Making Their Mark

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Students in the College of Agriculture, Life and Environmental Sciences are known for going above and beyond when it comes to academics and serving the university and community.

Then there are those students who go way above and way beyond.

Meet the 19 undergraduate and two graduate students who earned CALES 2022 Spring Outstanding Senior and Graduate Meritorious Teaching awards. These students, who will be honored at the CALES Graduation Convocation on May 13, were selected by the college and their various schools and departments as exemplifying the qualities that make CALES special.

During their time in school, they spent long hours serving as mentors to their peers, contributing to the community and, of course, exceling academically. Their plans include everything from conducting high-level research to attending graduate school to making an immediate impact in the workplace.


Lauren Salsburg

CALES Outstanding Senior

Veterinary Science

“Do or do not, there is no try.”

 – Jedi Master Yoda

As a first-year student, Lauren Salsburg feared she couldn’t possibly get enough hours of veterinary experience to get into vet school. Some 2,000-plus clinical hours later, along with internships and volunteer work at animal hospitals and pet clinics, she can set those worries aside.

Salsburg, the CALES outstanding senior, will attend the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, with the goal of becoming an exotic animal veterinarian. She eventually hopes to return to academia as a clinical professor at a teaching hospital where she can mentor vet students.

“The mentors I gained through research, medicine, and school are what gave me the tools and strength to reach my full potential,” she said.

At CALES, Salsburg has been president of the Pre-Vet Club, a mentor in the honors college for first-year students, a preceptor in microbiology and in chemistry, and a CALES ambassador. She has conducted research on everything from the incubation success of Salmonella bacteria in real and plant-based meats to how the gut microbiome of cats and dogs changes when they are given mood-stabilizing medications.

“I have observed Lauren encourage her peers to achieve new heights through her engagement and enthusiasm for science,” said Margarethe Cooper, assistant professor of practice in the School of Animal and Comparative Biomedical Sciences. “She embodies the Wildcat spirit of collaboration, leadership, and academic success.”



Lily McNair

CALES Outstanding Senior – UArizona Yuma

Nutritional Sciences

“I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: The ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.”

– Albert Schweitzer

Lily McNair says the life experiences she gained while growing up in the rural, diverse border community of Yuma have influenced her desire to give back.

For McNair, the CALES outstanding senior at the Yuma campus, giving back includes working over 125 hours in an internship at the Regional Center for Border Health and her plan to become a registered dietitian nutritionist in her community. Her next step will be pursuing a professional science master’s in applied nutrition, through the CALES School of Nutritional Sciences and Wellness.

“I want to leverage my healthcare career to help heal others through nutrition as medicine, support healthy living, and care for the underserved, with hope and compassion,” McNair said.

She is a founding member of the UArizona-Yuma Nutrition Club, where she developed a mentoring program between students and local dietitians. McNair also compiled a community cookbook, worked on a campus pantry project, and recruited healthcare professionals to speak to nutrition students in Yuma, Tucson, and online.

“Lily sets goals, dreams high, and achieves what she sets out to accomplish,” said Tanya Hodges, regional academic programs manager for UArizona Yuma. “Lily has the desire and drive to succeed not just personally but to make great change in our community.”



Amy Pacheco-Mata

Exceptional Academic Performance and Service to the Community

Nutritional Sciences

“You can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance at doing what you love.”

– Jim Carrey

Amy Pacheco-Mata is the first in her family to graduate from college, and she says this is only the beginning of all she hopes to accomplish.

Her immediate plans include being a community health worker with Southeast Arizona Health Education Center. And then, “I aspire to work in gynecology and women’s health as a physician assistant,” Pacheco-Mata said. “I will also keep working (to provide) my Hispanic/Mexican community with medical assistance on both ends of the spectrum, in preventative and diagnostic care.”

Pacheco-Mata has been president of the Food Sciences Club, a resident assistant for the New Start Summer Program, and a student researcher. Her community involvement includes volunteering with MexZona, where she assists residents of Puerto Peñasco, Mexico, with translating medical consultations, and volunteering with the College of Public Health’s Mobile Health Unit.

In nominating Pacheco-Mata, her advisors cited her “ability to consistently balance complex service and research opportunities with a challenging curriculum and her resident advisor responsibilities.”


Brett Becko

Exceptional Academic Performance and Perseverance

Sustainable Plant Systems

“To succeed in life, you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone, and a funny bone.”

Reba McEntire

It’s an understatement to say that Brett Becko did not take a traditional route to the University of Arizona. After high school, he joined the Army and, over 10 years, served two tours of duty in Iraq and two tours of duty in Afghanistan.

His interest in helping fellow veterans brought Becko to the sustainable plant systems program, where he has investigated the use of medicinal plants as effective alternatives to prescription drugs, with fewer side effects.

Becko was a preceptor for the Animal and Plant Genetics course and became a leader among his peers and a favorite of students, said Dennis T. Ray, professor of plant sciences and natural resources and the environment.

“Brett has achieved at the highest levels both inside and outside the classroom, in his major and other areas of study, and in volunteer and community work,” Ray said.

Becko, who has worked 25 hours a week for three years as an intern at the Kino Veterans Workforce Center, plans to continue his service to that community upon graduation. “My recent work has been life-changing … and enabled me to see how beneficial my work is for the veterans I serve,” he said.


Grace Aroz

Exceptional Academic Performance and Service to the University

Family Studies and Human Development

“You mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger.”


Grace Aroz describes her college experience as magic and says she loves being in “an environment of learning.” For that reason and more, she plans to continue to work toward a master’s and doctorate in family studies and human development and to become a professor of practice in the field.

“I am a strong believer in the idea that knowledge is power, and one of the passions that drives me is empowering others to enact that change we wish to see in our futures,” Aroz said. “Academia is the best way I know to accomplish that.”

Aroz served as president of the Family Studies and Human Development Ambassadors, as a CALES ambassador, as a preceptor for three courses, and as student representative for the Norton School Council of Alumni and Friends. On top of that, she conducted family studies research projects and maintained a 19-hour a week job with the Town of Oro Valley.

“Grace is driven and skilled and has contributed so much during her time in CALES,” said Darin J. Knapp, undergraduate director in the Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences. “She is the kind of person that is enjoyable having as a colleague, supervisor, or peer.”


Anna Jones

Exceptional Academic Performance and Service to the Teaching Mission

Environmental Science

“Life is like a camera. Focus on what is important, capture the good times, develop from the negatives, and if things don’t work out, take another shot.”

Anna Jones is following her passion, which in the immediate future means pursuing an accelerated master’s degree in environmental science at the University of Arizona. And her plans beyond that?

“I am extremely passionate about educating others on environmental science issues,” she said. “I could envision going on to get my PhD and becoming a professor or doing something involving scientific communication.”

Jones said she also could see herself working in the water quality field, especially where environmental health intersects with human health. Her academic and leadership success at CALES leaves the door open to numerous opportunities. At CALES, she was a preceptor in two classes, lead preceptor in a third, and a peer mentor, devoting up to 90 hours a semester helping students and her colleagues.

Jones’s research projects covered such areas as carbon cycling, microbial communities, organic matter, geochemical environments, and their impact on ecosystems.

“Anna is a natural leader,” said Joan E. Curry, professor and associate head of Environmental Science. “She is an outstanding ambassador for our program.”


Nicolas Katz

Exceptional Academic Performance and Service to the Research Mission

Natural Resources

“Only if we understand, can we care. Only if we care, will we help. Only if we help, shall we be saved.”

Dr. Jane Goodall

One of Nicolas Katz’s most impressive research studies at CALES started, literally, “from the ground up.” He focused on biological soil crusts because of their ecological importance, and co-led the study design, data collection, and analyses at every step, said one of his professors.

His subsequent research on biocrusts and their role in soil and nutrient dynamics was recognized as one of the top two undergraduate posters in the Research in Semi-Arid Ecosystems Symposium last fall. A first-authored paper will be submitted this year.

“Nic Katz is the best undergraduate researcher with whom I have worked in my career,” Professor Betsy Arnold said. “Nic is the rare student who has an innate understanding of science as a process. He is exceptionally organized, attentive to quality, and very excited to learn.”

Katz said he hopes to become a leader in ecology and natural resources management and that his work will have positive implications, from theoretical and applied conservation biology to land management policy. During his time at CALES, he was active in UArizona Divest, Students for Sustainability, and a fellowship with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, among others.

“Ultimately, I hope to have a long career in academic research,” he said.


Elia Bueno

Graduate Meritorious Teaching Award

Family Studies and Human Development

“The beautiful thing about learning is no one can take it away from you.”

B.B. King

Elia Bueno is the graduate teaching assistant in Associate Professor Richard N. Woods’ upper-level Program Planning and Evaluation course. But Woods says she’s much more: “I consider and rely on her as a colleague.”

He said Bueno takes initiative, provides students with clear explanations and direction, helps them understand complex material, and has become the students’ preferred point of contact.

“She continually demonstrates unique qualities and abilities,” he said, “… but perhaps the most important quality Elia brings to this class and her teaching is her intrinsic compassion and empathy for students and others.”

Bueno, who is pursuing her doctorate in family studies and human development, said she hopes to become an applied family researcher with an emphasis in educational evaluation.

“I will seek out opportunities in the non-profit sector with organizations that are committed to increasing educational access and success for minoritized populations,” she said.


Angus Donaldson

Graduate Meritorious Teaching Award

Agricultural Education, Technology, and Innovation

“You can do what you have to do, and sometimes you can do it even better than you think you can.”

Jimmy Carter

A professor who has Angus Donaldson as her teaching assistant calls him “the definition of a team player,” adding that Donaldson anticipates the needs of others without being asked.

Donaldson “has reached out to students in the classes he is TA’ing individually on numerous occasions, held in-person and virtual office hours, designed new curriculum, guest-lectured in my absence, provided technology support, brainstormed ideas with students, … and truly served our students in a way that surpassed many current faculty,” said Amber Rice, director of graduate studies and associate professor of agricultural education.

Donaldson is finishing his master’s in agricultural education this semester, the culmination of five years in the Department of Agricultural Education, Technology, and Innovation, starting as an undergrad. He has been active in Arizona FFA and the National Association of Agricultural Educators, among other pursuits.

“Thanks to the amazing support from AETI and CALES, I am excited to begin teaching AgriScience at Flowing Wells High School after graduation,” he said.


Tayler Terry

Outstanding Senior

Agriculture Business Economics and Management

“You don’t get what you wish for, you get what you work for.”

Tayler Terry plans to work in agriculture, a field she says she loves and a vocation she says is crucial to the entire world. Terry has been working 40 hours a week in an internship with Fertizona, a fertilizer company that has already offered her a job upon graduation.

She also has been a CALES ambassador, a greenhouse worker at the Controlled Environment Agriculture Center, and member of the Sigma Alpha professional sorority.

“Having had Tayler in the capstone class I teach, I have found her to be inquisitive, mature, and engaging,” said Gary Thompson, head of the Department of Agriculture and Resource Economics.


Chloe McClain

Outstanding Senior

Agricultural Technology Management and Education

“Be bold, be courageous, be your best.”

Gabrielle Giffords

Chloe McClain’s goal is to attend graduate school in agricultural education, get her credentials, and to teach high school students in Northern California. She said her work as president of Sigma Alpha, a professional agriculture sorority, and as a CALES ambassador have provided leadership skills and great training for her future.

“They have taught me so much about working with others and how to advocate for change within an organization,” McClain said.

Other activities for McClain include working with the local Farm Bureau’s “Ag in the Classroom” program and organizing career development events with the Arizona FFA.


MaryRuth Hodsden

Outstanding Senior

Animal Sciences

“There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.”

Winston Churchill

Since she was able to walk, MaryRuth Hodsden says, she has been in a barn with horses. She calls it her true passion. At CALES, that passion merged with academics – and her future career – as Hodsden excelled in the Race Track Industry Program.

In addition to service as a CALES ASEMS peer mentor, Hodsden routinely worked as much as 40 hours a week at horse barns, with race teams and at racetracks such as Rillito Park.

“My personal mission statement is: Any horse that is under my care will have the best life that I can provide,” she said.


Brian Scott

Outstanding Senior

Biosystems Analytics and Technology

“Death is more universal than life; everyone dies but not everyone lives.”

Alan Sachs

Brian Scott’s home away from home while at CALES has been the Controlled Environment Agriculture Center. Scott has spent more than 400 hours at the CEAC over the past year as the greenhouse manager, overseeing one to three students, running the greenhouse systems, and compiling weekly reports. That was preceded by another couple of hundred hours as a student worker at the center.

Scott said his goal upon graduation is a career where he can work with, and design, controlled environment agricultural systems. He eventually hopes to earn a doctorate in biosystems analytics and technology and teach about the field at the University of Arizona.


Tanner Dykstra

Outstanding Senior

Environmental and Water Resource Economics

“Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who somebody else is today.”

Jordan Peterson

Tanner Dykstra has focused on learning all aspects of agribusiness, with a goal of eventually helping expand his family’s business, Dykstra Machinery, in the Southwest. His immediate plan includes getting a master’s degree and working at an agriculture-related financial firm.

Dykstra said he gained valuable leadership skills by being president of Alpha Gamma Rho, a professional agriculture fraternity, and serving as a CALES ambassador.

“Ultimately, I want to continue the quality business that my parents have built up in order to serve farmers, dairymen, and more with their equipment needs,” he said.


Scarlet Canal-Estevez

Outstanding Senior

Family Studies and Human Development

During the pandemic, when finding internships was tough, Scarlet Canal-Estevez says she lucked out. She got a position with SHINE Boys and Girls Center in Yuma, Arizona. Canal-Estevez said the work helped her build leadership skills and solidify her goals to help youths, especially those facing challenges.

Canal-Estevez said her plans include going to graduate school and becoming a youth counselor in private practice. “The possibility of working with children to make a positive change around the community feels very fulfilling to me,” she said.

At UArizona-Yuma, Canal-Estevez was a member of Wildcats for the Community, while also juggling 28 hours a week as an instructional aide at a local preschool.


Madison Goforth

Outstanding Senior


“I still have the fresh air I breathe; no shackles that cover the ground to break a sweat; there is still freedom; and your dad loves you.”

Madison Goforth’s vision is for an effective and safe system of farming that will allow for a prosperous agricultural economy worldwide and especially in low- and middle-income countries. To that end, she plans to complete a master’s degree at UArizona and hone her research skills in key areas of soil microbiology, and food safety and quality.

Goforth’s research work already has drawn attention. As she graduates, she will have three publications, including two as first-author – a feat that is almost unheard of for an undergraduate researcher, said Kerry Cooper, assistant professor of food safety and epidemiology.

Cooper added: “Madison will be a great scientist in the field of microbiology and will change the world.”


Wendy McBroom

Outstanding Senior

Personal and Family Financial Planning

“If you don’t know how to get over a fence, throw your hat over to the other side. Now you’ve just committed yourself to finding a solution and achieving your goal.”

Whereas Wendy McBroom said she once was content to sit “in the background,” she flipped that upside down while at CALES and chose to pursue as many opportunities as possible. Those include being the founder and president of the Financial Freedom Club and “lead cat” of the Take Charge Cats, which visits local high schools to teach personal finance workshops.

On top of that, McBroom served as marketing director for the campus Residence Hall Association, did a Startup Tucson internship, and even was a reporter with the Daily Wildcat, along with numerous other activities.

“I would like to work in the non-profit sector to empower others to adopt healthy financial habits so they can become financially independent,” McBroom said.


William Lampman

Outstanding Senior

Plant Sciences

“The future is always unknown, but the path is easier to travel when it is paved with passion.”

William Lampman aspires to be a conservation biologist and professor, with a focus on wildlife conservation behavior. He envisions his journey taking him to Australia, Canada, and numerous other countries.

Closer to home, he already has made a mark. Through an internship and work with the Campus Arboretum, he analyzed the natural history, botanical characteristics, and cultivation of dozens of species. He then created more than 75 reports that are published on the arboretum website, and he followed that up with photos and mapping of the species for the “Grounds App,” said Tanya M. Quist, arboretum director.

An additional internship included research on animal behavior, while Lampman also volunteered with the Arizona Game and Fish Department and advocated for greater LGBTQ+ representation in the sciences. Quist said: “I have never been more humbled to work with a student so capable of growth, social maturity, courage, and professionalism.”


Paulette Estrada

Outstanding Senior

Retailing and Consumer Science

“The greatest advice I can ever share is to have grace with yourself and remain patient through everything. Do not compare yourself to others; run your own race at your own pace.”

Paulette Estrada came to CALES via Pima Community College, earned accolades from faculty and peers, and intends to keep on growing. “Upon graduation, I hope to secure a position in the fashion/retail industry working as a corporate buyer for Nieman Marcus,” she said.

At CALES, Estrada has been a peer mentor, a preceptor, vice president of the TREND Fashion Club, and vice chair of the Student Advisory Board. She also completed a summer internship with Macy’s in New York City as a buyer.

Felicia Frontain, assistant professor of practice in retailing and consumer science, noted that professors at Pima frequently ask about Estrada and cite her as a model of how successful a student can be when they apply themselves.


Laramie Pruit

Outstanding Senior

Agricultural Systems Management

“Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field.”

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Laramie Pruit has been teaching agriculture to high schoolers in Yuma County for five years, and he plans to use what he learned in CALES to make his teaching even better. Eventually he would like to transition into either higher education or the agricultural industry, with the goal of owning his own farm and continuing his family’s legacy of agriculture.

“I have come to love Arizona farming and all aspects of the agribusiness sector,” Pruit said.

In addition to his teaching duties, he has been involved in the Arizona Farm Bureau’s Young Ranchers and Farmers group, conducted research on drip irrigation, and interned with a farm operation in Gila Bend, Arizona.


Francisco Aguirre

Outstanding Senior

Sustainable Plant Systems

Francisco Aguirre hopes to give back to his community and to help others who are trying to become part of the agricultural industry. He came to UArizona-Yuma through the 2 + 2 program, in which he first spent two years at Arizona Western College.

Aguirre has been involved in the Young Farmers and Ranchers program, conducted a variety of research and independent study projects, and continues to be a product development intern with Syngenta, in which he has helped conduct trials of new experimental vegetable varieties. He said his future involves pursuing a master’s degree and possibly teaching to help future generations.

Baleshka Brenes, director of agriculture programs at UArizona-Yuma, said Aguirre delivers high quality work every time. “His positive attitude is contagious, and his mentoring of other students is really admirable.”