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Faculty and Staff Brief Bios

Let us 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.

  • Lynn Beattie is Passionate About Community Nutrition and Better Health

    Lynn Beattie works as a training manager for UMass Extension’s Nutrition Education Program (NEP). Her job is multi-faceted: she both develops and implements program materials, evaluations and training for NEP’s two programs, SNAP-Ed and EFNEP.
  • River Strong’s Energy Work and Lifelong Interests Intersect

    River Strong says, “My work at the University of Massachusetts Clean Energy Extension (CEE) as an associate director, is deeply integrated into all aspects of my “off-campus” life. The work we do at CEE to advance the clean energy economy and help the Commonwealth meet its climate change goals is directly aligned with my values as a parent, educator, wilderness leader, community citizen, and human being.
  • Geunhwa Jung

    The Grass is Always Greener When you think of something ‘green,’ both money and turfgrass might come to mind.  In the case of Geunhwa Jung, you would be right on both counts, sort of. Professor Jung, a turfgrass specialist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, researches a fungal turf pathogen nicknamed dollar spot…
  • Tawny Simisky: She Knows What Bugs You...

    Tawny Simisky is an Extension entomologist who specializes in insect pests of ornamental trees and shrubs with the UMass Extension Landscape, Nursery, and Urban Forestry Program. Simisky provides diagnostic support to the UMass Plant Diagnostics Laboratory, as well as trainings for those working in in the commercial horticulture industry in Massachusetts. Her expertise includes basic entomology and Integrated Pest Management of tree and shrub insect pests for landscapers and arborists. She provides stakeholders with information for a wide variety of pest insects. These include, but are certainly not limited to, winter moth, gypsy moth, emerald ash borer, and piercing-sucking insect pests of plants.
  • Rick Harper Helps Us to See Both the Forest and the Trees

    Rick Harper’s enthusiasm and passion for trees – and educating others about them – is contagious. Since August 2012, he has occupied a newly-created extension faculty position in the Department of Environmental Conservation at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. As Extension Assistant Professor of Urban & Community Forestry, Harper’s position involves a three-way “split” of teaching, research and extension.  That means that at certain periods in the year he may be spending considerable time in the classroom instructing urban forestry/arboriculture students on the UMass campus, or that he may be traveling to Extension programs throughout Massachusetts - and North America – reaching adult audiences with lectures and hands-on activities about the management and stewardship of urban trees.
  • Va Shon Wallace-Hiltpold, A Natural Teacher

    Like falling off a log. Like stepping through a doorway. It is no surprise that work for Va Shon Wallace-Hiltpold, a 4-H extension educator, seems so effortless. Her vibrant personality seems to be the perfect match for a career that allows her to work with young people. With three teenagers of her own, her house is usually full of teens, “Which brings me so much joy and is a great reminder as to why I do the work I do.”
  • Marie-Françoise Hatte: We all live downstream

    For Marie-Françoise Hatte, it is all about water. From helping with research projects and organizing events at UMass Amherst to coordinating statewide projects, water is what she does. As the Associate Director of the Massachusetts Water Resources Research Center (WRRC) sited at University of Massachusetts Amherst, Hatte assists Director Paula Rees in running the day-to-day operations at the Center. She enjoys the wide variety of water-related projects that come across her desk and her interactions on many levels.
  • Hang Xiao Wants to Help You Eat a Healthy Diet

    Dr. 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. 
  • Tom Waskiewicz: Proud of a Life in 4-H

    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’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 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 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.
  • 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 professor in the Stockbridge School of Agriculture at UMass Amherst.
  • Linda Horn, Interim Director, 4-H Youth Development Program

    A good match. We all look for it in terms of college choices, jobs and partners. And a good match is how one would describe Linda Horn’s skills and her position as 4-H Director for Massachusetts. 
  • Paige Warren: Urban Wildlife Devotee

    Paige 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.