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2023-24 College & PSA Award Recipients

Outstanding Junior Faculty in Research

Elizabeth Cieniewicz Assistant Professor of Plant Virology

Dr. Elizabeth Cieniewicz
Assistant Professor of Plant Virology
Plant and Environmental Sciences

Dr. Cieniewicz’s research interests are in plant virus biology and ecology, specifically in understanding virus evolution and spillover at the agro-ecological interface, virus-bacteria-host interactions, and the role of insects in spreading plant viruses. Dr. Cieniewicz’s program is translational and addresses basic and applied questions to improve virus disease management. In addition to the research in her lab, Dr. Cieniewicz oversees the USDA-funded Clemson Clean Plant Center, which provides the peach industry with virus-negative sources of propagative plant material. Dr. Cieniewicz’s research accomplishments include discovering new pathogens that infect fruit trees and berry crops in the southern US, conducting annual virus testing, and formulating appropriate management measures to prevent the spread of important viruses. She integrates her research into her plant pathology courses. She is regularly invited by grower audiences and scientific societies to share her lab’s research and has secured more than $1.5 million in extramural funding since 2019. In addition to her research and teaching responsibilities, Dr. Cieniewicz also provides dedicated service to Clemson and the scientific community through editorial work, committee service, and leadership. Dr. Cieniewicz’s research program addresses basic and applied questions that have significant impacts on virus disease management in South Carolina and beyond.

Outstanding Junior Faculty in Extension

Dr. David Coyle Assistant Professor

Dr. David Coyle
Assistant Professor
Forestry and Environmental Conservation

Dr. Coyle has established a robust Extension program since his arrival at Clemson in 2018. As a specialist in forest health and invasive species, he has responsibilities in dealing with plant, disease, and invertebrate species that impact South Carolina’s forests and natural areas. Dr. Coyle has organized or delivered 198 workshops and webinars, participated in 128 media requests, and prodcued over 100 written educational materials. He frequently works with Extension Agents to conduct workshops, provide timely consultations, and in-service training opportunities. Additionally, he runs a regional education program for professionals and curates a regional website for the #1 pine pest in the Southeast, the southern pine beetle. Dr. Coyle created the Bradford Pear Bounty program, which is now known across the state, region, and nation, as a model for invasive species education. This program has given out nearly 1500 native trees to residents who remove a non-native Bradford pear. Dr. Coyle also serves at the lead Extension specialist for the Asian longhorned beetle program and has worked to educate personnel throughout the state, region, and nation to help prevent the movement of this pest and increase capabilities to detect new populations.

Outstanding Junior Faculty in Teaching

Dr. Elizabeth Cieniewicz  Assistant Professor of Plant Virology

Dr. Elizabeth Cieniewicz
Assistant Professor of Plant Virology
Plant and Environmental Sciences

Dr. Cieniewicz is a plant pathologist with a research focus on plant virus ecology and virus-vector interactions. At Clemson, she directs the Clemson Clean Plant Center, associated with the Clemson Peach Team and the USDA National Clean Plant Network, to ensure the supply of virus-indexed peach budwood for the eastern U.S. She teaches Plant Virology and Molecular Plant-Pathogen Interactions and has created courses—Grant Writing for Graduate Students and Case Studies in Plant Pathology. She has also led various journal clubs in Entomology and Plant Pathology and serves as the faculty advisor for the PES Graduate Student Association. Dr. Cieniewicz implements experiential learning and enhances professional development in all of her courses. She fosters an inclusive environment for optimal student learning, integrating various strategies in content delivery to reach different types of learners. Her teaching style resonates with students and helps them to develop a deep understanding of challenging topics. She integrates activities to prepare students for their profession, such as improving writing and presentation skills and critically reviewing scientific literature. Dr. Cieniewicz cares deeply about her students, and therefore her teaching efforts transcend mere presentation of course content; she strives to improve the student experience and professional development opportunities in the department.

Outstanding Administrative Staff

Kim Collins Administrative Coordinator

Kim Collins
Administrative Coordinator
Food, Nutrition, and Packaging Science

Kim’s contributions to FNPS, CAFLS and Clemson are above and beyond expectations. She has demonstrated an exceptional commitment to excellence in administrative management to ensure the smooth transition and successful operation of FNPS through seven department chairs. Kim has the remarkable ability to manage multiple tasks concurrently, guaranteeing that deadlines are met, and tasks are executed with precision due to her enthusiastic work attitude and efficiency. She is the go-to person to ensure activities such as TPR, Faculty Success, graduate student appointments, etc., are accurate and successful. Kim maintains a positive and cooperative work environment which has been instrumental in fostering a culture of teamwork and promoting healthy relationships with stakeholders. One of Kim’s key strengths is her proactive approach to problem-solving. She has taken initiative to identify areas for improvement. Her innovative solutions and suggestions have led to the implementation of more streamlined processes. Kim thrives on having a fast-paced daily workload and she is the departmental activity hub where faculty, students and staff meet, where problems are resolved, and everyone’s daily duties and responsibilities are advanced. Her work undoubtedly enriches FNPS, the College, and Clemson University.

Outstanding Technical Staff - Field

Dan Robinson Agriculture/Animal Associate II

Dan Robinson
Agriculture/Animal Associate II
Edisto Research and Education Center

Dan has been supporting research and Extension programs at Edisto REC since January 1986. During his decades of field support work, Dan has assisted over 15 project investigators, served as the onsite leader of cotton harvest (research and production) operations, and supported the Cotton Official Variety Testing program. The technical, field-support contributions of Dan to the Entomology and Cotton OVT programs have been critical to their success. Since 1996, Dan has been the point man for harvest of all cotton research, supporting the work of numerous scientists across various disciplines and being instrumental in generating millions of dollars in revenue for the center. Scientists agree that Dan is an excellent field technician and an outstanding collaborator who handles every aspect of the project, from planning, planting, maintaining, and harvesting the plots. Dan’s work has been extremely vital to the profitability of cotton growers throughout the state and the region. The longevity of Mr. Robinson’s career of technical support at EREC is remarkable and worthy of recognition, as he has spent his life supporting the core mission areas of CAFLS in South Carolina.

Outstanding Junior Extension Agent

Heather Nix Water Resources Extension Agent

Heather Nix
Water Resources Extension Agent
Cooperative Extension

Heather’s extension program focuses on water resources planning for South Carolina, pond management, and managing and preventing Harmful Algal Blooms. For each program, Heather developed educational materials for agents, conducted training sessions, and made publications available to the general public to help them manage water quality problems. The online publications associated with Harmful Algal Bloom trainings have been accessed over 1,600 times. The series of publications on Ponds has been viewed by over 5,000 readers. She organized, moderated, created, and delivered over 70 presentations and workshops reaching over 300 participants. Heather has published widely, including two field guides, one peer-refereed journal article, eight Land-Grant Press articles, five HGIC factsheet articles, one magazine and one newspaper article, and five blog posts. She has obtained over $100,000 in grants or external funds to support her Extension program and has active collaborations with faculty, specialists, and agents across program teams and SC. Those who work with her respect her expertise, work ethic, capacity for excellence in communication, team-building proficiency, organization, and professionalism. While the long-term implications of Heather’s work and expertise have yet to be quantified, they are likely to be many and extend past the borders of South Carolina and the southeast.

Outstanding Advisor and Mentor

Dr. Bridgit Corbett Senior Lecturer and Director

Dr. Bridgit Corbett
Senior Lecturer and Director of the Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD)
Food, Nutrition, and Packaging Science

Dr. Corbett serves as the Director of the DPD, teaches six courses, and maintains a full undergraduate advising load. She ensures the DPD adheres to accreditation policies and objectives and manages internship match preparations. She relentlessly networks to provide shadowing and other opportunities for students and created a mentoring program to match upper-level nutrition students with freshman and sophomores for which feedback from students has been very positive. Her leadership has resulted in the 100% match rate for dietetic internships and the success pre-professional students. Additionally, Dr. Corbett serves as the Faculty Advisor for Minorities in Agricultural and Resources and Related Sciences (MANNRS). She revitalized the organization and led the organization through improvements with an active executive team and participation regionally and nationally. The MANRRS executive board shares they have gained a profound sense of purpose and direction in their personal and professional journeys through her guidance, support, wisdom and mentorship. Dr. Corbett always focuses on how her work and activities are in the best interest of students. It is said all one has to do is walk by her office and there are almost always students in there--she makes the Clemson University experience positive for students.

Outstanding Senior Faculty in Research

Dr. Xiuping Jiang Professor of Food Microbiology

Dr. Xiuping Jiang
Professor of Food Microbiology
Food, Nutrition, and Packaging Sciences

Dr. Jiang is interested in understanding how foodborne pathogens persist in food and pre-harvest environments and developing strategies to detect and control these pathogens. Her current research explores the effect of environmental factors on pathogen inactivation during composting, validates pathogen inactivation for thermally treated chicken liter, develops bacteriophage-based biological approaches to eradicate Salmonella biofilms, and detects and disinfects human norovirus and other pathogens on environmental surfaces. She is a highly productive researcher who is collaborative and solution-centered. Since joining Clemson University in 2001, she has made significant contributions to the fields of food and environmental microbiology and established a state-of-the art laboratory in which she provides a variety of learning experiences for students, scientists, and collaborators. She has secured both internal and external funds (>$10 million), making it possible for her to not only conduct her research but mentor (to date) 24 graduate students, 3 postdocs, 10 visiting scientists and students, and 47 undergraduate students. Dr. Jiang cares about the success of each of her students – going above and beyond to be sure they engage in high-quality research and develop the skills to enable them to be successful after graduation.

Outstanding Senior Faculty in Extension

Dr. Sarah White Professor

Dr. Sarah White
Plant and Environmental Sciences

Dr. White’s integrated Extension and Research program focuses on sustainable irrigation practices through reduction, remediation, and recycling of water. Her commitment to practical solutions and global outreach exemplifies her outstanding contributions to Extension services. Dr. White’s focus on sustainable irrigation led to a multi-state $8.3 million grant that funded a hands-on demonstration site in Pendelton, SC, where growers could explore new water treatment technologies. In 2023, Dr. White and other Extension Specialists led a workshop in South Africa for 120 nursery growers resulting in more than 50% of participants planning to test water at their nursery. Dr. White is a prolific scholar with 60 peer-reviewed journal articles, 42 peer-reviewed proceedings, 21 book chapters, two authored books, and 145 research-based extension articles. Her work is powerful in its direct application by nursery and greenhouse growers in the United States and beyond and has changed the way crops are grown – reducing the amount of water used by one of the largest agricultural industry’s water users in the world. She is also co-founder and consulting editor for Cooperative Extension’s Land Grant Press. Dr. White’s devotion to helping researchers find innovative ways to elevate extension mission to the broader community is unique.

Outstanding Senior Faculty in Teaching

Dr. Vidya Suseela Associate Professor of Soil Ecology

Dr. Vidya Suseela
Associate Professor of Soil Ecology
Plant and Environmental Sciences Department

Dr. Suseela is a soil ecologist interested in the biogeochemical processes that shape the ecosystem responses to global environmental changes. She teaches Environment and Agriculture and Soil Organisms for Plant Growth. Dr. Suseela adopts transformative, collaborative, and experiential learning approaches that help students obtain a solid foundation of knowledge and skill sets to achieve their professional aspirations. Her teaching philosophy centers on instilling critical thinking and problem-solving to enable students to become the next generation of scientists or professionals who can think beyond disciplinary boundaries. Her teaching methods are varied, which help to enhance creativity, motivate students to synthesize and apply knowledge, and inspire them to pursue scientific inquiry with passion. While her courses were rigorous, students appreciate how much it helped them transform as a student and find the right career path. Undergraduate students inspired by her courses frequently participate in research projects in her lab and have secured highly prestigious fellowships, including the NSF graduate research fellowship, Killam Fulbright scholarship, and the DAAD fellowship, and pursued graduate studies. Learning is a continuous process, and Dr. Suseela adopts new ideas and techniques to engage students and help them achieve the best out of their education.

Outstanding Professional Staff

Renee Anderson Post Award Grant Accountant

Renee Anderson
Post Award Grant Accountant
Experiment Station

Prior to transitioning to her current role, Renee was the fiscal analyst for the Plant and Environmental Sciences Department for almost five years. While in her new position, Renee continued to support the PES department for several months with fiscal matters, including serving on the search committee for her replacement and training the individual hired for the position. Renee is renowned for the care and efficiency with which she handles budgetary and fiscal matters. The services she provided to the PES department and currently to CAFLS, and her relationship with the people she serves are always of the highest quality. Renee continued to fulfill her responsibilities at the highest level and with patience against the backdrop of an increasing faculty body accompanied by an increasing fiscal workload. Renee embraced the changes and developed a plan. She is described as a problem-solver, quick learner, and at ease with new technologies. She is humble, communicates effectively, and confident with her decisions. Most importantly, she exudes professionalism even in the most trying situations. Her ability to adapt, creativity, and love for PES and CAFLS make her a tremendous asset to faculty, administrators, staff, and students.

Outstanding Technical Staff - Lab/Office

Taylor Martin Biosystems Research Complex Building Manager

Taylor Martin
Biosystems Research Complex Building Manager
Experiment Station

Taylor supports over 50 research groups at Clemson University to facilitate both the teaching and research mission of CAFLS. As the Greenhouse Manager from 2016-2022, Taylor managed the plant growth requirements of >50,000 square feet. Going above and beyond, Taylor is always enthusiastic about building unique structures needed to address unique research questions. His knowledge, ingenuity, cooperation, and commitment are critical components in the success of all experiments that are conducted in the Complex. Taylor was instrumental in modernizing all the monitoring devices in grow spaces and is always proactive in spotting and fixing technical problems, which has saved researchers their experiments and equipment. As Taylor was transitioning into his current role, he handled one of the most challenging situations CAFLS has recently experienced: the BRC water pipe freeze of Christmas 2022. Taylor managed this crisis with the highest level of professionalism and compassion, including being a “first responder” with the initial cleanup on Christmas Day and coordinating the moves of every lab and office for remediation over the next several months. Taylor has made a notable difference across multiple departments in CAFLS, supports research and graduate training, exemplifies the university's mission, and positively impacted the Clemson community.

Outstanding Senior Extension Agent

Ben Boyles Senior Agribusiness Extension Agent and Director

Ben Boyles
Senior Agribusiness Extension Agent and Director of the South Carolina New & Beginning Farmer Program
Cooperative Extension

Ben has nurtured and grown the SCNBFP in a program that is acclaimed throughout South Carolina and meets the changing needs of new farmers. Ben’s ability to give comfort, encouragement, and sound advice has been crucial to the program’s success. Ben puts his whole heart into helping beginning farmers. He has secured over $700,000 in grant funding for SCNBFP and the program has over 500 graduates. Ben is known for his unwavering integrity, humility, and dedication to serving others. Ben is a graduate of the Extension Emerging Leadership Initiative, served as Vice President of the Extension Senate, and is President-Elect for 2024. Ben is always willing to help out a citizen or coworker through direct assistance or referring them to a stakeholder he has built relationships with over the last 17 years of service. One of Ben's greatest strengths is his ability to forge meaningful connections with individuals from all walks of life. Whether working with seasoned farmers, aspiring entrepreneurs, or community leaders, Ben approaches each interaction with genuine empathy, respect, and professionalism. His tireless efforts to empower farmers, promote sustainable agricultural practices, and address the diverse needs of our State have made a significant and lasting impact.

College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences
College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences |