IANR faculty, staff honored with Holling awards

Eight University of Nebraska-Lincoln faculty and staff members received the 2012 Holling Family Awards for Teaching Excellence in Agriculture and Natural Resources.

The annual awards honor outstanding teaching in the university’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

This year’s recipients are:

Senior Faculty Teaching Excellence: Erin E. Blankenship, professor, Department of Statistics; Charles (Chuck) A. Burr, extension educator, West Central Research and Extension Center; Randy W. Pryor, extension educator, Southeast Research and Extension Center; Jerry D. Volesky, extension specialist, West Central Research and Extension Center.

Junior Faculty Teaching Excellence: Lindsay M. Chichester, extension educator, Southeast Research and Extension Center; Matthew L. Spangler, assistant professor, Department of Animal Science.

Teaching Assistant Teaching Excellence: Kim Cluff, instructor, Department of Biological Systems Engineering; Pamela S. Fellers, instructor, Department of Statistics.

Blankenship has taught undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in the mathematical statistics sequence since fall 2008. She is known for engaging students in the statistical concepts and ideas they need to succeed as ordinary citizens or statisticians and researchers. She developed nontraditional classroom activities, including low-stakes writing assignments that encourage statistical thinking and applications.

Burr is known statewide for high quality programming, teaching and leadership. He was project coordinator for the “Enhancing the Value of Water Through Management Education,” which provided irrigators and others with knowledge to maximize benefits of limited water supplies and to help center-pivot irrigators apply water more efficiently. The project, which comprised 10 presentations, resulted in significant pumping-cost savings for participating irrigators and water conservation for the state.

Pryor uses a variety of teaching methods including on-farm demonstrations, conferences, tours and workshops to help producers lower input costs, reduce water use and maintain or increase yields and profitability. He has led programs on irrigation management, no-till and atrazine. Also, he has worked with industry and producers on the innovative Field to Market carbon footprint project and he has been involved the last four years in the Nebraska Ag Water Network.

Volesky has successfully developed a range-extension program that delivers a relevant, complete education package to rangeland users ranging from youth to adult and from cattle ranchers to multiple-use managers. His innovative and interactive methods engage participants and have a significant impact on sustainability of private and public rangelands.

Chichester has increased local programming and provided regional leadership for issues critical to the beef industry. She teaches consumers about beef as safe and nutritious food using a variety of innovative approaches. She seeks opportunities to partner with businesses and producers. Chichester is a member of the Nebraska-Iowa Animal Welfare Team which is addressing critical issues related to consumer perceptions.

Spangler coordinates the Nebraska Beef Industry Scholars program, an undergraduate certificate program drawing students from many majors across the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources. In addition to coordinating the program, he teaches the sophomore/junior industry tour, recruits students to the program and secures funding.

Cluff has been a teaching assistant for three years for the Agribusiness Entrepreneurship in Food Products Marketing class. He also is the instructor for Biological and Environmental Transport Processes. Cluff encourages students to excel in addition to being an excellent student himself.

Fellers is known for her enthusiasm and innovation. Since August 2009, she has served as a graduate instructor, including the primary instructor for seven sections of Introduction to Statistics. Fellers was an inaugural member of the new teaching assistant mentor program, which involves pairing a new teaching assistant with an experienced mentor. Fellers’ generosity with her fellow graduate student instructors has enhanced students’ learning in many sections beyond her own.

The Holling program was made possible by a gift from the Holling family to honor their pioneer parents. John Holling was a 1912 electrical engineering graduate of UNL and his brother, Gustave Holling, attended the College of Agriculture before farming the family's land in the Wood River area.