SDSU faculty honored for excellence in extension, research, teaching and service
BROOKINGS, S.D. — Faculty in the SDSU College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences were recently recognized for excellence in extension, research, teaching and service by the SDSU Chapter of Gamma Sigma Delta, the Honor Society of Agriculture.
Gamma Sigma Delta promotes and recognizes high standards of scholarship and achievement in all branches of agricultural science and education.
Alexander “Sandy” Smart, a professor and assistant head of the Department of Natural Resource Management and SDSU Extension rangeland management specialist, received the International Award for Distinguished Achievement in Agriculture from Gamma Sigma Delta International.
“Dr. Smart has made transformative contributions to agriculture,” said John Westra, president of Gamma Sigma Delta International. “He has made a tremendous impact to the institution and to peers in his career. He has achieved high standards in rangeland ecology management research which has led to an impactful research program.”
Smart teaches Introduction to Integrated Ranch Management, Natural Resource Management Field Techniques, Habitat Conservation and Management, Grassland Fire Ecology, and Grazing Ecology and Management. His research focuses on grazing management, pasture and rangeland improvements and prescribed fires.
“One thing that really stands out about Sandy is how well he represents the tripartite mission of the land-grant university,” said John Killefer, South Dakota Corn Endowed Dean of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences. “He plays multiple positions extremely well and is a benefit to SDSU and agriculture as a whole. He’s an all-around player here.”
Michele Dudash, head of the Department of Natural Resource Management, added, “When I talk to our landowners, they are so thankful for Sandy’s passion and knowledge. He is also a great mentor to our students and his passion truly spills over to others.”
Rosie Nold, a professor and assistant department head in the Department of Animal Science, received the Excellence in Teaching award. She teaches the Introduction to Animal Science and Livestock Evaluation and Marketing courses. She is also responsible for the wool judging team.
Additionally, Nold serves as the undergraduate coordinator for the department, which includes staying abreast of course enrollments, major and minor enrollments, graduation and retention rates, stakeholder feedback and student feedback to strategically address current needs and plans for future changes. She worked to add a meat science minor and made changes to the animal science minor and major requirements to better address the needs of a diverse group of students. She also serves as a mentor for new instructors and staff in regard to teaching and curriculum.
“Rosie is extremely talented at educating the next generation,” said Joseph Cassady, head of the Department of Animal Science. “While teaching the Introduction to Animal Science course, she also makes a point of helping students develop the skills necessary to be successful the rest of their college career and she has been extremely effective in doing so. She continually receives high teaching scores from students. As the undergraduate coordinator for the department, she has also made needed changes to the curriculum and has added several minors.”
ZhengRong “Jimmy” Gu, a professor in the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, was honored with the Excellence in Research award.
His research focuses on renewable graphene and advanced carbon materials, tailored materials for biomedical engineering, biosensor (electrochemical), fuel cell, Li-ion batteries, bioseparation technology, catalysts of biorefinery, water purification and recovery, bio-dust fire monitoring and prevention, transmission electron microscope techniques for materials characterization and biomedical diagnosis, and bioinspired silicon-carbon and silica material.
Gu also teaches the Bioseparation and Unit Operation courses.
“Jimmy is a versatile collaborator who has worked with individuals across many colleges and departments on campus,” said Van Kelley, head of the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering. “He is an impactful researcher who always has new, innovative research ideas. He is also a tremendous mentor to graduate students.”
Anthony Bly, an SDSU Extension soils field specialist, received the Excellence in Extension award. The primary focus of his work is on soil health and soil fertility. The emphasis on soil health has brought many opportunities because of concern for sustainability and the environment.
“Anthony is the epitome of an extension professional,” said Karla Trautman, director of SDSU Extension. “He has prioritized the relationship with our producers to successfully work with them. He’s helped build momentum around soil health in South Dakota over the course of his career. Anthony’s name comes up as an expert in the field and he is well respected by producers.”
Eric Nelson, a distinguished professor and assistant head of the Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, received the Honorary Service award. Nelson is a virologist with an interest in emerging viral diseases and the development of diagnostic assays. He has worked with several significant emerging diseases over his career, including porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus, swine enteric coronaviruses and most recently SARS-CoV-2.
Over the last few years, much of his focus was on the planning, design and construction/renovation of the new South Dakota Animal Disease Research and Diagnostic Laboratory on campus. He also assisted with expanding research programs in the department and helped with initiation of the Center for Biologics Research and Commercialization, which is partially supported by the South Dakota Governor’s Office of Economic Development.
“Eric worked countless hours on the construction of the new South Dakota Animal Disease Research and Diagnostic Laboratory to make sure all details were addressed,” said Jane Hennings, head of the Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences. “The building wouldn’t have been possible without him. He took a lot of oversight and responsibility in the project. He also serves as a mentor to our researchers and makes sure the labs are functional for them.”