Outstanding researchers, teachers, and team members from across the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences are being honored this spring through the annual Faculty and Staff Awards.
More than 20 individuals from CAHNRS departments and college-spanning programs receive recognition in 2022: administrative, technical, and clerical supporters who keep their units running; groundbreaking scientists; life-changing mentors, teachers, and Extension leaders; and a team that connects across disciplines to impact their state and beyond.
Winners from both 2022 and 2021 will be featured at the in-person CAHNRS Faculty and Staff Award Banquet, 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 20, at the Ensminger Pavilion on the Pullman campus.
2022 awardees include:
Administrative Professional Staff Excellence: Britta Nitcy
Helping donors, students, and faculty for 28 years, Nitcy is Assistant Director of Development, Gifts, Operations, and Scholarships in CAHNRS’ Alumni and Development office. She is a key leader in the WSU Advancement community, working with college and foundation staff to identify short- and long-term solutions. Nitcy assists fundraisers and donors with gift use agreements that accomplish donors’ philanthropic goals, while ensuring endowments benefit the greatest number of students, faculty, and programs in perpetuity. Generations of students are touched by her work.
Nitcy grew up in St. Maries, Idaho, with her father and grandfather in the logging business and watching her grandparents attend to their hobby cattle farm and large garden. After joining the WSU Foundation as an administrative assistant in 1992, she seized an opportunity to work in CAHNRS fundraising unit two years later, managing the scholarship program, creating the impact report process, and planning events. Her institution knowledge is recognized by her peers as being the very best at WSU working with scholarships, endowments, and stewarding donors.
Administrative Professional Technical Staff Excellence: Albert Tsui
The college Office of Research’s business development specialist, Tsui strategizes how to realize technologies developed by CAHNRS faculty, and manages intellectual property as well as best practices to protect it.
Tsui joined WSU in 2015, when commercialization was accelerating in CAHNRS and the college critically needed expertise to shepherd this effort. He provided expert stewardship on legal and commercial operations, and success has followed. CAHNRS leads WSU in the number and diversity of technologies that have entered the commercial world in the U.S. and globally thanks to Tsui’s efforts. He is a registered patent attorney before the United States Patent and Trademark Office and a USDA Plant Variety Protection Board member.
Classified Clerical Fiscal Staff Excellence: Tracie Collins
Employed at WSU Vancouver since 2013, Collins joined CAHNRS in 2019 as an administrative assistant. Serving the Department of Human Development, she has vast experience with the WSU system, policies, and procedures, which she draws from to make decisions every day,
Collins supports her unit’s needs, which include managing budgets, staffing the administrative office, managing faculty grants, handling new and expanding human resource functions in Workday, and working with undergraduate and graduate schedules as well as supporting all faculty and staff. The unit benefits greatly from her dependability and reliability.
Throughout the pandemic, Collins performed with expertise, effort, great problem-solving skills, and a positive attitude. Colleagues describe her as a highly skilled problem-solver, reliable, diligent, and unshakably kind.
Classified Technical Staff Excellence: Jill Wetzel
Wetzel began working at the WSU Puyallup Research and Extension Center in 2013, first as a volunteer, and then as scientific assistant to Assistant Professor Jenifer McIntyre in the Aquatic Toxicology Lab. She joined WSU’s Aquatic Toxicology Lab shortly after it was built, and was instrumental in the design and construction of many of the lab’s aquatic systems. She serves as the lab’s lead technician, maintaining daily operations, and assists Dr. McIntyre, her graduate students, and WSU-PREC’s partners in research concerning the toxic effects of urban stormwater runoff.
Wetzel seizes the initiative to be open and aware of ways to consistently make her work environment a better, safer place. She is also a major contributor to enhancing the quality of students’ experiences and led an effort to install a community gardening space for graduate students on campus. She creates a sense of community within her lab and the Puyallup campus, and wants to see everyone succeed, both personally and professionally.
Early Career Excellence: Sindhuja Sankaran
An associate professor in the Department of Biological Systems Engineering, Sankaran studies sensor technologies for crop phenotyping and supports plant breeding, crop plant research, and precision agriculture applications. Her research and teaching program supports researchers from other CAHNRS departments and USDA-ARS labs.
Sankaran was honored for her leadership, service, and outreach, for a robust and productive research program, and as a terrific teacher who receives high marks on student evaluations. Highly engaged with her students and post-docs, she is an outstanding mentor for the next generation of scientists. Sankaran strives to impress upon them the importance of following rigorous scientific methods and of communication via prompt publication and involvement in scientific societies.
Excellence in Advising: Joan Wu
Professor in Biological Systems Engineering, Wu joined the department in 1998. Wu has been a powerful force in advancing student achievement for the college. Her advising philosophy revolves around stimulating advisee’s interest, relating course work to research and practical issues, fostering active and independent thinking and learning, and emphasizing both theory and practical applications. She believes in and promotes self-motivation, and frequently encourages her advisees: “Be the captain of your ship! Have ownership!”
Wu has guided and supervised numerous undergraduate and graduate students as well as postdoctoral associates, and has actively recruited and advised many women students, at both undergraduate and graduate levels. Her efforts are evidenced in the numerous students who have studied with her, and proven by the many invited talks to student and citizen groups.
Faculty Excellence in Extension: Elizabeth Weybright
Weybright is an associate professor in the Department of Human Development; interim director of WSU Extension’s Youth and Families Program Unit, and co-director of the Center for Rural Opioid Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery (CROP+TR). Grounded in prevention science and positive youth development, her research focuses on understanding key risk and protective factors associated with adolescent substance use to aid prevention efforts, and to translate and scale-up evidenced based approaches.
Weybright has made an incredible impact on WSU, Extension, and health efforts throughout the state. She has a vision for WSU Extension’s role in the delivery of health services and is demonstrating its utility through CROP+TR’s focus on opioid misuse. Her creative vision for WSU Extension positions it to meet the needs of individuals and communities throughout the state in new ways. Weybright’s leadership is raising the level of productivity in Extension, and contributes to the organization’s visibility across WSU, Washington state, and nationally.
Faculty Excellence in Research: Sammy Perone
An assistant professor in the Department of Human Development since 2016, Perone studies the development of self-regulation, beginning in infancy and through emerging adulthood. He is especially interested in individual differences in self-regulation and their brain basis. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses related to child development, mentors undergraduate and graduate students in research, and has led several projects to engage the community around the science of human development.
The department’s interim Prevention Science Graduate Program Director, an important service and leadership role, Perone excels at engaging students in the process of high-quality research. He leads a large and successful lab where he mentors both graduate and undergraduate students to develop research skills, translate their research to the real-world, and engage in leadership.
Land Grant Mission Award: Yoshie Sano
Sano is an associate professor in the Department of Human Development and a graduate faculty of the Prevention Science doctoral program at WSU Vancouver. Her research focuses on well-being of rural, low-income families, exploring family relations, economic well-being, health-related issues, and food insecurity. Current research projects include a multi-state longitudinal research project, Rural Families Speak about Resilience (RFSR) which examines interactions of individual, family, community, and policy contexts on the family resilience among diverse rural, low-income families; and a multi-disciplinary collaboration which investigates the impact of Covid-19 pandemic on health behaviors in U.S. adults.
Sano stands out for her community-based, nationally recognized research on rural families, which aligns strongly with the land-grant mission and is well-integrated into her teaching and service to the university, the community, and the profession. Her influential research on the scholarship of poverty has led to her assuming a leadership role on the Executive Board of the Rural Families Speak project, a national research collaborative of more than 80 scholars on poverty.
R.M. Wade Teaching Excellence Award: Mary Kay Patton
A scholarly assistant professor in WSU’s Center for Transformational Learning & Leadership (CTLL), Patton supports individuals and teams in taking values-based committed action from a place of presence and mindfulness. She has played a central role in the growth, visibility, and impact of CTLL, and her work has influenced many current and future leaders at WSU.
Patton is integral in the design, organization, and facilitation of the Provost’s Leadership Academy, a leadership training program for WSU faculty leaders. She co-created and continues to facilitate Tidal Leadership, an online leadership certificate program, and is the co-lead for LIFT (Learn Inspire Foster Transform), a series of workshops that help faculty members experience and practice evidence-based pedagogies that are linked to high rates of student success. She also designed and co-leads WORD!, a faculty training series designed to facilitate student growth and success in written communication.
Patton is an enthusiastic, empathetic, caring instructor who takes the time that is needed to get to know her students and provide tools to help them be better students, better learners, and better leaders.
Team Interdisciplinary Award: Washington Stormwater Center
Rapid population growth and urbanization in the Puget Sound region have resulted in massive developmental challenges that create significant threats to a healthy ecosystem. Stormwater management has become one of the single greatest land-use, development and environmental challenges facing the Puget Sound, the region, and the nation.
Charged to protect Washington’s waters through improvements in stormwater management, the Washington Stormwater Center was created in 2009 by the Washington State Legislature as a partnership between business, government, and academics. It’s the nation’s leading research enterprise on stormwater and restoration of the Puget Sound estuary.
A joint project of the WSU Puyallup Research and Extension Center and the University of Washington Tacoma Urban Waters Center, the Center serves as a central resource for research, evaluation of new technologies, technical assistance, and education. WSC scientists and engineers are world-famous for their work on the toxicity of stormwater pollutants to salmon and for removal of pollutants using green stormwater infrastructure.
Team members include John Stark, Lisa Rozymyn, Jason Berg, Brandon Boyd, Melissa Driessnack, Anand Jayakaran, Laurie Larson-Pugh, Jenifer McIntyre, Carla Milesi, Heidi Siegelbaum, Carly Thompson, and Jill Wetzel.
Learn more about all 2022 award winners here.