Published on 10/18/04

Five UGA faculty members accept 2004 Brooks Awards

By Faith Peppers
University of Georgia

Five University of Georgia faculty members received the prestigious D.W. Brooks Awards for Excellence Oct. 18 in Athens, Ga.

The $5,000 annual awards recognize UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences educators and researchers who excel in teaching, research, extension and public service extension programs. An award for international agriculture is given in even-numbered years.

The 2004 winners are Jeffrey Dorfman, teaching; Paul Bertsch, research; Bill Hurst, extension; Debbie Purvis, public service extension programs; and Jack Houston, international agriculture.

The CAES sponsors the annual lecture and awards in memory of D.W. Brooks, founder of Gold Kist, Inc., and Cotton States Mutual Insurance Companies.

Mark Drabenstott, vice president and director of the Center for the Study of Rural America at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, delivered the 2004 D.W. Brooks Lecture, "The Brave New World for Land-grant Universities."

Dorfman, an outstanding teacher of agricultural and applied economics, has received the department's graduate teaching award in 1991 and 1992 and undergraduate teaching award in 1998, 2001 and 2003.

In 2004, he was presented the Southern Agricultural Economics Association Distinguished Teaching of a Course Award for his course, "The Economics of Agricultural Processing and Marketing."

This course helps prepare students to work in food industry jobs. They learn to apply economic principles to real-world situations. The course prepares them to solve economic and management problems they will likely face in the food industry.

Bertsch is a professor of soil physical chemistry and mineralogy and director of the Savannah River Ecology Lab. His research on aluminum chemistry has improved scientists' understanding of the element's role in soil chemistry and plant and animal toxicity.

His extensive work on delineating the chemical speciation, or molecular form of atoms, of environmental contaminants and on understanding the connection between chemical speciation and the mobility, bioavailability and toxicity of contaminants is widely recognized as pioneering.

It has provided the basis of a new research area now generally known as molecular environmental science.

Hurst, an extension food scientist, has been a leader in developing food safety training and workshop materials for the fresh and fresh-cut produce industries for more than 20 years.

His work with the Georgia Department of Agriculture and other entities is recognized nationwide. He developed the Georgia State "Fresh Produce Safety Team" and the nation's first GAPs (Good Agricultural Practices) short course for the fresh produce industry.

Hurst's Georgia GAPs Food Safety Program for Georgia produce growers, packers and shippers program saved thousands of dollars in third-party audit fees for the industry. It is a model for other states that are working to establish similar programs.

Purvis, an extension agent in Colquitt County, is involved in projects such as "Smart Kids Fight BAC," a multistate food safety curriculum, and the Faculty Research Grant Pilot Study, a profile and needs assessment of the Latino migrant population.

She has trained a bilingual staff and now offers food service employees a state-required food handler certification training in both Spanish and English.

She led in procuring a grant for "Voz de la Familia," a family-centered community outreach program, and has taught nutrition, food safety and chronic disease prevention to nearly 1,000 Latino farm workers since 2002.

Houston has taught agricultural and applied economics at UGA since 1984. Before that, he was a Peace Corps volunteer in Malawi and then spent nine years with the Malawi Ministry of Agriculture. He trained more than 2,000 agricultural extension personnel and led in planning and developing the curriculum of a new college of natural resources.

At UGA, Houston has been the interim director of the African studies program. He developed the proposal to advance the program into a university-wide Institute of African Studies in 2001.

Houston directs his department's first study-abroad course, the International Agribusiness Marketing and Management course takes at the University of Veracruz, Mexico.

(Faith Peppers is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

Faith Peppers is the director of public affairs with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.