Outstanding alumni recognized at 67th CAES Alumni Association Awards banquet

Published on 05/04/23

By Jordan Powers

Six alumni from the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) were recognized at the 67th annual CAES Alumni Association Awards banquet on April 29. Two Georgia agricultural leaders were honored with induction into the Georgia Agricultural Hall of Fame at the event, hosted at the UGA Tate Center Grand Hall.

“This year’s honorees are vivid examples of wisdom, exceptional talent and tireless dedication to Georgia’s largest industry,” said Tim Miller, CAES Alumni Association board president and senior manager for training at Kubota Manufacturing of America Corp. and Kubota Industrial Equipment Corp. “The 2023 CAES Awards ceremony is a time-honored celebration to recognize such successes.”

“These recipients have carried the CAES message to each of their respective industries and areas of proficiency,” Miller said. “By engaging with Georgia’s farmers and growers, agribusiness partners, and local communities, their wisdom will carry far into the future, benefiting all involved in Georgia agriculture. What an honor it is for me to celebrate this moment with them.”

Young Alumni Achievement Awards

The CAES Alumni Association Young Alumni Achievement Award recognizes alumni under 41 who have achieved excellence in their chosen field and/or in their community.

Jessie Turk Bland, a 2010 graduate with a bachelor’s degree in animal science, is the manager of promotions and marketing at the Georgia Peanut Commission and director of advertising for the Southeastern Peanut Farmer magazine.

Bland also serves as coordinator of the Southern Peanut Farmers Federation Peanut Leadership Academy, a National Peanut Board Grower and Industry Ambassador, and a member of the Women in Peanut Leadership Group. An active UGA alumnus, Bland serves on the advisory council for the CAES Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication and volunteers with the CAES Alumni Association, where she was presented with the inaugural Volunteer Service Award in 2019.

Chad Paulk, who earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science in 2009, is an associate professor of feed science and management in the Department of Grain Science and Industry at Kansas State University.

Paulk’s research uses a multidisciplinary approach to enhance monogastric nutrition through research focused on feed manufacturing, applied nutrition and feed safety. He teaches classes on qualities of feed ingredients, animal food safety, introduction to grain science and a graduate student seminar and is developing a course on the nutritional impacts of processing. He advises and mentors feed science undergraduate and graduate students and serves as co-advisor of the Feed Science Club.

Tyson Strickland earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science in 2011. A 2016 graduate of the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine, Strickland is the founder and owner of Custom Livestock Solutions, a multi-focus veterinary practice and provider of premier herd health and management services.

Strickland is past chair of the Georgia Cattlemen’s Association’s Young Cattlemen’s Council and serves on the Georgia Veterinary Medical Association’s Board of Directors. A resident of Madison County, Strickland served on the Madison County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors from 2019 to 2020.

Born and raised in Perry, Georgia, Strickland is a third-generation Ag Dawg and, as an undergraduate, was part of the second class of the CAES Food Animal Veterinary Incentive Program for pre-veterinary medicine students interested in practicing food animal medicine.

Awards of Excellence

The CAES Alumni Association Award of Excellence recognizes alumni who have achieved excellence in their chosen field and/or in their community.

Derek E. Eberhart, who earned a bachelor’s degree in poultry science in 1986 and a master’s degree in poultry science in 1991, is associate vice president for research and executive director of the UGA Innovation Gateway. He led the strategic integration of UGA’s intellectual property licensing and startup programs forming Innovation Gateway in 2015 to ensure that discoveries made by UGA researchers reach their full potential for public benefit and foster technology-based economic development. Under his leadership, UGA has ranked among the top five U.S. universities for new research-based products for the last nine years, including numerous products emerging from CAES research.

He is a member of the board of the Georgia Intellectual Property Alliance and of Georgia Bio, which honored him with a 2017 Georgia Bio Community Award for “leadership in connecting industry with university expertise and inventions for the public good, promoting economic development, and increasing research visibility.” In 2022, he was selected to the Georgia 500 list of “Georgia’s Most Influential Leaders” by Georgia Trend.

Michelle Samuel-Foo, a 2003 graduate with a master’s degree in agronomy and a doctorate in entomology earned in 2008, is a national program leader for the Plant Protection Division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

Prior to joining NIFA in 2021, Samuel-Foo was director of specialty crop research at Alabama State University (ASU) for four years. While at ASU, she led initiatives centered around addressing food insecurity on minority-serving campuses. Her successful introduction of a specialty crop urban garden on the campus was in part to introduce students who are not agriculturally focused to the benefits of growing and consuming a diet rich in fruits and vegetables to help combat diet-related ailments that disproportionately impact African American populations.

Widely recognized as a subject matter expert in entomology and specialty crop agriculture, Samuel-Foo was elected as the first minority female president of the Southeastern Branch of the Entomological Society of America (SEB-ESA) in 2021. She is actively involved with the Entomological Society of America (ESA) and the National Society of Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS).

Carla Wennberg earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science in 1981 and has served as head coach and instructor of the Equestrian Program at St. Andrews University in Laurinberg, North Carolina, for 17 years, coaching two teams to national championships in the Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association. Previously, she spent nearly 15 years instructing in the equine programs at UGA, Colorado State University and Martin Community College.

An active member of the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA), Wennberg has served as a judge for with AQHA and the National Snaffle Bit Association (NSBA) for 36 years and as a judge for the National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) for 28 years. She has served for more than eight years on the AQHA judge’s committee and sub-committee and has served as an instructor for judges for 20 years, helping develop the Working Hunter Under Saddle event. Wennberg has judged horses in every state in the U.S. and six foreign countries and has received many honors, including the IHSA 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award and the AQHA 2008 Horsewoman of the Year.

Working together to tackle critical challenges

“With cutting-edge research, the best and brightest students, and world-class faculty members across the state, CAES is working diligently to feed the world, protect the environment and innovate industry,” said Nick Place, CAES dean and director. “We are glad to have our strong alumni base as part of that effort — when we are working together, we are better able to tackle the world’s critical challenges in agriculture and the environment.”

For more information about the CAES Alumni Association, visit

Jordan Powers is the public relations coordinator and writer for UGA's College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.