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College of Agricultural & Life Sciences

Physical Address:
E. J. Iddings Agricultural Science Laboratory, Room 52
606 S Rayburn St

Mailing Address:
875 Perimeter Drive MS 2331
Moscow, ID 83844-2331

Phone: 208-885-6681

Fax: 208-885-6654



Catching Up with CALS Feb. 22, 2017

Dean's Message — Busy in Boise

It has been a fast-paced week in Boise with a visit to the UI Extension 4-H Know Your Government Breakfast Monday, the Dean’s Advisory Committee later in the day and the Larry Branen Idaho Ag Summit events including Tuesday’s Governor’s Awards luncheon.Undergraduates Garth Sasser, left, and Jerry Nelson conduct milk testing in 1962.

Vandals had a lot to celebrate at the luncheon with six of the seven honorees CALS alums. One who both graduated from CALS and taught here was Garth Sasser, an animal scientist and emeritus professor. He received this year’s Governor’s Award for Excellence in Agriculture for technical innovation during the Ag Summit.

His success as a teacher and researcher during his years in CALS led him to found BioTracking, a Moscow-based business that conducts blood-based pregnancy testing for cattle, horses, goats, sheep, bison and wildlife.

The BioTracking story and the hard work of Garth and Nancy Sasser to create a business in Moscow is a CALS and Idaho agriculture story worth celebrating.

Later in the week we will celebrate Leadership Idaho Agriculture’s graduation ceremony and congratulate CALS biotechnologist Joe Kuhl on completing the year-long training program.

Last week, I had the opportunity to meet with the CALS Ambassadors team, which is an impressive group of students who are critical to our efforts to increase the numbers of students enrolling here.

So far, the numbers look promising. We see more students applying and being admitted. Now we need to see those numbers translate into more students enrolled and attending classes in the fall.

We are doing some different things to expand our reach. This week is the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival. CALS has signed on as a sponsor and will participate in a college fair to reflect that the interests of CALS faculty and staff range widely, and that we are part of the university community as a whole.

College of Agricultural and Life Sciences

By the Numbers 

28 CALS Ambassadors drove 5,400 miles across 4 states this fall to visit 50 classrooms and interact with over 1,400 students through class meetings and science labs featuring soil, animal or family and consumer sciences. Former CALS Dean Larry Branen founded the program in 1982.

Our Stories — CALS Ambassadors Go the Distance

The College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) is supporting the University of Idaho’s goal to increase undergraduate enrollment by investing in the CALS Ambassador program.CALS ambassadors participated in a Moscow High School career fair early in February.

The CALS Ambassador program draws together students from a variety of majors within the college. The team showcases what CALS has to offer, helps with recruiting efforts and strengthens alumni and donor relationships. Ambassadors are a competitively selected group of high achieving UI students who share a common goal to promote CALS and increase student outreach.

The CALS Ambassador team became the first college recruiting team at UI in 1982 and remains the UI’s largest, receiving tremendous college support. The team traveled more than 5,400 miles and was in contact with 1,400 high school students last semester.

“If I had to categorize the ambassadors, I would say they are the cheerleaders of the college,” said John Foltz, UI special assistant to the president for agricultural initiatives.

Foltz and his wife, Barbara, established the first endowment for the ambassador team five years ago. The John and Barbara Foltz CALS Ambassador Endowment supports ambassadors serving in leadership roles and professional development activities.

“It’s a way to give back, a way to support students, a way to help them with their education and a way to support them in an activity that we think is really worthwhile,” John Foltz said.

The endowment also supports scholarships for ambassadors. In addition to participating in a weekly two-credit class, the students also receive a scholarship. New ambassadors receive $500, returning ambassadors receive $1,000 and ambassador officers receive $2,000 per academic year.

Another endowment is being created in honor of Al J. Lingg, former associate dean and director of academic programs.

This year, there are 24 ambassadors, four of which hold officer positions, including Margaret Elliot, president from Prosser, Washington; Cassidy Berry, director of communications from Kimberly; Kailyn Gady, director of finance from Rockford, Washington; and Austin O’Neill, director of recruitment from Stanwood, Washington.

The ambassadors travel in pairs to high schools in Idaho, Washington, Oregon and California, usually completing two trips per semester. Ambassadors become acquainted with how to reach out to people in a professional setting and coordinate visits, an important professional development component of the course.

During high school visits, the ambassadors provide a presentation that highlights the different departments in CALS, and gives students a broad overview of degrees, possible career paths and what a prospective student can expect if they were to enroll in these areas. A science lab component is offered in soil, animal or family and consumer sciences.

“My favorite part of the team is helping students find their niche,” Elliot said. “Coming to college is really stressful, we’ve all been there. We’re not sure what we want to do or which college offers the best options for our personal needs. So walking students through that process and helping them find the right fit is really fulfilling.”

Ambassadors develop numerous lifelong skills, including how to network, communicate effectively, speak in public and give presentations. They also learn how to interact with people, develop teamwork skills and practice professionalism.

“They’re all high achieving, developed leaders and they’re all so different,” said Audra Cochran, CALS assistant director of recruitment and ambassador advisor. “They all have different career paths and goals in mind but then they can all come together for this common goal and get really excited about it. They are so appreciative of what this university and our college has given them. I think that’s really the coolest part — that common bond.”

“Audra is amazing,” Elliot said. “She knows what it’s like to be a college student and stress out about all your other responsibilities. So to have her just be so understanding is really helpful. She’s done a phenomenal job at keeping up with the pace of the team, and I think that we’re really headed to a great future.”

Story by CALS student Jean Parrella

Ag Summit Governor's Awards Honor CALS Alums

Vandals had plenty to celebrate during the Governor’s Awards for Excellence in Agriculture ceremony at the Larry Branen Idaho Ag Summit Tuesday. Of the seven honorees recognized by Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter, six attended CALS.Meridian agricultural educator Steve Wilder receives an Idaho Governor's Award for Excellence in Agriculture for Education and Advocacy from Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter Tuesday, Feb. 22,  at the Larry Branen Idaho Ag Summit.

Agriculture is about the hard work of removing rocks and building soil fertility to produce successful harvests, the governor noted. But it is also about commitment to the broader reach of agriculture. “In a way, that’s what we are celebrating here today, those who also work not only work on the farm but to improve it every day. So whether it’s through technology or education or lifetime achievement, whether it’s in marketing…”

He paused to call the audience’s attention to two people he considered as marketers, Vandals and Moscow residents Garth and Nancy Sasser. Otter said he first met them at a dairy in China and learned about their innovative pregnancy test.

“You know you would have saved me a hell of a lot of work if you had been around 20 years earlier because that’s when we were trying to figure it out,” Otter said with a laugh, then added, “That’s why we’re here today, not only achievement in certain fields but achievement in staying with it. Achievement in educating the next generation, because that’s our job as well.”

Doug Gross of Wilder led the string of Vandal honorees, winning the Governor’s Award for Lifetime Achievement for his work as an Idaho potato industry leader. A member and past president of the Idaho Potato Commission, he began farming in 1975 and founded the Gross Seed Co. in 1983.

He was honored last month with a UI Alumni Association Silver and Gold Award. He is married to Mary Warfield Hasenoehrl, who served as CALS development director and currently serves on the CALS Advisory Board.

R. Garth Sasser was recognized for technical innovation for discovering a blood protein associated with pregnancy and developing that discovery into the basis for BioTracking, a Moscow-based company that markets livestock and wildlife pregnancy testing worldwide.

Sasser, who grew up in Pingree, Idaho, graduated from UI with degrees in agronomy and dairy science, then earned a doctorate in physiology from the University of California, Davis. He returned to UI in 1967 to teach, conduct research and serve as an administrator for 32 years before retiring to create the company with his wife, Nancy.

Doug and Art McIntosh won the governor’s award for marketing innovation for their work to diversify their family farm near Lewiston to include Harvest Ridge Organics, which sells wheat berries, flour and organic oats.

The McIntoshes’ Lindsay Creek Vineyards produce high quality wine and grapes and include an event center. The award recognized their innovative marketing and outreach to schools and media.

Steve Wilder was recognized for education and advocacy for his 36 year teaching career in Meridian’s Agriculture Science and Technology Program. Wilder helped lead the development of Meridian's Magnet Agricultural Science program that serves five school district high schools, three alternative high schools and three charter schools. The program operates an 85,000-square foot facility at Meridian High School that has 12.5 teaching positions.

Wilder played a key role in the Idaho Legislature’s 2015 passage of the Agricultural Education Initiative. He and his wife, Laura, own a flock of purebred Suffolk sheep.

Also recognized Tuesday by the governor was Sid Cellan, who was honored for his environmental stewardship with particular attention to wildlife including sage grouse on his dry-land farm north of Soda Springs. A graduate of Idaho State University, he has served the National Association of Wheat Growers and was appointed by the governor to the Oil and Gas Commission in 2013.

Faces and Places

From left, John Foltz, Larry Branen and Michael Parrella gathered at the Larry Branen Idaho Ag Summit in Boise Tuesday. Foltz now serves as UI President Chuck Staben's special assistant for agricultural initiatives, Branen is retired and Parrella now serves as dean.

Larry Branen, twice CALS dean and UI vice president for north Idaho emeritus, kicked off the Larry Branen Idaho Ag Summit in Boise Tuesday, Feb. 21, with a call for more attention to the importance of science in agriculture and American society in general. Two more CALS deans, Michael Parrella, who began serving as dean in February 2016, and John Foltz, who now serves as UI President Chuck Staben's special assistant for agricultural initiatives, attended the Ag Summit.


  • Feb. 21-Mar. 8 — Farm Financial Fitne$$, a Cultivating Success Course. UI Extension Canyon County, 501 Main St, Caldwell, ID. Tuesday evenings 6-9 p.m.
  • Feb. 23-25 — 2017 Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival. More information online at
  • Feb. 24 — Jazz Festival Academic and Resource Fair. East Zone of Kibbie Dome. 3-4:30 p.m.
  • Feb. 24 — CALS Awards nominations due. Deadline: 5 p.m.
  • Feb. 24-25 — Regional Farmers' Market Workshop for Managers and Vendors. Register online at Hampton Inn, Nampa, ID
  • March 1 — Idaho Victory Garden Online Course: Grow, Eat, Save opens. $10 registration fee. Register online by Feb. 28 at UI Marketplace
  • March 3 — UI Extension Small Farms Workshops. $20 registration fee, plus $5 for every additional family member or farm partner. Emmett, ID. Register online at UI Marketplace or call 208-287-5900. 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
  • March 4 — Farm Law 101 Workshop. UI Extension Ada County. 5880 Glenwood St, Boise, ID. Register online at the UI Marketplace by Feb. 25. 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
  • March 24 — UI Extension Small Farms Workshops. $20 registration fee, plus $5 for every additional family member or farm partner. Boise, ID. Register online at UI Marketplace or call 208-287-5900. 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
  • March 25-26 — UIdaho Bound Event for admitted students. Full schedule can be found online at Check-in: Kibbie Dome North Concourse March 25 at 3 p.m.
  • April 1-2 — UIdaho Bound Event for admitted students. Full schedule can be found online at Check-in: Kibbie Dome North Concourse March 25 at 3 p.m.

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College of Agricultural & Life Sciences

Physical Address:
E. J. Iddings Agricultural Science Laboratory, Room 52
606 S Rayburn St

Mailing Address:
875 Perimeter Drive MS 2331
Moscow, ID 83844-2331

Phone: 208-885-6681

Fax: 208-885-6654