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Faculty and Staff Brief Bios

Every few weeks, the Snapshots section will introduce you to a UMass faculty or staff member whose work helps to support the mission of the Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment. With these pieces, we aim to present a picture of the breadth of the education and research that happens every day at UMass Amherst. Enjoy getting to know some of our extraordinary colleagues.

Tina Smith: Some Green Thumb!

Tina Smith, extension educator, UMass Amherst “Growing things has always been a part of my life,” says Smith. Indeed! She grew up gardening outdoors with her family and caring for indoor houseplants. As a teenager, she had a small glass unheated greenhouse in her back yard where she started flower and vegetable seeds. Her high school summers found her working in those iconic long tobacco barns in the Pioneer Valley sewing dried tobacco leaves. Later, grounded in a love of plants, her career blossomed (excuse the pun) as an extension educator in the UMass Extension Greenhouse Crops and Floriculture Program at UMass Amherst.

Hang Xiao Wants to Help You Eat a Healthy Diet

Hang Xiao, Food Scientist, Associate Professor, Honors Program DirectorDr. Hang Xiao aims to help you eat a healthful diet and one that helps prevent disease. His research is focused on understanding the health-promoting effects of different food components. Xiao’s work is at the forefront of research into what are known as “functional foods”—foods that provide additional health benefits beyond basic nutrition. It turns out that knowing what your body needs to lower your risk to chronic diseases such as cancer is a lot more complicated than choosing cereal with a happy heart on the box. 

Katie Campbell-Nelson is Outstanding in Her (Vegetable) Field (No Joke)

Katie Campbell Nelson, Vegetable Specialist"Agriculture isn’t just a job for University of Massachusetts Extension Vegetable Specialist Katie Campbell-Nelson, it’s a part of who she is. 'No matter where I went, helping people farm was always a productive and important way to live, despite whatever else was going on.” This all-encompassing outlook on the importance of agriculture blossomed early in childhood, where being part of the community growing up in rural Indonesia also meant farming.

Tom Waskiewicz: Proud of a Life in 4-H

Tom Waskiewicz, Mass 4-H educator Tom Waskiewicz may be one of the most enthusiastic 4-H educators you will ever meet, maybe even one of the more enthusiastic humans in general. He has been involved with UMass Extension 4-H for 34 years (and counting). In 1982, Waskiewicz, a Hadley native, joined 4-H as a county agent based in Hampshire County and he has subsequently taken on many roles.

“Working with 4-H youth and volunteers is the most rewarding career I can imagine,” he said. Growing up on a small farm in the Connecticut River Valley known for its asparagus has provided a background that allows him to relate to farms—many of them operated by 4-H families—across the valley. 

Sarifa Khan: Committed Nutritional Coach

Sarifa Khan, nutritional coach, Springfield, MA Sarifa Khan’s gentle encouragement towards better nutritional health and the sincere warmth in her voice are evident from the minute you begin speaking with her. As a UMass Extension nutrition educator, she helps adults, teen parents, parents in shelters, and children in summer camps make smart nutritional choices through the “EFNEP” and “SNAP-ED” programs serving the communities of the western region of the state.

Carrie Chickering-Sears: When Your Passion Is Your Career

Carrie Chickering-Sears, 4-H Extension EducatorCarrie Chickering-Sears has a deep passion for animals. Fifteen years ago, she left a position as Operations Officer at a Massachusetts bank to go to work for the UMass Extension 4-H Youth Development Program. Today, she will tell you that she’s had a job for 15 years that syncs up perfectly with her interests and talents. As a dairy farmer and former 4-H dairy member, her decision was easy. She chose to leave regulators, auditors, and the inside work environment behind in favor of working with youth and adults doing things in which they, too, have devoted interests.

Dwayne Breger: Clean Energy Advocate

Dwayne Breger, Director, UMass Clean Energy ExtensionDwayne Breger is no stranger to clean energy issues. He brings many years of experience and broad knowledge to his role as founding director of the UMass Clean Energy Extension.

Breger arrived at UMass Amherst in October, 2015 to head up the new extension program after 13 years as the Director of the Renewable Energy Division at the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER). Breger is also an extension professor in environmental conservation.

Wendy Marcks: 4-H Educator and Enthusiast

Wendy Marcks 4H extensionWendy Marcks is an extension educator for the UMass Extension 4-H Youth Development Program for the northeast region of Massachusetts. She loves her job and has been perfecting it for 19 years. If you ask her what drives her passion about 4-H she will readily tell you it is the success of the 4-H Visual Presentation (VP) Program in her region and across the state. This program is known in the state’s educational community for producing capable, competent, and confident public speakers, willing to teach others.

Paige Warren: Urban Wildlife Devotee

Paige Warren, associate professor, Environmental Conservation, UMass, AmherstPaige Warren is an outdoor enthusiast who is devoted to increasing access to birds and wildlife within cities. Typically, low-income city-dwellers have limited access to greenspace and urban parks. Tree canopy, birdsong and other pleasures of rural or suburban settings are not as readily available to them. As associate professor in environmental conservation at UMass Amherst, she wants to change that.

Masoud Hashemi: This Expert Has Cover Crops Covered

Dr. Hashemi is the epitome of a perfect professor. While he may be a walking textbook on all things soils, pasture management, and cover crops, he is also a very easy man to speak with, listen to and learn from. His is a very congenial personality.

Hashemi is an extension associate professor in the Stockbridge School of Agriculture at UMass Amherst.

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