Past Award Recipients

of the College of Agricultural Sciences William Henson Diversity Achievement Award


Brenda Brown Williams

(Chester County Extension)
"'Miss Brenda,' as her students call her, is an outstanding individual," said nominator John Wodhouse, agricultural business educator with Penn State Extension in Chester County. "Her dedication toward fostering an open environment for learning — regardless of the students' age, ethnicity, family background or education — coupled with her ability to connect with at-risk students is, in my opinion, the most impressive of the gifts Brenda gives.

"With an intrinsic commitment and dedication to multicultural advocacy, Brenda has the ability to altruistically improve the lives of those around her."

Brown Williams' programs with the youth centers in Chester and Montgomery counties began more than a decade ago. Her workforce development programs reach youth of all colors, education and cultural backgrounds. Understanding cultural and socioeconomic variances is important to Brown Williams, so she constantly improves her content to better connect with the wide-ranging groups of students.

She educates more than 400 students yearly though programs at Chester County Futures, the Chester County Youth Center, and the Montgomery County Youth Center. Through life-skill-building activities, workforce development courses, and other alternative youth programming, she helps prepare students of various ages, upbringing and ethnicities to become upstanding and accepted young citizens in the community.

Kathryn Pletcher

(Undergraduate Education Office)

"Kathy Pletcher joined the Office for Undergraduate Education in 1994. At that time, the concept of cultural diversity was understood in the office of Dr. William Henson, where Kathy began her career as a receptionist," said Audrey Maretzki, professor emeritus of food science and nutrition, a nominator.

"Kathy realized how important it was for her to assist Dr. Henson in creating a welcoming environment for students as well as their parents. Although Kathy may not readily identify herself as a Native American, she clearly understands, appreciates and advocates for cultural diversity."

Pletcher is a member of the Penn State Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity and serves on the commission's team to provide a staff development symposium this fall for diverse staff. Pletcher, a Native American, also has volunteered to help in the planning of a major Native American diversity event funded by the Office of the Vice Provost for Educational Equity.

In 2011, Pletcher volunteered to plan and execute a project related to the College of Agricultural Sciences' strategic diversity goal to make the Office for Undergraduate Education more visually attractive and diverse in both gender and ethnicity. She created photo collages that illustrated each of the academic majors in the college and highlighted the visual diversity (culture, nationality, gender and age) among the student body.

Pletcher also played an important role in supporting a cultural engagement course that enables Penn State students to learn from the Ojibwe on the Red Lake, Leech Lake and White Earth reservations in northern Minnesota about their ceremonies, lifestyles and indigenous ways of knowing. She has promoted its educational value, has encouraged student enrollment, and was instrumental in establishing it as a permanent course in May 2015.

She also assisted Madison Miller, a 2016 graduate and past president of the Student Society for Indigenous Knowledge, with her Schreyer honors thesis, which focused on designing a high school Native American curriculum based on the input of Native American faculty, staff and students at Penn State. Pletcher provided information about educational experiences of three generations of her Ojibwe family.

Miguel Saviroff

(Penn State Extension)

Saviroff was recognized for his commitment to strengthening relationships between employers and their Hispanic and Latino workers, empowering communication and learning in diverse work settings, and encouraging migrant workers to put down roots and begin farming in their own right in Pennsylvania.

"Miguel Saviroff has demonstrated a strong belief that all community members must receive information they and their families need in their preferred language," said Winifred McGee, extension educator, who nominated Saviroff.

"Having originated in Venezuela, he carries with him the ethic that education must not just be delivered in other languages, but the methods used must speak to the culture and life view of the students. As a result, he has spearheaded numerous projects, educating workers on farms across Pennsylvania about dairy and horticultural production methods."

During his 17-year career as an extension educator, Saviroff fostered better workplace communication between farm owners and Hispanic employees through his dairy labor management initiative. In a recent case, he helped a group of dairy farmers and their employees in southwestern Pennsylvania work through cultural and language barriers through hundreds of phone calls, farm visits and meetings.

Saviroff also played a key role in an initiative to translate Penn State Extension publications to Spanish, reviewing fact sheets that had been "bulk interpreted" and ensuring that agricultural idioms were correct and the text clear to the reader. His work resulted in 18 Agricultural Alternatives fact sheets being translated to Spanish.

In addition, Saviroff developed and offered the "Best Milking Practices — Hispanic Education" workshop series. These classes introduced 65 Latino participants from seven counties across Pennsylvania — representing 17 dairies and a total of 6,841 cows — to the protocols for increasing herd health and improving milk quality and safety.

As co-principal investigator for the 2013 Director's PPI Seed Money Grant project titled "Farm and Food Business Development Education for Beginning Latino Producers in Pennsylvania," Saviroff presented entrepreneurship and farm financial management information to Latino fruit, vegetable and mushroom industry workers. These sessions were delivered in Adams County and at the Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Convention in Hershey.


Marilyn Corbin

(Extension Administration)
"Adept at working with people from diverse backgrounds," according to a nominator, "Corbin shows care, concern and respect for employees, students, extension educators and community members." This appreciation for diversity has motivated her leadership of programs such as Dining with Diabetes, StrongWomen, Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program and Promoting School-Community-University Partnerships to Enhance Resilience.

She provided leadership for establishing the national Change Agent States for Diversity Consortium initiative and served as the President of the Association of Leadership Educators, where she championed the causes of diversity and inclusion.

With a commitment to promoting the values of diversity at all levels of program planning and operations, Corbin has received over $20.8 million in grants to implement extension programs in Pennsylvania that have emphasized nutrition, health and family life education.
She has served as an advisor to the Penn State College of Medicine ProWellness Committee, Penn State Cancer Network, the Goodling Center for Family Literacy and the Penn State Children, Youth and Families Consortium. She initiated the Penn State Extension Family and Consumer Sciences Teachers Workshop.

Through her leadership, Corbin has brought to fruition several publications exploring diversity in extension, including, "The Benefits of Diversity in the Cooperative Extension Program: How Communities Can Respond to Needs across a Diverse Community."
Corbin has also built partnerships to improve the effectiveness of Penn State Extension and to ensure that its programs meet the needs of diverse state citizens and Extension employees. She also developed a working relationship with faculty and staff at the University of Guanajuato, Mexico, to establish youth development programming.

Ephraim Govere

(Department of Ecosystem Science and Management)
Ephraim Muchada Govere, director of the Soil Research Cluster Lab in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, was recently named as a recipient of the College of Agricultural Sciences 2016 William Henson Diversity Award.

"He has demonstrated commitment to fostering an environment in which the values of diversity and multiculturalism are understood, developed and promoted," wrote his nominator. "That is shown by the cultural events Govere organizes for his department, the staff he has hired and the university events in which he has been involved."

However, his promotion of diversity goes beyond the college and the university. He has given cultural talks to every elementary school in State College through the Global Connections international speakers program, and he has participated in cultural-diversity panel discussions at Mount Nittany Medical Center to help healthcare providers develop cultural skills to provide care for an increasingly diverse Penn State student, faculty and staff population.

Govere, who teaches AG160: Introduction to Ethics and Issues in Agriculture each summer, was an invited speaker for the Eastern Analytical Symposium and Exposition in 2015 His topic was, "What is Your Cultural Competence Level as a Laboratory Manager?" Since he gave the presentation, he has been asked to contribute diversity articles by several groups, including the Association of Laboratory Managers.

And he has had a diversity paper published: "Toward Culturally Competent Scientists: As International Collaboration Becomes Increasingly Common, Researchers Must Work to Limit their Own Biases and Let Cultural Diversity Enhance their Work." He was recently approached by the commissioning editor of the The Analytical Scientist -- a publication distributed worldwide -- to write a diversity paper addressing cross-cultural competence.

Pamela Hankey-Giblin

(Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences)
A faculty member in the Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences for over 18 years, "Hankey-Giblin has developed an exemplary record in promoting diversity in undergraduate and graduate education," noted faculty members who nominated her for the award.

A longtime member of the admission committee for the pathobiology graduate program in her department, "she has been a powerful advocate for improving recruitment of women and underrepresented minorities to the graduate program and increasing the diversity of graduate students accepted."

As coordinator for the undergraduate Immunology and Infectious Disease major, Hankey-Giblin has worked with prospective students and their parents to ensure that women and under-represented minorities are welcomed into the major and get the necessary support to succeed. In graduate education, she is the director of the Bridges to the Doctorate Program, a National Institutes of Health-funded collaboration between Penn State and Alcorn State University, a historically black university.

Hankey-Giblin is also a co-director of an NIH-funded T32 pre-doctoral student-training program in animal models of inflammation. Although this program is not strictly for minority students, she has promoted the inclusion of women and minorities among the trainees chosen for the program and ensured their presence by securing matching funds from various sources within the university.

As the University Park director for INTREPID (Introduction of a Novel Tiered Research Experience Promoting Inclusion and Diversity), Hankey-Giblin oversees the undergraduate research program administered by the Penn State Hershey Medical School. The program brings inner-city minority undergraduate students to Penn State for a research experience over two summers.


Suzanne Weltman

(Philadelphia Extension)
Suzanne Weltman is an active advocate for bringing Extension programs to multicultural audiences in the Hispanic/Latino community.  Responding to feedback from Dining with Diabetes instructors and participants, she initiated a revision of Spanish Dining with Diabetes materials to ensure accurate translation into dialect, resulting in improved understanding of important diabetes information for clients from Puerto Rico, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Cuba, and Peru. 

A trained culinary professional, Suzanne reaches and provides culinary appropriate recipes and ingredients for educational food demonstrations and sampling sessions.  Suzanne has proven dedication to providing diverse, multicultural Professional Development and Diversity Training learning and experiential opportunities for Nutrition Links Education Advisers and Extension staff.

Marilyn Corbin, Extension Program Leader, comments on her efforts, “Especially informative has been the professional development experiences that she has organized to various ethnic communities and businesses within Philadelphia so that her staff would have a broader understanding of cultures and diversity in the city.”

Thomas Ford

(Multiple Districts)
For over 20 years, Tom Ford has excelled in developing knowledge and appreciation of the Anabaptist (Amish, Mennonite) community in his Extension programming efforts.  He is an advocate in the Horticulture State Extension Team to the needs of this culture, and ensures fellow educators are informed of the best methods to reach the Anabaptist community.  He shows understanding of the different values and morals that are important to Amish clients, and assists Extension team members in developing programs that are respectful to those values. 

In 2014, Tom’s efforts resulted in 95 individual farm visits to Anabaptist greenhouse operators, fruit growers and vegetable growers in Mifflin, Juniata, Bedford, Somerset, and Huntingdon Counties. He also publishes and distributes a monthly hard copy newsletter for the Anabaptist growers of horticultural crops.

Janice Stoudnour, District Director, comments on his efforts, “Tom Ford’s programmatic outreach in the Anabaptist communities throughout Central Pennsylvania impacts their production value and economic viability as well as encourages these producers to use good agricultural practices to protect the consumer.”


Marcia Weber

(York County Extension educator)

Marcia Weber, Penn State Extension family and consumer sciences educator based in York County, has received the College of Agricultural Sciences' 2014 Dr. William Henson Diversity Achievement Award.

The award is designed to recognize distinctive and outstanding teaching, research, extension or creative work that advances diversity in the college. Weber was recognized during an awards ceremony at Penn State Extension's annual conference on April 23.

As a colleague and now as Penn State Extension district director, Nina Redding has witnessed Weber's commitment to diversity firsthand. "About 10 years ago, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture had identified a local need for a Chinese-language ServSafe food-safety class for food-service workers in the region," said Redding, who nominated Weber for the award. "Marcia was one of two family and consumer sciences educators who coordinated the first course.

"Several additional Chinese courses were held in the region, and now as a food-safety educator, she is reaching out to the Hispanic community in the area," she said. "The Hispanic community now looks to Penn State Extension as a provider of choice, and she supports an instructor who teaches in Spanish."

That fact is echoed by another nominator, Maria Gorgo-Gourovitch, an extension program associate who has worked with Weber on the Spanish ServSafe courses. "Marcia really cares about the Latino community," she said. "She understands how important it is to reach out to Latinos and give them opportunities to learn and improve their situation."

Nominator Marilyn Corbin, Penn State Extension associate director and program leader for youth, family, food and health, noted that Weber always has appreciated the cross-section of people who live in her community. "She has taught children and youth from diverse backgrounds in the York City public school system and intentionally engaged people from all walks of life in our extension programs," she said.

"She has been proactive to set up extension classes that will benefit the participants so they could learn living wage skills to be able to enter the work force and support their families."

Corbin and Redding both also cited Weber's efforts to enhance her language skills in order to serve underrepresented audiences. She recently earned a certificate to teach English as a Second Language, has worked with a local Spanish-language radio station to reach Latino clientele, and took an in-depth immersion course in Ecuador, during which she lived with local families and taught lessons to native Spanish speakers to improve her own Spanish-speaking skills.


4-H Diversity Committee


Elise Gurgevich (Nutrition Links)


Nicole Webster (Agricultural and Extension Education)


Cheryl Bjornson (Chester County)
Nancy Bosold (Berks County)
Mary Conklin (Montgomery County)
Warren Goll (Delaware County)
Scott Guiser (Bucks County)
Emelie Swackhamer (Lehigh and Northampton Counties)


Patreese Ingram (Agricultural and Extension Education)


Robert Brown (Bucks County)
Nancy Stevenson (Bucks County)


Judy MacRone (Delaware County)


Larry A. Nielsen (Forest Resources)


Mary P. Miller (Montgomery County)


Blannie E. Bowen (Agricultural and Extension Education)
Cathy F. Bowen (Agricultural and Extension Education)
Mary Laeger-Hagemeister (Dauphin County)


Audrey N. Maretzki (Food Science)


Christine A. Tomascik (Luzurne County)


Gary J. Killian (Dairy and Animal Science)