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Celebration Corner

Takele honored for DEI achievements 

Eta Takele

The Agricultural & Applied Economics Association's Committee on Women in Agricultural Economics recognized Etaferahu Takele, UCCE area agricultural economics and farm management advisor in Southern California, for advancing diversity, equity and inclusion as a researcher, mentor and leader.

“Throughout Ms. Takele's life, before affirmative action, diversity, equity and inclusion were something to advocate for, she modeled and advocated for the underrepresented people in her community, at the university, within the county government and in her professional associations,” wrote a nominator.

From 2007 to 2020, Takele was director for UCCE in Riverside County, where she revived the 4-H Youth Development Program, expanded the Master Gardener Program and doubled the reach of the Expanded Food Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) to underrepresented clientele in Riverside County. 

In partnership with California State University San Bernardino, she received a $500,000 USDA grant for the Inland Empire Small Farm Initiative to provide risk management education to Hispanic minority growers and farm laborers with little or no experience with running their own farms in the United States. Takele worked with farmers to develop budgets and determine risks associated with production of various crops. To ensure the program was inclusive, it was delivered in Spanish. She provided minority farmers with regular financial counseling and helped them develop cost-benefit models of investing in minor crops. 

Her work with small-scale and minority growers influenced the introduction and expansion of new specialty crops such as blueberries and cherimoya in the coastal and the desert regions of Southern California. 

Read more about Takele's achievements at

AEOE honors Nelson with Lifetime Achievement Award  

Sarah-Mae Nelson

The Association for Environmental & Outdoor Education has recognized Sarah-Mae Nelson's career contributions to advancing environmental education with its Lifetime Achievement Award. The UC Climate Stewards Initiative academic coordinator for UC Environmental Stewards has over 28 years of experience as an educator, interpreter and climate communicator.

"Since the launching of the Climate Stewards program in 2020, Sarah-Mae's leadership has been instrumental in its remarkable growth and success,” wrote Nelson's nominator. “Under her guidance, 27 community-based organizations have conducted 80 courses, certifying nearly 1,000 Climate Stewards.

“In every endeavor she undertakes, Sarah-Mae approaches challenges with unparalleled determination and meticulousness. Her resilience in the face of adversity serves as an inspiration to all who have the privilege of working alongside her." 

The Lifetime Achievement Award is presented to those who have made a significant impact in environmental and outdoor education over the course of their career, both within their organization(s) and the field at large, and who demonstrate a strong commitment to equity and inclusion.

Nelson's contributions were celebrated on May 4 at AEOE's Annual Statewide Conference in Orange.

Rethwisch elected Sigma Xi member 

Michael Rethwisch

Michael Rethwisch, UCCE field crops advisor for Riverside County, has been elected a full member into Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Honor Society.

He joins top scholars in the society such as Albert Einstein, Gerty Cori, Linus Pauling, Julian Lewis, Rita Levi Montalcini and Sally Ride. 

Rethwisch was nominated by Jamie Vernon, Sigma Xi executive director and CEO and publisher of American Scientist magazine, and Allen Thomas, Donald E. Fox Professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.

Two of the journal articles that qualified Rethwisch for Sigma Xi membership are SY Wolf Winter Wheat Responses to RyzUp SmartGrass Application at Third Leaf Stage in East Central Nebraska and First Report of Western Trochanter Mealybug, Pseudococcus dysmicus (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae), in Nebraska and Observations from Soybean.

Vela named ACE Rising Star, five other communicators win awards 

Six communicators won major awards from the international Association for Communication Excellence (ACE), a professional organization that supports and showcases science communication in agriculture, natural resources, and life and human sciences.

Ricardo Vela

Ricardo Vela, manager of UC ANR News and Information Outreach in Spanish (NOS), won the ACE 2024 Rising Star Award, an annual award that "honors communicators, instructors and researchers who demonstrate exceptional leadership and technical skills in their communication field, to their institution and service to ACE."

Vela is a 35-year, two-time Emmy-winning broadcast journalism professional. As program manager of NOS, he supervises a Spanish-language expert team that disseminates news and research about agriculture, nutrition and natural resources to Spanish-speaking communities across California. Vela is an advocate for Latino and other ethnic groups, promoting their contributions to society and creating for the first time events for the UC ANR community to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month and Cesar Chavez Day.

Before joining UC ANR in 2017, Vela worked as a national news correspondent for Univision and CNN in Texas and Los Angeles. He started his journalism career at the Chicago Tribune and Univision in Chicago. While in Chicago, he collaborated with several Latino community organizations, always promoting equity and inclusion. He served as Univision's main news anchor in San Diego for 17 years and hosted a morning talk radio show, “Voces Hispanas,” for 10 years. He has served as news director and anchor at Entravisión (a Univisión affiliate) in Palm Springs and as a news anchor at Telemundo in El Paso, Texas. In 2006, Hispanic Magazine listed him as among the 100 most influential Latinos in the country.

Vice President Glenda Humiston appointed Vela as a founding member of the UC Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee. 

Kathy Keatley Garvey’s image of a honey bee buzzing over a zinnia won a gold award for “best feature photo."

Five other UC ANR communicators won gold (first place), silver (second place), or a bronze (third place) award.

    • Kathy Keatley Garvey, communications specialist for the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and author of the Bug Squad blog, won a gold award for “best feature photo." Her image of a honey bee buzzing over a zinnia earned an award in the feature photo category, for "one image that effectively tells a story." 

  • Michael Hsu, senior public information representative; Ethan Ireland, senior videographer; and Evett Kilmartin, photographer, won a silver award for their “Farm-to-Corrections Project" video about a Nutrition Policy Institute partnership with Impact Justice, ChangeLab Solutions, Spork and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
  • Social media strategist Doralicia Garay won a bronze award for the social media campaign “Improving Lives in California,” designed to showcase UC ANR research and those who deliver it. 
UC Cooperative Extension specialist Ian Grettenberger was among the people featured in the award-winning social media campaign.

The awards will be presented at the annual ACE conference, June 23-25, in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Read more about the awards in Bug Squad at

ANR thanks Larson for 41 years of service

From left, Lynn Schmitt-McQuitty, Stephanie Larson and Glenda Humiston. Photo by JoLynn Miller

Stephanie Larson, UCCE director and livestock range management advisor for Sonoma County, was honored for her 41 years of service at the county directors meeting on May 23. Vice President Glenda Humiston and Lynn Schmitt-McQuitty, director of county Cooperative Extension, thanked Larson for her four decades of service.

Posted on Friday, May 31, 2024 at 10:25 AM

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