College Selects Annual Award Recipients

Published Date: Mar 24, 2021 11:30:00 AM

An W.K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Center employee, plant science professor, plant science lecturer, a graduate nutrition student, and an undergraduate plant science student were selected for the Huntley College of Agriculture’s awards of the year.

Undergraduate Student Leader of the Year

Shubham Malani, a third-year plant science major from Ahmedabad, India, was named the John E. Andrews Undergraduate Student Leader of the year.

Malani began working in the campus plant nursery at AGRIscapes in May 2019 and continued to work there throughout the COVID-19 pandemic in the campus plant nursery at AGRIscapes, handling everything from irrigation to managing the nursery’s Instagram account.

“He works diligently and enthusiastically in the greenhouse and assists my graduate students in their projects while learning from them,” one of his professors said in nominating Malani. “He is a trustworthy, reliable, good-humored student and a friend who supports others in and out of the classroom.”

“Shubham is thoughtful in his work, asks thoughtful and engaging questions, and is enthusiastic about the material,” another professor said. “He shows tremendous success in his studies and encourages his classmates as well.”

Malani aspires to become a plant-breeding scientist.

“I love to study genetics and plant breeding,” he said. “My major life goal is to create my own pattern seeds which help the world to reduce hunger.”

As the award recipient, Malani will receive $500 and a plaque. The college also will honor him at a virtual ceremony at the end of the academic year.

Graduate Student Leader of the Year

Sarah Caballero, a graduate student in nutrition, was named the John E. Andrews Graduate Student Leader of the Year.

A Yorba Linda native, Caballero (’19, food science and technology) works in the Learning Resource Center, training tutors on how to mentor effectively.

“Sarah has demonstrated passion and skills for mentoring and teaching,” a faculty member wrote.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Caballero trained undergraduates in the lab, going beyond the techniques to explain the concepts behind experiments and results. Since the pandemic began, she has helped students with the project write-ups and abstracts for different conferences.

The Department of Nutrition and Food Science also hired Caballero as a teaching associate for FST 3180L Sensory Evaluation of Foods Laboratory for Spring 2020 and 2021 semesters. During Spring 2020, Caballero took the initiative and provided suggestions on improving the class that were implemented. This spring, she has helped transform the lab to a virtual environment.

“Without a doubt, I can say that her leadership, writing, analytical, critical thinking and laboratory skills, commitment, time management and animated approach to learning and teaching makes her one of my top 1 percent students and mentees,” a faculty member said.

Caballero is graduating this spring and plans to work in research and development for the functional food industry.

As the award recipient, Caballero will receive $500 and a plaque. The college also will honor her at a virtual ceremony at the end of the academic year.

As an undergraduate, Caballero was the 2019 Julian A. McPhee Outstanding Student Scholar Award recipient as the college’s valedictorian.

Staff of the Year

Maddi Ogburn (’19, animal science), coordinator of horse training and farm operations at the W.K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Center, was named the 2021 recipient of the Huntley College of Agriculture’s Staff of the Year Award.

Ogburn had worked at the center as a student assistant, but joined the staff in her current position in February 2020. A co-worker praised Ogburn’s performance, noting that she only started her job just before the pandemic began and that the horse center her work is very important particularly at this time.

“Without the student help we normally have, Maddi has been doing the work of three people without complaint and with a great, ‘can-do’ attitude!” the co-worker wrote. “We simply couldn’t function properly without Maddie.”

Ogburn said she was blessed to have her dream job.

“I love horses,” she said. “I love people, and my job allows me to mesh those interests in a way that impacts the horse community, as well as the university community.”

As Teacher of the Year, Ogburn will receive $500 and a plaque. The college also will recognize her at a virtual ceremony at the end of the academic year.

Teacher of the Year

Plant Science Lecturer Tracey Takeuchi was named the Huntley College of Agriculture’s Teacher of the Year.

Takeuchi is known for her plant introduction and identification courses and serving as advisor to the Los Robles Horticulture Club. She also uses her industry connections – especially in arboriculture – to provide students with information sessions and networking opportunities with industry professionals.

“Her goal is to prepare students for the real world, and she makes sure we have all the necessary tools and information to be successful,” one of her nominators wrote. “She goes out of her way to make sure her students receive the same quality education they would in a typical classroom setting and always encourages students to come to her for extra support and guidance.”

Takeuchi also has handled the teaching challenges presented by the pandemic well. Although her classes are typically in the field and have hands-on learning experiences, Takeuchi has devised “equally impactful virtual lessons,” another student nominator said.

“Using iNaturalist and other online botany tools, she has been able to connect her students to the outside world of plants from the safety of the students’ home computers,” her student said.

Takeuchi also held the Cal Poly Pomona National Collegiate Landscape Competition team together. She regularly met with students on Zoom last fall to encourage them to study for the competition despite the uncertainty of this year's competition. Many students said those meetings were the only time during the week when they had the opportunity to chat and connect and not feel so isolated.

As Teacher of the Year, Takeuchi will receive $500 and a plaque. The college also will recognize her at a virtual ceremony at the end of the academic year.

Advisor of the Year

Plant Science Professor Eileen Cullen was named the Huntley College of Agriculture’s 2021 Mack H. Kennington Advisor of the Year.

Students credited Cullen with getting to know them and going above and beyond to help them.

“I always feel that Dr. Cullen sees me as a person rather than just another student, and she takes the time to remember personal things about me, and accounts for everything I have going on other than just my academic life,” one student said. “Her caring and compassionate personality help me feel supported in my educational pursuits, and open to asking questions, and exploring different options.”

“When she doesn't have another student to see, she always goes over my allotted time in advising sessions,” the student said. “When I ask a question via email, she is always incredibly detailed in her response to make sure I completely understand the answer.”

Another student called Cullen a professor who is extremely organized and thorough, responds promptly to emails, and always willing to meet with students to answer questions or discuss concerns.

“Dr. Cullen has also made introductions to other professors/individuals that have given me advice/insight in regard to my chosen career path,” the student added. “I will forever be grateful for everything Dr. Cullen has done for me; she is truly an amazing person and I feel blessed to have her as my advisor.”

As Advisor of the Year, Cullen will receive a $500 cash award and a plaque. The university will honor Cullen and recipients from other colleges at the annual Outstanding Advisor Awards ceremony on April 22.

The college also will recognize her at a virtual ceremony at the end of the academic year and inscribe her name in a permanent plaque displayed in the Huntley College of Agriculture