Peterson and Lee named CAFES Outstanding Seniors 

May 22, 2020 – The College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences (CAFES) at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls recently announced the recipients of the Rochelle Junkman Seymour Award and the Dr. Earl Hildebrand Memorial Award. Both annual awards honor outstanding seniors.

Gabrielle PetersonGabrielle Peterson, an animal science-companion animal major from Glenwood City, is the recipient of the Rochelle Junkman Seymour Award for the graduating senior with the highest GPA in the college. She was a member of the Honors Program, on the staff at the University Center, and an officer for the Companion Animal Respect and Education (CARE) Club. Peterson has always wanted to make a difference in the lives of animals and organized volunteer outings to the Humane Society for CARE club members. She wants to continue her efforts in a humane society setting and work her way up to where she can make a real difference for animals.

Beth Rausch, associate professor of Animal Science, remembers that Peterson stood out in her freshman year because her questions and assignment reflections were mature and insightful. Rausch had Peterson in her Companion Animal Care and Management class this past spring and said “Gabby demonstrated a high capacity for critical thinking, strong written and verbal communication, and insightful curiosity when approaching the peer-reviewed literature on course topics. All of this is punctuated by a balanced personality possessing both leadership and teamwork skills.”

Virginia Lee Virginia Lee, of Mequon, is the recipient of the Dr. Earl Hildebrand Memorial Award, honoring a student 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 Scholarship Committee.

Lee is among the first class of graduates of the agricultural engineering program. Lee remembers always liking math and science and having a great respect for agriculture. It was a mission trip to Quito, Ecuador, in her junior year of high school where Lee saw first-hand the gravity of food availability and water quality issues and realized she needed to do something to help. She found the new agricultural engineering program at UW-River Falls and thought it united her interests in science and agriculture. Returning to Ecuador was always in the back of her mind and so Lee chose to minor in Spanish, which will serve her well as she will return to Ecuador this August as a Year-Long Volunteer (YLV) at the Working Boys’ Center where she will teach two classes. 

“This is definitely a leap of faith, especially considering the condition of the world right now, but I have felt called to be a YLV since my junior year of high school,” said Lee.

After returning from Ecuador, she plans to enter the workforce for a few years before considering continuing her education in a graduate program.

While at UW-River Falls, Lee was very involved in seven student organizations, completed both an internship and a study-abroad trip to India, collaborated with a faculty member on an undergraduate research project, and worked in the Dairy Pilot Plant on campus. Lee took the lead on establishing the student chapter of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers at UW-River Falls. 

Her undergraduate research involved conducting experiments on enzyme-assisted protein isolation from alfalfa leaves under the direction of Youngmi Kim, associate professor of Agricultural Engineering.

“Virginia has determination and a lot of grit, very important traits for a woman engineer in this male dominated profession,” said Kim. “She is not a person who is afraid of trying new things, and when she sets her mind to achieve something, she does it.”

“I think our 2020 student award recipients, Gabrielle and Virginia, demonstrate once again how special our CAFES graduates really are,” said CAFES Dean Dale Gallenberg. “Their performance both in and outside of the classroom to achieve these recognitions is obvious. Beyond this, they each carry a passion for change in helping make the lives of people and animals better. They are models of commitment we can all look to for inspiration.”

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