Epsilon Sigma Phi
The Extension Professionals' Organization

2020 National Conference
October 6-8, 2020


Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy - Keynote Speaker

President Wendy Wintersteen - Distinguished Ruby Lecture

Jonathan Ntheketha - Capnote Speaker

Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy

Sonny Ramaswamy is president of Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (http://www.nwccu.org) in Redmond, WA, which accredits institutions in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and British Columbia. The Commission’s mission is to accredit institutions of higher education by applying evidence-informed standards and processes to support continuous improvements and promote student achievement and success.

Sonny served for six years as President Barack Obama's appointee as the Director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (https://nifa.usda.gov) in Washington, DC. NIFA catalyzes transformative discoveries, education, and engagement to solve societal and agricultural challenges. He provided leadership and strategic direction in the formulation of broad, national policies needed to develop and execute cutting edge science and its application to promote profitability of the food and agricultural systems while protecting the environment and creating economic opportunities.

Previously, Ramaswamy held a number of academic positions, including: dean of Oregon State’s College of Agricultural Sciences; director of Purdue’s Agricultural Research Programs; university distinguished professor and head of Kansas State’s Entomology Department; and professor of entomology at Mississippi State. He has mentored numerous high school, undergraduate, and graduate students, along with postdoctorates and visiting professors and staff in non-governmental, governmental, and private sector organizations. He has had significant success in development and fund raising to create endowed professorships, students scholarships, and infrastructure, including envisioning, fund raising for, and creating the Leadership Academy at Oregon State University to inculcate non-cognitive and leadership skills in undergraduate students https://agsci.oregonstate.edu/leadership-academy/leadership-academy). Sonny also envisioned, fund-raised for, and created the KSU Insect Zoo (https://www.k-state.edu/butterfly/).

As a faculty member, Sonny’s research was funded with grants from federal agencies, including USDA, NSF, NIH, EPA, and USAID, and from state agencies, commodity groups, and industry. He has published over 150 journal articles, book chapters, and a book, and has a patent. Sonny is the recipient of a number of awards and honors, including Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Fellow of the Entomological Society of America, Agriculture Future of America’s Leader in Agriculture Award, and the Hutchinson Medal from the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Ramaswamy received his Bachelor of Science in agriculture and Master of Science in entomology from the University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore, India. His doctorate is in entomology from Rutgers University. Sonny has been active in community and university theaters, Habitat for Humanity, and enjoys riding his Harley-Davidson motorcycle. He is married to Dr. Gita Ramaswamy, who previously served as professor and administrator and senior advisor to the USDA’s chief scientist; they have a daughter Dr. Megha Ramaswamy, associate professor of preventive medicine at the University of Kansas Medical Center (KUMC), who resides in Kansas City with her husband Dr. Andrew Park, emergency room physician at KUMC, and their son Siddhartha.

President Wendy Wintersteen
2020 Distinguished Service Ruby Recipient

Iowa State University President Wendy Wintersteen has been selected to receive the 2020 National Ruby Award from Epsilon Sigma Phi, the national honor society for extension professionals.

The National Ruby Award is the most prestigious recognition presented by ESP and recognizes truly outstanding thinking, performance and leadership in extension. Wintersteen was nominated by Iowa State’s ESP Alpha Mu Chapter. She will receive the award in October at the 2020 National ESP (Virtual) Conference, where she also will deliver the Ruby Lecture.

“I am truly honored to have been nominated by my friends and colleagues in ISU Extension and Outreach and to be recognized at the national level by my extension peers,” Wintersteen said.

“We are pleased that President Wintersteen will be recognized with this national award. As an extension professional she has made highly significant contributions at the state, regional, national and international level over her entire career,” said Barbara Dunn Swanson, chair of the ESP Alpha Mu Chapter.

Wintersteen has served Iowa State for more than 40 years in several capacities. She began her extension career as an integrated pest management specialist in eastern Iowa. She earned her PhD while working as an extension associate, and as a faculty member led the Pesticide Safety Education Program. She served as director for Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension and associate dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. In addition, she served as endowed dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and director of the Iowa Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station for 11 years before being chosen as Iowa State University president in 2017.

“Through ever-increasing accomplishments and responsibilities, President Wintersteen has maintained her extension soul. She understands extension’s vital role in the land-grant mission and cares deeply for the people delivering on that promise,” Dunn Swanson said.

Jonathan Ntheketha

Associate Director Student Success and Engagement
Multicultural Center for Academic Success
Diversity and Inclusion
Rochester Institute of Technology

Jonathan Ntheketha is committed in his work to develop, oversee, and coordinate the Multicultural Center for Academic Success’s (MCAS) commitment to providing opportunities for and holistically developing historically underrepresented students at RIT. As Associate Director, Jonathan provides leadership, oversight, and support of Center initiatives and operations, including the MCAS Advocates Program, DDI Summer Experience, and creating the MCAS Coaching Curriculum.

Jonathan earned his BA in Speech and Theatre from St. Lawrence University with minors in Biology and Education, completed Masters coursework at RIT, and has enjoyed a career teaching, mentoring, and developing students in higher education for nearly 20 years. In addition to his work in MCAS, Jonathan is a Title IX Advocate at RIT, and a company member of Diversity Theatre, a part of RIT’s Division forDiversity and Inclusion. Jonathan also serves as an Adjunct Professor, having taught RIT’s first year seminar, RIT 365, as well as Motivation & Wellness. Additionally, he has taught Script Analysis for Geva Theater Center’s Summer Academy and The New Hip Hop: Our Stories and Truths on Stage at the University of Rochester. He is also a Performance Educator and Facilitator with Impact Interactive, a theatre-based training company that specializes in one of a kind dynamic presentations that help companies address sensitive topics such as unconscious bias and sexual harassment in the workplace.

Born and raised in Rochester, NY, Jonathan has spent a lifetime telling stories, exploring truths, and sharing in the richness of cultures around him. He has appeared in numerous productions locally and regionally, and has a resume that includes small screen, stage, commercial, and voice work. Favorite roles include Brian in Avenue Q (Blackfriars), the title role in Othello (Shakespeare Players of Rochester), Daniel Woolfe in Closer (Method Machine), Mr. West in Two Trains Running by August Wilson (RAPA),

and the voice of Dracula in PUSH Physical Theatre’s Dracula. Favorite readings include Hamilton (Geva), Katherine's Colored Lieutenant (Geva), and directing Skeleton Crew for Hourglass Play Reading Series (Blackfriars). Jonathan is also a frequent panelist on WXXI’s Connections radio show and podcast.

Jonathan serves on the Board of Directors for Blackfriars Theatre, the Alumni Board at Allendale Columbia School, and is a former member of the William Warfield Scholarship Board of Directors. Additionally, he serves on the Education Committee of the Seneca Park Zoo Society Board as well as the Marketing and Fundraising Committee of Leadership Rochester. He is a husband, a father, a foodie, a traveler, and a lover of all art who lives to uplift and connect communities through love and truth.

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