Grant Buwalda and Ashley Tuszka, outstanding CAFES seniors 2023 pose together at commencement
L-R: CAFES Outstanding Seniors Grant Buwalda and Ashley Tuszka took part in UWRF Commencement on May 6.

CAFES outstanding seniors honored at senior supper


May 10, 2023 -- The College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences (CAFES) at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls presented two awards to outstanding seniors at their 40th Annual Senior Supper on April 26. The event is sponsored by the CAFES Alumni Association to celebrate the accomplishments of the graduating seniors and to welcome them into the alumni family. 

Ashley Tuszka, of De Pere, received the Rochelle Junkman Seymour Award for 2022-23. The award recognizes the graduating senior with the highest GPA in the college. Tuszka, an animal science major, was not at the supper as she was completing her first year of veterinary school having been accepted into the 3 + 1 program at UW-Madison. 

The faculty that know Tuszka best described her as an exemplary student who served as the president of the Equine Physical Therapy Association, the vice president of the Pre-Veterinary Club, and took part in six equine-related research projects, including presenting her findings at regional and national conferences. They went on to say that she achieved so much due to her hard work, dedication to learning, and perseverance but she worked toward each with a smile on her face and a go-getter mentality. With this award, Tuszka had the honor of serving as the class marshal, leading the CAFES graduates into commencement ceremonies on May 6.

Grant Buwalda, an agricultural business major from Waupun, was presented with the Dr. Earl Hildebrand Memorial Award which honors the graduating senior who best exemplifies a combination of scholastic achievement, extracurricular involvement and leadership roles in CAFES. Students are nominated by faculty and the recipient is selected by the CAFES Awards Committee.

In a tribute to Buwalda’s impact at UWRF, nine faculty from three departments prepared his nomination. In their letter they noted his academic achievements plus his extensive involvement in clubs and teams. He held multiple leadership roles with the Agricultural Business and Marketing Society, the Collegiate Farm Bureau Chapter, the Beef Management Team, and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, and was a member of the successful Agricultural Business and Knowledge Bowl teams at NACTA competitions the past two years. In team settings, Buwalda’s enthusiasm to “get things done” infected his teammates, but his habits of neatness and accuracy always resulted in high-quality team output.  The faculty concluded their nomination indicating they hold Buwalda in the highest esteem for his diligence, maturity, and integrity. 

“He is always a positive influence on others. He is an individual we are proud to have representing the college and our departments,” they wrote.

The senior supper featured the traditional series of speakers. Representing the alumni was Lisa Ecker Mielke, a 2017 agricultural engineering technology graduate, who shared her personal experience of how if you don’t ask for something, you won’t get it. Amanda Dunavan, a graduating senior in the geology program from Minooka, Ill., recalled thinking how college was going to be so “professional” and “tight-laced” only to discover geology faculty who could also do interpretive dance, and faculty who were not above lobbing rocks into the river to win a rubber duck race. She acknowledged having been given all the tools to succeed, but that it will be difficult without these teachers and her friends leading the way. 

Animal Science Professor Justin Luther wrapped up the evening and shared three key points that he felt would help the graduates be successful: be a life-long learner, embrace the joys of serving young people, and be caring and compassionate with one another. 

The students graduating with Laude honors, those who maintained a minimum 3.7 GPA for their entire college career, were recognized and presented with red and white cords to wear at commencement. Dean Olson, CAFES interim dean, also took a few moments to list the many events CAFES students were involved in in just the month of April. He acknowledged the students who took time to volunteer in many capacities and those who had to work, those preparing to take over the family business or already pursuing an entrepreneurial dream, all while attending classes. Olson thanked them for all they did to make CAFES a model of success that is recognized across campus.

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