for his work, paired with his extensive analytical knowledge, makes him an exceptional collaborator within the college who is certainly deserving of this honor.

Eli Sagor Charles Blinn

Distinguished Faculty Award

Charles Blinn and Eli Sagor ‘13, Ph.D. Natural Resources Science

For more than a decade, Charles Blinn and Eli Sagor have served as the co-chairs for the Minnesota FFA Forestry Career Development Event. These two men not only utilize their forestry and natural resource expertise to benefit CFANS students, but also branch out to include the more than 200 students that annually participate in this event. Charles currently conducts Extension education programs for loggers and natural resource professionals, while Eli manages the Sustainable Forests Cooperative based at the Cloquet Forestry Center. Charles and Eli are both known for their selfless efforts to share their passion and knowledge of forestry with young people in Minnesota. We are extremely grateful for their tireless dedication to this Career Development Event and their desire to preserve and strengthen the relationship between Minnesota FFA and the University of Minnesota’s CFANS community.

Alumni Advocate Award

Greg Harder

Greg Harder ‘90, A.S. Livestock Production

A 1991 graduate of the University of Minnesota with a degree in Livestock Production, Greg Harder has spent 25 years assisting in the teaching and coaching of the University of Minnesota’s Livestock Judging Team. Greg also served as a key committee member in the establishment of the University of Minnesota’s Livestock Evaluation endowment fund. This fund has allowed for the rich legacy of livestock judging to continue at the University of Minnesota. For 35 years, Greg has served as a major overseer of the Minnesota State Fair 4-H Beef Show, and he has officiated at the State 4-H Quiz Bowl for over 25 years. Additionally, Greg has aided in the organization of the State 4-H Judging Contest for 30 years, and served as a committee member in the startup and organization of the Minnesota Beef Expo - including the development of judging and youth educational activities.

Greg is an extremely popular county fair judge across Minnesota, and throughout all of these youth livestock activities, Greg actively promotes the University of Minnesota.  Greg was honored with the Department of Animal Science Outstanding Service Award in 2014, and his selfless contributions and advocacy for CFANS and the University of Minnesota makes Greg an undeniably deserving recipient of this year’s Alumni Advocacy Award.

Alumni Service Award

Tabare Abadie

Tabare Abadie ‘92 ‘94, M.S. Plant Breeding, Ph.D. Plant Breeding

Tabare Abadie graduated from CFANS with his Master of Science degree in 1992 and his PhD in 1994 in Plant Breeding. Since then, Tabare has kept his connection with the University of Minnesota and CFANS strong through his continued involvement in the Plant Sciences Symposium series, which affords graduate students with an opportunity to interact with research scientists across the globe and simultaneously acquire leadership and organizational skills. Tabare started this event in 2008 and has served as the liaison between the University of Minnesota and Dupont Pioneer, the symposium’s major sponsor.

Tabare actively informs CFANS students of job prospects with DuPont Pioneer, resulting in several CFANS graduates occupying top positions within the company. By arranging visits and assisting with prospective student applications Tabare actively supports CFANS graduate programs. Tabare has always been enthusiastic and grateful for the educational and interpersonal opportunities he received at the University of Minnesota, and generously utilizes his time and talents to continue supporting his alma mater.

Distinguished Alumni Award

Eric Mader ‘00 ‘05, B.A. Speech Communication, B.A. Japanese, M.S. Agriculture

A Department of Horticultural Science graduate, Eric Mader has gone on to establish himself as one of the world’s leading voices for pollinator and insect conservation. In his current role at the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, Eric co-directs the world’s largest team of pollinator ecologists. Eric’s staff has provided support for the creation of nearly 400,000 acres of habitat for bees and butterflies. Eric’s numerous professional highlights include the citation of his work in President Obama’s 2008 National Pollinator Research Action Plan and the negotiation of more than $10 million in pollinator conservation investments. Eric worked with General Mills to create the largest pollinator conservation initiative ever launched by a private company, and designed curriculum used in conservation training for over 70,000 farmers, government agency staff, and land managers across the world. Eric’s work has impacted not only Minnesota, but extended throughout the United States and into the world. There is no question that Eric’s outstanding accomplishments make Eric an extremely deserving recipients of this year’s CFANS Distinguished Alumni Award!

Lifetime Achievement Award

Sander Ludeman

Sander Ludeman ‘69, B.S. Agricultural Economics

Due to his leadership skills and unselfish character, Sander Ludeman has acquired a lifetime full of astounding accomplishments. During his years at the University of Minnesota, Sander was the recipient of the “Little Red Oil Can” Award and was selected as the Outstanding Senior in the College of Ag, all while serving on the executive teams of Alpha Gamma Rho Fraternity, Alpha Zeta, St. Paul Student Council and competing with the general livestock judging team. But Sander’s quest for success certainly did not end on the St. Paul campus.  Sander has received appointments from Governor Pawlenty and Governor Dayton, served on the CFANS Alumni Society Board and chaired numerous agricultural committees and task forces. Even so, Sander’s most notable accomplishments arguably lie within his contributions to the United States soybean industry. Sander helped organize the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council, the Minnesota 2 Cent Committee, the American Soybean Development Foundation, and served as founding chairman of the United Soybean Board. Sander was one of two US farmers who consulted with the Undersecretary of the USDA to review all suggested changes for the Federal Marketing Order for the National Soybean Checkoff. That final order has aided in over 30 billion dollars worth of growth in US soybean industry.  Sander has received accolades from the US Jaycees, the United States Department of Agriculture, Minnesota Soil and Water, American Soybean Association, Minnesota Department of Agriculture, National Pork Checkoff, Minnesota Agri-Growth and more - so it is only fitting that the University of Minnesota also recognizes this outstanding individual for his lifetime of achievements.