CANR & MSU Extension faculty and staffers to be honored during MSU Awards Convocation

Two College of Agriculture and Natural Resources faculty members will be honored for their outstanding contributions to education and research with William J. Beal Outstanding Faculty Awards at the annual MSU Awards Convocation Feb. 9.

Two College of Agriculture and Natural Resources faculty members will be honored for their outstanding contributions to education and research with William J. Beal Outstanding Faculty Awards at the annual MSU Awards Convocation Feb. 9. Three MSU Extension staffers will be recognized with Distinguished Academic Staff Awards.

Each year, William J. Beal Outstanding Faculty Award winners are honored for a comprehensive and sustained record of scholarly excellence in research and/or creative activities, instruction and outreach. The William J. Beal Outstanding Faculty Awards are supported by the Office of University Development.

Distinguished Academic Staff Awards are presented to academic specialists and MSU Extension academic staff for extraordinary achievement, excellence and exceptional contributions in advising, curriculum development, outreach, extension, research and/or teaching. They are supported by the Office of University Development.

Patricia Soranno 
College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Patricia Soranno is an internationally recognized leader in the fields of landscape limnology and macrosystems ecology, two recent sub fields in ecology that her work is helping to define. Macrosystems ecology? is the study of diverse ecological phenomena at the scale of small regions and their interactions with phenomena at other scales. To be more specific and to explain the nature of Soranno’s research work in these emerging fields, consider that problems with far-reaching impact, such as global climate change, need solutions and methods of study that are equally far-reaching. However, because most scientists’ knowledge of the inner workings of nature come from studying individual systems such as a lake or a field, it is hard to apply this fine-scaled knowledge to understand how the many diverse systems within a region or a continent will respond to global change. Soranno’s research and leadership in the emerging field of macrosystems ecology is filling this gap.

Soranno studies the causes and consequences of excess nutrients in freshwater systems at broad scales. She has published key articles that describe the conceptual basis and methods for, as well as the challenges inherent in, studying ecological systems at these less-studied scales. For example, one of her publications describes how the practice of sharing data needs to become the norm to not only move science forward but as an ethical imperative. Soranno’s research is typically collaborative and interdisciplinary, which is needed to tackle such complex environmental challenges. In recognition of her scholarly contributions, she recently was selected to serve as the founding editor-in-chief of her professional society’s new high profile journal, Limnology and Oceanography Letters, and to lead her peers through the many changes in both science and scientific publishing that are occurring today—and are necessary to conduct ecological research relevant to today’s challenges.

Soranno takes a similar approach to her teaching and departmental service. She?uses the best available pedagogy in her classrooms, tailors it to course-learning goals, and, when there is a gap in available approaches, develops new ones. Additionally, she provides extensive leadership within her department to improve transparency in procedures and operations, particularly for reappointment, promotion and tenure.

George Sundin 
College Agriculture and Natural Resources

Since joining MSU in 2002, George Sundin has developed an internationally recognized basic and applied research program as well as an extension program that has gained international recognition. His lab conducts pioneering research on plant diseases and then provides information to growers on how to protect their fruit trees against devastating losses. His work helps protect Michigan’s multibillion-dollar fruit tree industry.

Sundin is globally recognized for his basic research program that explores the development of important plant diseases, such as fire blight. His work on the biofilm formation in fire blight helped explain how the disease spreads through individual trees and orchards. Further, his DNA repair research helped explain the biology?and evolution of plant pathogens. Sundin’s review article in the recent ‘Annual Review of Phytopathology’ highlights his research on plasmids in phytopathogenic bacteria. His combining of fundamental molecular genetics and biochemical studies with his ecological research on ultraviolet radiation is widely recognized for its innovation. He has published 93 peer-reviewed journal articles.

Sundin teaches the graduate-level course “Prokaryotic Diseases of Plants,” which examines the prokaryotic genera associated with plant diseases. In addition to teaching graduate students in the classroom, he has trained 10 postdocs, 10 doctoral candidates, and 11 M.S. students, while also serving on 40 thesis and dissertation committees. Students at MSU and around the world admire his expertise in both basic and applied research. In January 2015, he was invited to present a seminar to the Department of Plant Pathology and then named the 2014–15 Calavan Lecturer at the University of California, Riverside.

Sundin has served as associate, senior?and editor-in-chief of the prestigious journal ‘Phytopathology.’ In addition to editorships, ?he has reviewed 285 research papers for 58 journals, reviewed 176 different grants and programs, and served on 10 different national, international, and professional society committees in addition to 16 different University and department committees. Sundin has an unparalleled service record within MSU Extension. Each year he updates the ‘Michigan Fruit Management Guide’ that lists all the fungicides that are labeled in Michigan for disease control and rates the fungicides from the trials that he conducts each year. He has produced 28 Extension videos for YouTube, has presented 308 talks to growers, and published 73 Extension bulletins and 165 newsletters and online articles.

Phillip Durst 
MSU Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute, MSU Extension and College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Phillip Durst, a senior MSU Extension educator, is nationally and internationally recognized for his work in dairy and beef cattle health. Because he was not born and raised on a dairy farm, Durst refers to the dairy industry as his adopted passion. He has been heard to say, “The Michigan dairy industry is too small not to know everyone in it,” and that sentiment has been a driving force in his career. He seeks to know all Michigan’s dairy and beef producers on a personal level for the opportunity to fully understand their needs and bring MSU Extension resources to them.

Durst has developed two young dairy producer groups that meet regularly to develop their dairy business and management skills and knowledge. He encourages them to seek mutual success as they help one another become better managers. He has also worked with farm owners and managers to help them develop their employee management skills. He has shared principles of farm employee management through articles, a regular column in DairyBusiness East, three national and international webinars, podcasts, and follow-up emails with conference participants.

Working closely with the faculty of the College of Veterinary Medicine, Durst has taken?a leadership role in helping beef and dairy producers apply disease prevention practices on their farms and has played a key role in Michigan’s Bovine Tuberculosis Program, working to return Michigan to TB-free status. Principal investigators in the College of Veterinary Medicine have recruited Durst to be an integral member of multiple grant projects, including An Integrated Milk Quality Extension and Education Program to Reduce Mastitis and Integrated Cost-effective Control of Bovine Leukemia Virus in Dairy Cattle. James Averill, a state veterinarian, said, “Phillip Durst is a walking example of academic and government partnerships for the benefit of industry.”

Durst’s practical knowledge and presentation skills have brought him opportunities to speak at dairy conferences in Ukraine and China, and his articles have appeared in every major dairy publication in the United States and in many other international journals.

Terry Gibb
MSUE Greening Michigan Institute, MSU Extension and College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Throughout her career as an MSU Extension educator, Terry Gibb has excelled in creating partnerships and developing innovative program- ming that not only meet the needs of constituents but routinely looks ahead to address upcoming issues. On multiple occasions, she has success- fully taken on work in areas in which she had no previous experience. This can-do attitude has led to her working in a wide variety of programming on behalf of MSUE to meet the critical needs of Michigan’s residents. A Macomb County senior planner said, “I have had the opportunity to work with Terry over the last 10 to 12 years [and she] has been instrumental in bringing educational programs to our county.”

Gibb has developed numerous natural resources, and government and public policy edu- cation programs that have been replicated around the state. Within three months of identifying the need for a foreclosure education and counseling program, Gibb had a successful program running. She continued to adapt the program as the crisis deepened and the situation changed, initiating partnerships with local communities, regional and state agencies, and state and federal legislators to leverage resources and promote education. This program was replicated in several other counties, and she was one of only four agency representatives selected by the Michigan State Housing Development Authority to provide statewide training on best management practices for foreclosure education and counseling.

Another one of her programs involved a law enacted in 2010 that restricted the use of phosphorus-containing lawn fertilizers and incorporated best management practices to protect water quality. Because these changes would affect homeowners, government, and commercial landscapers, Gibb combined?her natural resources work with public policy?to partner with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development ?to develop an educational program on this legislation that was presented as a live statewide webinar; more than 100 sites in 35 counties signed in to participate. A follow-up survey in August 2012 revealed that 50 percent of participants changed one or more practices as a result of the webinar.

Gibb has authored successful grants in natural resources, and government and public policy and has received more than $500,000 from state and national foundations, agencies, and local communities to create curriculum and develop, deliver, and expand educational materials on water quality, foreclosure, groundwater, housing and volunteer recruitment and training.

Kurt Schindler 

MSUE Greening Michigan Institute, MSU Extension and College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Kurt Schindler, senior MSU Extension educator, is recognized as an expert on local land use planning and zoning across MSU?and throughout Michigan. With his thorough understanding of related law, competence in local government administration, and ability to translate complex topics and processes?into understandable curricular components, Mr. Schindler is a highly sought-after speaker, educator and mentor.

Since joining MSU Extension in 1999, Schindler has developed educational materials and programs on land use and public policy topics?for appointed and elected officials in Michigan. He has developed more than 50 Extension programs and authored more than 80 Extension bulletins and technical briefs on planning, zoning, and community economic development. He has also authored more than 15 peer-reviewed book chapters and articles and maintains a newsletter, Schindler’s Listserv, on planning and zoning court cases, legislation, research and training.

Through his work with the MSU Land Policy Institute, Schindler helped develop?and launch LPI’s New Economy and Strategic Placemaking initiatives that led to the Michigan Prosperity Initiative in 2009 and the MI place Partnership Initiative in 2012. As part of the MPI, the goal of which was to make Michigan more globally competitive in the 21st century, MSU and state agency leaders were called to support and promote the statewide educational initiative. Schindler was a contributing author of the Michigan Prosperity Initiative curriculum and helped train thousands of Michigan local officials and residents in the three levels of the training—for community members, for local officials, and for land use and economic development practitioners. Transformational education and changes in local government decision making and practices resulted.

One of Schindler’s most effective educational programs was Citizen Planner—and it remains MSU Extension’s flagship land use education program after more than 13 years. Partner organizations and local government liability insurance providers recognize it as essential training for land use decision makers. Such programs have advanced the working knowledge of countless local elected and appointed officials, resulting in numerous local government regulatory and policy amendments and improving the quality of life and economic prosperity in Michigan.

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