Tag Archives: Accolades

Mike Zhang named Elizabeth and James E. Turner Jr. ’56 Faculty Fellow

Mike Zhang, professor of biological systems engineering in the College of Engineering and College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech, has been awarded the Elizabeth and James E. Turner Jr.  ’56 Faculty Fellowship in Engineering by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors.

Elizabeth and James Turner created the Turner Fellowships in 2011 with a $1 million gift to recognize faculty excellence. James Turner is a 1956 agricultural engineering alumnus who is the retired president and chief operating officer of General Dynamics. He is also a former rector of the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors, and in 2004 received Virginia Tech¹s highest honor, the William H. Ruffner Medal.

Recipients hold the title of Turner Fellows for a period of five years.

A member of the Virginia Tech faculty since 2001, Zhang’s research program focuses on development of safe and effective vaccines or therapeutics to combat existing and emerging human and livestock diseases with particular expertise is the development of delivery mechanisms for vaccines and therapeutics that improve their effectiveness.

His research has attracted significant funding from federal agencies, including the National Institutes of Health and U.S. Department of Agriculture, and from industry.

Zhang is active in the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, having completed the officer progression for the Biological Engineering Division of ASABE. He reviews proposals, serving on panels for several federal agencies. He reviews manuscripts for a variety of high quality journals has served on the editorial boards of two journals.

In the classroom, Zhang is regarded as an excellent teacher, contributing significantly at both the undergraduate and graduate levels through teaching courses, leading continuous improvement efforts, and mentoring both undergraduate and graduate students. Through his leadership as graduate program director, he has contributed significantly to increasing the quality and number of graduate students in the biological systems engineering program.

Zhang received his bachelor’s degree from University of Science and Technology, Beijing, China, and a master’s degree and a Ph.D. from Iowa State University.

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Travis Mountain presented national awards for research and Extension work

Travis Mountain, assistant professor of agricultural and applied economics in the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and Virginia Cooperative Extension specialist, has received two national awards for his outstanding work that examines family and consumer finances.

Mountain was presented the 2016 Robert O.Hermann Ph.D. Dissertation Award and the AARP Public Policy Institute’s Financial Services and the Older Consumer Award, both from the American Council on Consumer Interests.

His area of concentration is the financial and economic well-being of the households and communities of Virginia. His research interests include life insurance adequacy, food security, and mortgage selection decision behavior.

“This recognition is very humbling,” said Mountain. “Consumers in the United States face challenges at every step of their financial lives and it is a great privilege to be allowed to educate consumers on personal financial management as well as be recognized for my research.”

He won the AARP and Robert O. Hermann awards for his paper entitled “Life Insurance and Financial Vulnerability.”

ACCI is the leading consumer policy research and education organization consisting of a world-wide community of researchers, educators, and related professionals dedicated to enhancing consumer well-being.

Mountain received his bachelor’s degree in consumer science and his master’s degree in consumer behavior and family economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and his Ph.D. in family resource management from Ohio State University. He has been a faculty member and Virginia Cooperative Extension specialist in Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences since the fall of 2015.

He is also a member of the NC 2172 multistate research team focusing on “behavioral economics and financial decision making and information management across the lifespan.” The team is currently working on a post-secondary education financing project and has future plans to examine Social Security and retirement.

He is the recipient of the Ruth Jane Yauger Scholarship 2014-2015 and placed third in the Hayes Forum Research Competition in 2014. He is a member of the American Council of Consumer Interests and the Academy of Financial Services.

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Tyler Wegmeyer named 2016 Virginia Farmer of the Year

Virginia Cooperative Extension has recognized Tyler Wegmeyer of Wegmeyer Farms in Loudoun County, Virginia, as the 2016 Virginia Farmer of the Year. He joins nine other state winners as finalists for the overall award, which will be announced on Oct. 18 at the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Ag Expo farm show in Moultrie, Georgia.

Wegmeyer operates a diversified 250-acre fruit and vegetable farm. The farm consists of three u-pick strawberry locations, four u-pick pumpkin locations, a vegetable CSA, and a large separate agritourism farm. In addition to direct consumer sales, he also sells wholesale to grocery store chains and nursery retailers along the East Coast.

His agriculture leadership roles  include serving on the boards of the Virginia Strawberry Association, Southern States Cooperative, Loudoun County Heritage Farm Museum, and as the past president of the Loudoun County Farm Bureau.

“We are so pleased that farming operations like Wegmeyer Farms call Virginia home,” said Bobby Grisso, associate director of agriculture and natural resources for Virginia Cooperative Extension. “Tyler Wegmeyer has a unique perspective he can draw from his experience as both a policymaker and a farmer.”

Wegmeyer traded in his urban office for strawberry fields in 2013 when he decided to farm full time. Previously, Wegmeyer farmed part time and had a 15-year career in agricultural policy in Washington, D.C., where he served most recently as director of congressional relations at the American Farm Bureau Federation. In addition, he was a strategic marketing project manager at John Deere, staff director for the House Committee Agriculture’s Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management, and a member of the staff of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.

“Our mission with all our farm locations is to engage with people and offer a memorable family experience that will educate and create a positive awareness of  agriculture,” said Wegmeyer. “Good agriculture policy starts with consumers understanding a little bit about what it takes to grow food.  We have a passion for agriculture, and for us, it’s much more than just producing a high-yielding crop.  We aim to make a difference in the public’s perception of how food is grown.”

Wegmeyer utilizes the latest technology and conservation practices in all aspects of his business to protect the environment directly and indirectly. Tablets and smartphones take payment, track inventory, map fields, market their produce, and act as a  portable office. Strawberry and other water sensitive vegetable crops are drip irrigated and the pumpkin wholesale fields, along with corn and soybeans, are no-tilled into cover crops using a roller-crimper.

He also uses the latest nozzle technology to enable crop-protection products to work the best they can. Besides yearly soil sampling, weekly plant tissue samplings are pulled to achieve optimal nutrient management. Most of the technology Wegmeyer uses is transparent and visible to the public, especially in u-pick fields. This visibility creates opportunity for dialogue with customers.

Since its inception in 1990, the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year Award has evolved into the most-prestigious honor in the Southeast and nation with 225 agribusiness leaders being honored for their “excellence in agriculture.”

Ten states participate in the program: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. In the previous 26 years of the award, more than $1,044,000 has been awarded to state and overall winners.

Each state winner receives $2,500 and an all-expense-paid trip to Expo along with various other prizes. The overall Southeastern winner receives $15,000 and other prizes from the sponsors.

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