Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Shining bright: CAHNRS announces 2021 faculty/staff award winners

Eleven individuals and one team of 14 earned recognition last week for their exceptional contributions to research, teaching, and Extension as the 2021 Faculty and Staff Award winners in WSU’s College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences.

Administrative Professional Excellence Award

Portrait of Heather Havey
Heather MacDermott Havey

Heather MacDermott Havey

Heather MacDermott Havey joined WSU as the Director of the Children’s Center in 2015. Prior to coming to WSU, her professional experience included positions as a teacher, child advocate, education coordinator, parent educator, and family support specialist. Heather is a speaker at local, regional, and national childcare and early program conferences. She holds a master’s degree in Education from Boise State University with an Early Childhood Education emphasis and a bachelor’s degree in Education, Early Childhood and Elementary, with a minor in Special Education from Central Washington University. In her role as Director of the Children’s Center, she has many responsibilities that focus on the daily operations of the Center, fiscal sustainability, licensing and compliance standards, family engagement, staff support, and child outcomes.

Heather has established the trust of the faculty, staff, and students by building relationships with families, children, and staff. These relationships are based on maintaining open, friendly, respectful, and cooperative partnerships. Perhaps a good insight into Heather comes from one of her nomination letters, “After five years in her position, most parents know that Heather takes seriously the axiom that ‘a complaint is a gift’ that allows the program to improve.”

Portrait of Kiser
Jennifer Kiser

AP Technical Staff Excellence Award

Jennifer Kiser

Jennifer Kiser first arrived at WSU in 2013 to pursue a Master of Science Degree in Animal Sciences. After her first year at WSU, while still pursuing her degree, she was offered the opportunity to become a lab manager in the department. Upon graduation in 2015, she was offered the position on a permanent basis and accepted. This allowed Jennifer to continue the research that she so enjoyed and to continue to work with students as they discovered the world of research.

One of her nominators said of Jennifer, “she exhibits excellence in everything that she does. She has demonstrated resilience, leadership, and professionalism throughout her tenure as an administrative professional. One of her greatest strengths is her ability to manage multiple roles and maintain excellence and professionalism in research, teaching, leadership, and management.” Also: “Jennifer is the person that you go to when something needs to be done right and done quickly. She is a perfectionist and it shows in her work.” One of our CAHNRS Ignite students wrote of Jennifer, “Having never worked in a professional laboratory, Jennifer was patient, kind, and thorough when going through the proper techniques and mannerisms when working in a lab. She ensured that I understood each step and was willing to answer any and all of my questions.”

When not working, Jennifer enjoys spending time with family and friends, traveling, and exploring with her two dogs.

Portrait of Knight
Jolene Knight

Classified – Fiscal Staff Excellence Award

Jolene Knight

Jolene Knight is an Administrative Assistant 3 for the Department of Human Development. She has held this position since 2019, but has worked at WSU for the past six years. Jolene is the course scheduler for Human Development and the interdisciplinary doctoral program in Prevention Sciences. She also provides administrative assistance for the chair of the department and serves as the graduate program coordinator. What she enjoys most about her job is the variety of tasks in which she is involved and being able to work with students. Her daily goal is to be as efficient and helpful as possible in performing her duties.

As her unit chair, Michael Cleveland stated, “Ms. Knight stepped into a very challenging situation that represented a very steep learning curve and required a strong personal work ethic from the very beginning. I can say without a doubt that Ms. Knight has far exceeded these expectations.” Another nominator said, “I can confidently say that Ms. Knight is by far the best program coordinator that we have ever had!”

When not at work, Jolene enjoys time outside with her family, boating, bike riding, and camping.

Portrait of Casavant
Colette Casavant

Excellence in Advising Award

Colette Casavant

Dr. Colette Casavant serves as the CAHNRS Director of Student Success and is housed in the Academic Programs office. Colette advises students in Integrated Plant Sciences, Viticulture and Enology, and Agricultural and Food Systems majors and serves as the lead advisor for the college. In these roles, she personally advises approximately 200 students and works with undergraduate advisors in all CAHNRS academic programs. Colette serves as Chair of the WSU Academic Consultant Group and is a member of the University Academic Advising Executive Committee. She worked diligently to initiate the WSU Chapter of Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resource, and Related Sciences (MANRRS) and continues to serve as their faculty advisor. Additionally, she serves as the college liaison for the WSU Team Mentoring Program (TMP), which is designed to support the success and retention of underrepresented students in STEM majors. Dr. Casavant also advises the CAHNRS Student Senate.

Colette’s passion is to accompany each student through their academic journey in a welcoming manner that supports and identifies their strengths, guides them as they battle through their challenges, and helps them thrive in the future. Her holistic approach to advising considers each student as a whole person. She sees each student as a sibling, child, friend, and future employee. She believes that their maturation through their academic tenure includes physical, mental, relational, and even spiritual components. While it is not her role to deeply address each of these components, she holds each element in mind during her interactions with students. Colette believes that the feelings of home and belonging are important for the success of all students.

Portrait of Gibson
Mark Gibson

M. Wade Excellence in Teaching

Mark Gibson

Dr. Mark J. Gibson is a Clinical Associate Professor and the Chair of Undergraduate Studies in the School of Economic Sciences at WSU. Mark also oversees the school’s Global Campus degree in Business Economics and advises graduate student instructors teaching both on campus and online. Born and raised in the Twin Cities area, he earned his B.S. and PhD degrees in economics from the University of Minnesota. Mark has been teaching at WSU since 2007. Mark has taught a wide range of courses from introductory undergraduate to doctoral field courses with primary interests in macroeconomics and international trade and finance. Mark’s main goal is for students to appreciate how economic analysis can be used to understand the world around them. Dr. Gibson’s research primarily focuses on modeling the effects of international trade and industrial policies when there are heterogeneous firms.

Mark has advised 16 undergraduate independent study students, has served as advisor or evaluator for nine Honors Theses, advised Ignite students, and has advised or served on the committees of over 25 MS and PhD students. One of his nominators stated, “I don’t feel like I could praise Mark enough for his efforts in being the best teacher he can be. He is an outstanding teacher that prioritizes student achievement. His service goes above and beyond and demonstrates his dedication to student success by emphasizing active learning and engaging students both inside and outside of the classroom through the Econ Club and other SES functions.”

Portrait of Ostrom
Marcia Ostrom

Faculty Excellence in Extension Award

Marcia Ostrom

Dr. Marcia Ostrom is an associate professor and extension specialist in the School of the Environment at WSU. She leads interdisciplinary extension and research programs aimed at improving the sustainability and equity of regional food and farming systems. Marcia established the Small Farms Program and the Farm Walk Program. She helps lead the WSU Food Systems Team and the Coming Together for Racial Understanding Program. Her efforts to improve the diversity and equity of agricultural extension programs have been recognized by her professional society, the USDA NIFA, the Fulbright Program, and the W. K. Kellogg Foundation. She teaches undergraduate, graduate, and Extension courses and advises graduate students in sustainable agriculture, environment, food systems, agroecology, and extension topics.

One of her nominators stated, “Her efforts to serve diverse small farms with university research and extension are tireless and much appreciated by farmers in our state. Her long standing work with women, Hmong, and Latino farmers has transformed the face of agriculture in our region.” Another stated, “The fundamental theme of her work has always been to place the voices of farmers, from all communities, at the center of her work…”

Portrait of Peters
John Peters

Faculty Excellence in Research Award

John Peters

Dr. John Peters is currently Professor and Director of the Institute of Biological Chemistry at WSU. He is also a jointly appointed Laboratory Fellow at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland WA. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Academy of Microbiology. His main interests are in electron transfer processes focusing mainly on aspects of hydrogen and nitrogen metabolism and more recently on electron bifurcation. His work spans ecology, evolution, physiology, and biochemistry of these systems where the intersection of these approaches have led to important and recognized scientific contributions. His contributions in the area of biological nitrogen fixation have relevance to applications in novel approaches for catalytic ammonia production and tailored nitrogen fixing associations to reduce inputs of nitrogenous fertilizers in agriculture and promote the growth of crops on marginal lands. John has published nearly 200 articles including seminar articles in Nature and Science, garnering an H-index of 59. He has garnered millions of dollars of funding to support his research and has led efforts to acquire millions more to establish centers of excellence.

“Dr. Peters guides and directs an impressive, well-funded, nationally and internationally recognized research program that has trained many young researchers for successful careers in science.”

Portrait of Zhang
Zhiwu Zhang

Early Career Excellence Award

Zhiwu Zhang

Dr. Zhang joined WSU as an assistant professor in 2014. Since that time, he has published 54 peer-reviewed articles, including four for Washington Wheat Life, and developed five software packages that are widely used by the scientific community. His novel ideas have resulted in 15 awards and grants, totaling over $2 million for his program and $6.3 million in collaborative research funding. He is ranked among the top 40 most cited researchers at WSU. Dr. Zhang developed a graduate-level course, Statistical Genomics, which he has taught for five semesters with excellent evaluations. His contributions in research and teaching have positioned WSU as one of the leading institutions in the development of statistical methods and computing tools for gene mapping and molecular breeding. He has served a number of professional roles including grant and journal article reviewer, academic journal editor, workshop organizer, and an invited speaker at several international venues. In 2015, he was awarded the Washington Grain Commission Distinguished Professorship for Statistical Genomics.

One of his reviewers stated, “Dr. Zhang is on a clear trajectory to excellence in his faculty role at WSU. Equally important, his contributions are balanced across the three mission areas of research, teaching, and outreach.” Another states, “Illustrative of his fearless approach to science, Zhiwu has developed and released cutting-edge statistical methods and computing tools as components of highly reversed software packages that have democratized statistical genomics for literally thousands of users around the world.” A graduate student said of Dr. Zhang, “I feel that it is the interpersonal communication skills that are most importantly addressed by Dr. Zhang’s educational style. These skills are difficult to teach and, just as difficult to demonstrate, yet I believe that Dr. Zhang achieves both.”

Portrait of Salazar
Amy Salazar

Land Grant Mission Award

Amy Salazar

Dr. Amy Salazar is an Assistant Professor in the WSU Vancouver Department of Human Development and a faculty member in the Prevention Science doctoral degree program. Dr. Salazar’s area of scholarly expertise involves developing and testing interventions for children and youth with or at risk of child welfare system involvement. She is particularly interested in expanding the evidence base for interventions designed to support youth transitioning from foster care to adulthood. She is the author of several peer-reviewed publications on the experiences of youth in foster care and a licensed Master’s Social Worker in the state of Oregon. Her training as a social worker has led her to approach her scholarship in a way that has direct, tangible impacts on the local community, her students, and the WSU and scientific communities at local, regional, national, and international levels. Dr. Salazar has been invited twice to speak on United States congressional briefing panels hosted by the US Senate and the Congressional Caucuses on Foster Youth.

One of the ways by which Amy fulfills the Land Grant Mission of the university is through her work that supports the postsecondary success of foster youth in the state of Washington’s Passport to Careers Scholarship Program, a state-wide support program network for youth in foster care. One of her recommenders stated, “Amy’s numerous research, teaching, and service contributions are outstanding and align perfectly with WSU’s land grant mission. The degree to which she has integrated her scholarship across all three domains is extraordinary and has resulted in maximum impact for the public good.”

Composite image of 14 portraits
CAHNRS Communications Team

Team Award

CAHNRS Communications

Team Leader – Brandon Schrand

The CAHNRS Communications team supports CAHNRS and WSU Extension through web development, news, video and photography, publications, logos, templates, and related services. The 14 team members come from diverse backgrounds, geographically spanning the United States, and bring a wide range of skills and experiences, ranging from business marketing and academic teaching, to radio journalism and professional illustration. Team members are located in Hulbert Hall and the Cooper Publications Building on the WSU campus as well as at the WSU Tri-Cities and Vancouver campuses. CAHNRS Communications strives to keep stakeholders and alumni, faculty, students, and staff, as well as the WSU community and the wider world informed about the college’s advances in research, academics, Extension, and outreach, as well as our society-benefiting work serving the land-grant mission. Members of the team have been recognized with numerous awards for their video, design, web, and publications.

Over the past five years, team members have written more than 1,450 articles and web posts, completed 817 design projects, 3,919 web tasks, published more than 135 newsletters, and produced 474 video projects. The publications team has processed 839 Fast Track peer reviewed publication submissions, editing over 8,000 pages of submitted material. Additionally, their three established podcasts have a combined 262 episodes with more than 86,400 plays.

DISCLAIMER: Our team had no role in choosing us for this honor. But we appreciate it!

Portrait of Ringo
Shawn Ringo

Special Award for Excellence

Shawn Ringo

Due to the missions of the Research and Extension Centers, personnel at the Centers work under high personal risk for exposure and transmission of COVID-19. The Centers would not have successfully navigated the challenges of COVID without the proactive and insightful support of Shawn Ringo from WSU Environmental Health and Safety. His leadership and responsiveness ensured that WSU faculty, staff, and students were protected from the serious threat of COVID-19.

Portrait of Chandel
Abhilash K. Chandel

Graduate Student Leadership Award

Abhilash K. Chandel, Biological Systems Engineering

Abhilash Chandel is a PhD student in the Department of Biological Systems Engineering and is studying in Prosser. Abhilash comes to us from India where his family is involved in agriculture. It is these childhood roots in agriculture that motived him to purse his studies and travel to WSU. He has BS and MS degrees from India Institute of Technology. At WSU, the focus of his research is on utilizing small unmanned aerial systems to map spatial crop water use of field and perennial specialty crops. His research is conducted in collaboration with commercial mint, potato, alfalfa, wine grape, and apple growers. While at WSU, Abhilash has received the Walter and Vinnie Hinz Scholarship as the outstanding graduate student in BSE, a Water Smart Innovation graduate student award, as well as departmental travel awards and an Alaska Airlines travel award. He served as President of the WSU chapter of the American Society of Agriculture and Biological Engineers and is currently a member of the Agricultural Automation ad Engineering Club. Abhilash will be graduating in Spring 2021.

Media Contacts

Scott Weybright, Public Relations/Communications Coordinator, 509-335-2967