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Ag Faculty Recognized for Excellence in Teaching, Research, Service
South Dakota Ag Connection - 03/13/2019

Faculty members, researchers and scientists at South Dakota State University were recognized at the annual Celebration of Faculty Excellence. Seven faculty members in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences were honored for outstanding research, teaching and service.

"The Celebration of Faculty Excellence is an opportunity to recognize and acknowledge some of our faculty that have made significant impacts on their students, fields of research or communities and society," said College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences Dean John Killefer. "We had the privilege of celebrating several of our faculty who are truly exceptional and are making a difference at SDSU, the state and world."

David Clay, a professor in the Department of Agronomy, Horticulture and Plant Science, was named a distinguished professor.

"This is the university's ultimate academic recognition presented to those who have reached the pinnacle of their careers through distinguished performance and national or international recognition," President Barry Dunn stated when he presented the award to Clay.

Clay has been a professor of plant sciences since 2001. He has provided soils training to over 1,500 undergraduate students and 50 graduate students. His research, teaching and outreach focus on the adoption of technologies that improve agricultural profitability and sustainability.

Clay has served as a Fellow of the American Society of Agronomy since 2007. Currently he is serving as the first editor from South Dakota for the "Agronomy Journal", which is published by the American Society of Agronomy. He is the editor of sixteen books, including "Precision Agriculture Basics" (2018), "Practical Mathematics for Precision Farming" (2017), "IGROW Corn: Best Management Practices for Corn Production" (2016), and "Mathematics and Calculations for Agronomists and Soil Scientists" (2011). He has also published over 265 referred papers in books and professional journals.

Joseph Cassady, professor and head of the Department of Animal Science, received the Dr. Harold and Barbara Bailey Award for Excellence in Academic Department Leadership. Bailey served SDSU as vice president for academic affairs for 24 years. From 1979 to 1985, he also directed programs to develop departmental leadership for the South Dakota and North Dakota Boards of Regents and the American Council on Education.

Since June 2013, Cassady has led the Department of Animal Science during a time of significant growth. Undergraduate enrollment increased by 14 percent, graduate enrollment doubled, a new Swine Education and Research Facility and Cow-Calf Education and Research Facility were added, and the Kohler/Gee Livestock Judging Team Endowment met its $1 million goal. Cassady earned a bachelor's degree in animal science from Iowa State University and earned master's and doctoral degrees in animal science from the University of Nebraska. Before coming to SDSU, Cassady spent 12 years on the faculty of the Department of Animal Science at North Carolina State University, raising to the rank of professor.

Bob Thaler, professor in the Department of Animal Science and SDSU Extension swine specialist, and Lora Berg, director of marketing and communications for the college, were recipients of the F.O. Butler Awards. The F.O. Butler Awards are presented to faculty who achieve the highest levels of excellence in their respective roles at SDSU and in so doing, make valuable, lasting contributions to the well-being of the people of South Dakota. The awards were established in 1944 by Chicago industrialist, F.O. Butler.

Thaler was awarded the F.O. Butler Award for Excellence in Extension/Outreach. Thaler's SDSU Extension expertise and leadership in pig production is recognized locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. He received the 2015 Governor's Ag Ambassador Award from former Governor Dennis Daugaard. He was also awarded a Fulbright scholarship in 2018 to work at the Vietnam National University of Agriculture in Hanoi.

Thaler led the development of the SDSU Swine Education and Research Facility, which is the newest facility of its kind in the country. His efforts and reputation in the pig industry enabled SDSU to acquire the necessary funds from individuals, organizations and industry allies in not only South Dakota, but other states including Minnesota, Iowa and North Dakota. He continues to be involved in research, teaching and extension activities at the facility.

Thaler serves as a mentor to junior faculty, especially those with SDSU Extension appointments. He helps guide them in finding effective methods and topics for extension programming and applied research. Thaler credits the majority of his success to working in teams with great colleagues, as well as having the opportunity to work with some of the best producers, their children and allied industry partners.

Berg received the F.O. Butler Award for Excellence in Community Service. She currently serves as an advisor for the Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow, Little International and Sigma Alpha professional sorority. Through her role as advisor for several student organizations, Berg provides mentorship to around 250 students on a regular basis. She has the unique ability to relate to all ages and demographics. In her current position at SDSU, Lora utilizes her communication and photography skills to professionally distribute information related to the college. She also received the honor of Agribusiness Woman of the Year from the SDSU Ceres women's fraternity in 2015.

Receiving the Faculty Engagement in International Research Award was Anne Fennell, professor in the Department of Agronomy, Horticulture and Plant Science, and Srinivas Janaswamy, assistant professor in the Department of Dairy and Food Science.

Since Fennell started her position at SDSU in 1992, she has been dedicated to developing international collaborations to expand the reputation of SDSU in the worldwide agricultural research community. She is an internationally recognized expert on the genetic and physiological aspects of grapevine bud dormancy. Fennell has traveled to many countries to present her research findings. She is recognized as a leading international scientist for research on bud dormancy mechanisms and non-Vinifera grapevine species. Her research is an invaluable tool for facing the future's challenges in grapevine breeding programs.

In addition, Fennell has played an integral role in developing VitisNet, which has resulted in the creation of a system biology tool to rapidly analyze large data sets of gene products. Her success as a researcher is highlighted by several awards, millions of dollars in federal grant funding and more than 50 impactful publications.

Janaswamy has established an impactful research program on functional biopolymers, specifically on the design and development of carriers of bioactive compounds. Janaswamy is well known in the international scientific community due to his scientific contributions.

Focused on healthier diets, his research emphasis is on breads made from orange-fleshed sweet potatoes to combat Vitamin A deficiency. This is an outcome of his collaboration with the International Potato Center in Nairobi, Kenya. His research led to a new realization about reduced starch digestion of sweet potato breads, which has potential to aid individuals with glycemic issues. The collaboration is ongoing and Janaswamy is currently expanding research on sweet potato products that could address both Vitamin A deficiency and diabetic concerns.

Furthermore, his efforts extend to functional products from agriculture biomass to replace plastics. Janaswamy is also teaming with several Chinese and Indian universities, establishing strong research collaborations. These well-coordinated activities will further Janaswamy's research in fostering novel contributions to the field of food science and, in-turn, will be valuable to SDSU and his collaborators.

Honored as the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences Outstanding Researcher is Sharon Clay, distinguished professor in the Department of Agronomy, Horticulture and Plant Science.

Clay has a specialization in weed science and has worked with crop and weed interactions, herbicide and soil interactions and environmental quality, mob grazing effects on weed management in range, prescribed fire effects on weed management in range, biological weed control, organic weed control using cover crops and grit application, and saline/sodic soil remediation using different plants. She has secured over $10 million as a principal investigator (PI) and close to $50 million as a co-PI.

She is a high-impact scholar with over 160 referred publications. She was awarded Weed Science Paper of the Year from the Weed Science Society of America for papers in the journal "Weed Science" in 2007, 2012 and 2013. She has also contributed to learning on a national scale through authorship of six books and more than 30 book chapters. The textbook, "Precision Farming -- A Global Perspective," includes a chapter co-authored by Clay and colleagues from SDSU and is the leading class reference on precision agriculture today. Another book for which she is a co-author, "Mathematics and Calculations for Agronomists and Soil Scientists," is widely used in classrooms throughout the globe and is available in English, Spanish and Portuguese. She was also a co-author and contributor for the book, "Best Management Practices for Corn Production in South Dakota," which was designated a publication of excellence by the American Society of Agronomy.

Although she does not hold a formal appointment with SDSU Extension, Clay has long influenced extension programs through applied research and working with SDSU Extension colleagues to disseminate information.

Clay's leadership extends beyond the university, as she is the first woman president of the American Society of Agronomy. She also served on committees to help set up the precision agriculture and resistance management specialties for the Certified Crop Advisors program.

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