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College recognizes top students during Spring Awards Banquet


n April 22, the College of Agriculture honored some of the year’s most outstanding students, faculty and staff during the annual Spring Awards Banquet. The virtual event was a collaborative effort between the Purdue Agricultural Council and the Office of Academic Programs

Karen Plaut, the Glenn W. Sample Dean of Agriculture, addressed the nominees during the broadcast. 

“Regardless of whether you win, your nomination puts you in rare air, in the company of the very best in our college,” said Plaut. “I know that you have worked hard for this and hard for the things you believe in. Whether you are being recognized for academic excellence, leadership or mentoring, you have made a difference.” 

The following students won the college’s most prestigious student awards.

Outstanding Freshman Award:

Claire iFsher

Claire Fisher is studying animal sciences with a concentration in biosciences. Fisher currently works as an undergraduate research assistant in the Poultry Physiology Lab and belongs to the Purdue Environmental Science Club, Purdue Chapter of the Wildlife Society, Purdue Pre-Veterinary Medical Association, Purdue Foal Watch Team and Purdue Concert Bands.

Outstanding Sophomore Award:

Halee Fisher

Halee Fisher is majoring in agricultural economics with a quantitative analysis concentration and political science, with minors in psychology and global food and agriculture systems. In addition to Fisher’s involvement in the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association Quiz Bowl Team, Agricultural Economics Honors Program, Ag Ambassadors, Ag Council, Rising Professionals, Pi Beta Phi, and undergraduate research, she is a Climate Smart Agriculture Youth Network intern through the Center for Global Food Security.

Outstanding Junior Award:

Clayton Hicks

Clayton Hicks is seeking a dual degree in biochemistry and philosophy with a concentration in pre-medicine. He is a Dean’s Scholar and is pursuing certificates in medical humanities and leadership development. Hicks recently worked as an undergraduate teaching assistant for BCHM 100 and is a member of the Biochemistry Club, Ag Council, Purdue Foundation Student Board, Boiler Gold Rush, Old Masters, Honors College, Global House, and College Mentors for Kids. He has earned numerous scholarships for research and academia and is a member of the American Medical Student Association and the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

Outstanding Senior Award:

Chaela Minor

Chaela Minor is double majoring in agricultural systems management and agribusiness management with a minor in organizational leadership and supervision. Minor recently served as director of recruitment for the Ag Week Task Force, Mortar Board National Council student representative, vice president for Sigma Alpha Professional Agriculture sorority, and has been an agricultural and biological engineering department ambassador since 2017. Minor has completed internships with Deere & Company, Planting Profits, Monsanto, and Purdue University Center for Food and Agricultural Business. Minor is active in Agriculture Future of America and the Ag Alumni Mentorship Program and currently works as a peer success coach leader for Purdue’s Academic Success Center.

M.S. Pathmaker Award:

Madeline Montague

Madeline Montague is a master’s student in forestry and natural resources. The Hardwood Tree Improvement and Regeneration Center, a partnership between the U.S. Forest Service and Purdue University, supports her graduate assistantship. Montague’s thesis research links competition and stored energy reserves in the American chestnut, a tree species of high restoration interest. Montague worked closely with a team of undergraduate researchers for two years to complete field sampling and lab work. These working relationships evolved into mentoring relationships through supporting independent undergraduate research projects and helping to navigate graduate school and job application processes.

Ph.D. Pathmaker Award:

Lizz Allmon

Elizabeth "Lizz" Allmon is a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in forestry and natural resources and part of the ecological sciences and engineering interdisciplinary graduate program. As a member of Maria Sepúlveda’s ecotoxicology lab, she researched the effects of contaminants and abiotic stressors on the transcriptomes and developing cardiovascular systems of fish. Before coming to Purdue, Allmon worked as a lab manager and research technician at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute, where she completed her master’s degree. Allmon completed her bachelor’s degree in biology and ecological sciences at Shepherd University.

Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Assistant:

Troy Tonner

Troy Tonner is a Ph.D. candidate in agricultural and biological engineering. Troy’s research focuses on the rheological modeling of biomaterials such as cornstarch. The goal of his research is to use predictive models to design efficient and cost-effective food processes that can optimize food quality and nutrition. As an undergraduate, Tonner was a peer mentor for ABE 201: Thermodynamics I. As a graduate student, he spent six semesters as the teaching assistant for biological engineering’s capstone and unit operations course. Tonner instructed the junior level heat and mass transfer course for the past three spring semesters. He received the 2020 Estus H. and Vasti L.Magoon Award for Excellence in Teaching.


Johnnie Cheng


Also on April 22, Johnnie "Junior" Cheng, a senior animal sciences major, was named the 2021 France A. Córdova Leadership Award winner. He will be honored at this year’s commencement and a web story on his accomplishments was published separately.

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