The Annual Conference brings more than 300 Rutgers Cooperative Extension (RCE) faculty and staff together to network, engage in professional development, exchange ideas for programming and research collaboration, and share best practices for service excellence in the delivery of research-based educational programming. The two-day program was held virtually on December 14 and in person at the Douglass Student Center on December 15. The following awards were presented during the conference.
Wilbur M. Runk Award
This annual award supported by the Wilbur M. Runk Endowment provides monetary support to one or more graduate students enrolled in a graduate program at the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, Rutgers University, and mentored (as major advisor) by any faculty member with an Extension Specialist appointment.
Recipient: Katarzyna Madalinska; Faculty Advisor: Anne Nielson
“Kasia” Madalinska is an Entomology Ph.D. candidate in Anne Nielsen’s laboratory. Her research focuses on the phenology and interactions with host plants of the invasive spotted lanternfly (SLF) with an emphasis on the impacts on NJ vineyards.
Research findings to date have been published in one peer-reviewed journal (Frontiers in Insect Science) with a second regional study under review (Journal of Economic Entomology). Kasia’s research has helped to develop biosurveillance methods for spotted lanternfly and she has worked closely with four New Jersey vineyards during her phenology monitoring. In cooperation with Nielsen, she provided growers with up-to-date extension information on SLF biology and management.
Mary Jane Willis Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Award
The purpose of the Mary Jane Willis Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Award is to recognize outstanding efforts and accomplishments in achieving and sustaining diversity, equity, and inclusion in Extension organizations, programs, and audiences.
Recipient: Sharon Kinsey, 4-H Youth Development
Advancing English Language Learners Road to Success – the Camden County 4-H/Rowan Upward Bound Program Partnership. The program supports the life skill development of first-generation college-bound students who are also English Language Learners and has been meeting the call to expand the Extension audience and work with underserved, at-risk youth for more than a decade. The program provides students with an abundance of high-quality, high-context educational options from STEM to healthy living and leadership development.
Specialist of the Year
The Specialist of the Year Award is determined with input from county agents across the three Rutgers Cooperative Extension Departments.
Recipient: David Robinson, Climatology
Dr. David Robinson, Distinguished Professor in the Department of Geography, serves as the New Jersey State Climatologist. Dr. Robinson is a recognized and highly sought expert on the state’s weather and climatic issues. In presenting the award, RCE Director Brian Schilling recognized Dr. Robinson as not only a highly regarded academician, but also for his well-earned reputation as a collegial and accessible faculty member who works to advance the generation and dissemination of information relied upon by countless New Jersey stakeholders.
Best of Best (Team Award)
The RCE Best of the Best award is an annual recognition of a multi-departmental cooperative extension team for its efforts to develop and deliver a program with documented and measurable impacts within a service area.
Recipients: Michele Bakacs, Sal Mangiafico, Amy Rowe, Steve Yergeau, Doug Zemeckis.
This award recognizes the team’s outstanding collaborative efforts and accomplishments in planning, implementing, evaluating, and marketing the Earth Day Every Day program at both the county and state levels. The program has extended information and education toa large number of New Jerseyans on actions they can take to protect the environment.
RCE Awards of Excellence
Rutgers Cooperative Extension excellence awards recognize faculty, staff, and volunteers who demonstrate outstanding contributions to RCE through their performance, impact, and creativity.
Recipient: Dr. Doug Zemeckis – Faculty Excellence
Since 2017, Dr. Doug Zemeckis has exemplified excellence in his role as the marine extension agent serving Ocean, Atlantic, and Monmouth counties. Dr. Zemeckis has an impressive track record of developing and delivering high-quality and impactful programs to address needs related to marine fisheries, aquaculture, and coastal marine resource management.
Recipient: Diane Larson – Program Associate/State Program Coordinator Excellence
Diane has been a member of the Rutgers Master Gardeners team for over two decades is presently supervising approximately 30 new master gardeners. Over her tenure, Diane has supervised more than 650 master gardeners and oversaw the creation of a Junior Master Gardener program, a vibrant RMG outreach program that has fostered collaborations with schools, parks, and the county. A consummate professional, Diane has also provided invaluable support during times of personnel transitions within the Monmouth County agriculture and natural resource office, ensuring continuity of outreach, outstanding clientele service, volunteer management, and program development to county residents.
Recipient: Yesenia Rivera – Administrative Support Excellence
Yesenia Rivera has been an Administrative Assistant in the Department of 4-H Youth Development since 2019. Yesenia has built a well-earned reputation as a ‘team player’ and an essential contributor to the effective operation of a vibrant statewide 4-H program. Colleagues describe her as supportive, diligent, and conscientious, all hallmarks of a valued and respected professional.
John and Anne Gerwig Director’s Awards
The John and Anne Gerwig Director’s Fund provides financial resources that allow the Director of Rutgers Cooperative Extension to empower extension professionals to make a greater impact on New Jersey communities. These discretionary funds are used to stimulate innovative projects that result in scholarly output and external resourcing.
Christine Zellers (FCHS educator, Cape May County) – Cape May County Walkability
Kelly Dziak (4-H county agent, Morris County) – 4-H, Blast off in STEM! ResistoJets Rocketry 4-H Club and the NASA Student Launch Initiative 2022-23
Tim Waller (ANR agent, Cumberland County) and William Errickson (ANR agent, Monmouth County)– Generating Deliverables for a Nursery Resources Poster
Alayne Toretta (4-H county agent, Warren County) and Sharon Kinsey (4-H agent, Camden County) – NJ 4-H Legislative Leadership Day
Cesar Rodriguez-Saona (extension specialists, blueberry/cranberry entomology)– Determining Current Pollination Services for Blueberry Growers in New Jersey
Director’s Award for Distinguished Service
Recipient: Ryck Suydam– Owner/Operator of Suydam Farms and past president New Jersey Farm Bureau
RCE Director Brian Schilling presented Ryck Suydam with the Director’s Award for Distinguished Service to Rutgers Cooperative Extension. Mr. Suydam is the owner and operator of Suydam Farms, located in Somerset, and recently concluded 10-years as president of the New Jersey Farm Bureau. Dr. Schilling noted that “Ryck is a true friend of Rutgers Cooperative Extension, personally and in his capacity as president of New Jersey Farm Bureau. He is a strong and informed voice in Trenton who has steadfastly supported the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station budget, also in addition to providing sound advice on industry priorities and needs.” Mr. Suydam also received remarks of appreciation for his distinguished service to RCE from Rutgers-New Brunswick Chancellor-Provost Dr. Francine Conway, who was in attendance.