Student Resources

The Master of Science in Agronomy distance education program kicked off its 20th anniversary by tailgating at the ISU vs Akron football game on Saturday, September 22. Faculty, staff, current students and alumni were invited to celebrate 20 years of success. Including the hard work and dedication of two specific faculty members.


Dr. Ken Moore
Arden Campbell award for dedicated service to the program as director for several years.


Allan Ciha
Student Impact award for his dedication to the students through advising and serving as major professor.

Hannah Holdsworth has just begun her first year here at Iowa State University in Agronomy, but she comes bringing in lots of experience already. In fact, this past summer she competed in the State FFA Agronomy CDE and placed as the overall top individual. Back in 2017, Hannah joined the agronomy team of the Denison FFA Chapter where they competed in the state FFA agronomy competition. The team received second, and Hannah also received second individually.

Valeria Cano Camacho spent her summer on one of Hawaii’s islands, Big Island, where she was a summer field intern for Ulu Mau Puani. All summer long, she helped with six different projects. Some of those projects included: collecting data, extension and outreach, and lab work.

“It was different every day. Some days I would be hiking up a volcano to find berries and other days I would be working with elementary students and learning about the Kohala Field System,” Valeria said about her favorite part of working on Big Island.

Not many people can say that they placed 11th as an undergrad competing against Ph.D. students. Kelli Roush is the lucky holder of this title. The third International Soil Judging competition was held a week before the 21st World Soil Congress.

The soils in Ro de Janero, Brazil are very different from here in Iowa. Kelli had the opportunity to see an Oxisol, but most of the soils she worked with were Ultisols or Alfisols. They spent three days practicing and learning about the environment they were in before the competition started. Kelli and the other team members had to adapt to the way Brazil judges their soils. 

Our incoming freshman spent the weekend before classes start on a tour of agriculture industry and farms in northeast Iowa. They toured Beck's Hybrids in Marshalltown, Pioneer Hi-Bred in Reinbeck and Landus Co-op in Dike. A stop at UNI allowed them to cool down (the air conditioning broke on the bus) and learn about urban soil conservation on the UNI campus. Near Nashua they learned about soil health from the Iowa Natural Resources Conservation Service

Growing up, Megan Kemp just wanted to fit in with her peers in Durango, Iowa. At Iowa State University the junior in agronomy and global resource systems, says she found a place where she feels comfortable embracing and celebrating her differences.

“My mom is Filipino,” says Kemp. “She and my dad met as pen pals while he was serving in the military. He went to visit her in the Philippines, and that’s where they fell in love. It’s honestly the stuff movies are made of.”

Kemp’s extended family are involved in dairy and beef operations in northeastern Iowa. While she lived on a dairy farm, she didn’t do chores.

“My mom’s heritage instilled very traditional ideals about gender roles,” says Kemp. “So I spent more time in the kitchen.”

Lee Burras sets his Diet Pepsi on the podium and grabs a piece of chalk off the ledge. Class is about to begin.

Burras’ classroom is upbeat and adversarial; he encourages his students to challenge him as much as he challenges them. In order to keep students engaged he uses the chalkboard.

“I want students engaged,” says Burras. “I want whatever I’m talking about to come to life in front of them. I can’t make that happen with a Power Point presentation.”

Burras’ passion is infectious, not just for soils but also for life and for learning. His classes are some of the most sought after in the Department of Agronomy.

In 1989, Jaci Severson was hired as a secretary in the main office of Agronomy. She spent five years working for the Iowa Crop Improvement Association when Dr. Ron Cantrell, department chair at the time, came to her with a question.

"He said I could stay with Iowa Crop or move to the teaching office," said Severson. "I thought about it and told him I wanted to stay with Iowa Crop, but he told me I really didn't have a choice - either go to the teaching office or transition out of the department. It was the best move I could have ever made."

Jaci started revamping the teaching office in 1996. Since then she has ushered 952 graduate students through our doors and into their careers. They are, without a doubt, the highlight of her career.

The National Association of Plant Breeders announced their first group of graduate and undergraduate Borlaug Scholars, and our students took three of the eight awards. Our Katelyn Fritz and Andrew Herr, juniors in Agronomy, were selected Borlaug Undergraduate Scholars. Our Kevin Falk, graduate student with Dr. Asheesh (Danny) Singh, was selected Borlaug Graduate Scholar.

Katelyn Fritz

"Borlaug increased yield and got calories to everyone," said Fritz. "I want to leverage breeding to make those calories more nutricious."

Honors students pursue individualized programs designed to enrich their educational experiences. As a part of their program, each Honors student plans, develops and completes an individual project. The results of those efforts were put on display at the Spring 2018 poster presentation of Honors projects held April 25. Participating students from Agronomy included:

Savanah Jones: Stress tolerance gene identification in Arabidopsis

Brittany Kirsch: Performance of a small, field-scale wetland

Samantha Reicks: Sulfur fertility in soybeans

Aimee Schulz: Inbreeding depression in wild maize populations subject to habitat degradation in southwest Mexico

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