A host of University of Minnesota Extension staff were honored with the 2023 Dean’s Distinguished Awards, presented on May 3 by Extension Dean Bev Durgan.
Honors went to:
Richard (Rick) Konkol
Richard Konkol received this award in recognition of his dedication, exceptional work ethic, skill as a supervisor and team leader, and genuine commitment to Extension. Konkol manages Extension’s financial operations, including accounts receivable, accounts payable, purchasing and asset maintenance. In this position, he works with staff across Extension and in the University Controller’s office as well as with external partners to ensure payments are processed and received in a timely manner. Over the past several years, Konkol has been instrumental in the successful transition of several financial practices, including Chrome River and the transition to Regional Support Staff structure for financial processing. His knowledge of Extension as well as financial procedures and systems is invaluable, and he is an exemplary supervisor, collaborator and team member.
Distinguished program staff
Kristy Mock is the coordinator of the Extension Master Gardeners volunteer group in Carver-Scott Counties, one of the largest and fastest-growing groups in the state. Since joining Extension in 2018, Mock has proven to be an exceptional leader, team player and major asset to the Master Gardener volunteer program. Her work exemplifies Extension’s mission of connecting community needs and University resources as she builds and nurtures new relationships and collaborations with dozens of community organizations, including schools, farmers markets, environmental groups, churches and libraries. Her commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and to addressing the needs of underserved communities has helped Mock and the group make a difference in how Master Gardener volunteers make a difference in Carver and Scott counties.
Distinguished Nutrition Educator
Kathryn Lien is a SNAP-Ed educator serving rural communities in northwest Minnesota who develops programs that positively affect families with young children, youth, teens and adults. She has developed innovative programs to meet SNAP-Ed grant goals and works to build community partnerships to deliver these programs. This past year, she has conducted a mix of in-person and online programming tailored to meet the needs of her participants. Her community partnerships include working with Head Start to train visiting staff to deliver programs in four counties as well as teaching online cooking classes to Head Start families. In addition, she has worked with community groups across northwestern Minnesota to encourage physical activity and learning about how to grow nutritious foods. Through her high-quality work, she makes a difference in the lives of her participants and partners.
Distinguished staff team
The SuperShelf program promotes equity through healthy food and dignifying the food shelf shopping experience. Since 2018, 45 food shelves in Minnesota have become certified SuperShelves, with an additional 31 currently in progress and awaiting final certification. SuperShelf helps food shelves implement evidence-based practices like allowing shoppers to select their own food, providing a more retail-like experience and by expanding the variety of foods offered to reflect cultural tastes and needs. The SuperShelf team also helps identify funding sources to support food shelf changes, trains volunteers around the values of SuperShelf, and provides technical assistance before, during, and after the transformation process. The SuperShelf team is responsible for developing and sustaining partnerships with a variety of stakeholders across the state and supporting Extension’s mission of bringing the best of research to their communities in life-changing ways.
Team members are: Anna Sneltjes, Beth Labenz, Carolyn McQueen, Dianne Davis-Kenning, Mary Krentz, Megan Hruby, Samantha Barron, April Smith, Angelica Pena, Tonia Brinston, Kanko Akakpovi, Kristina Kaml, Rosie Gonzalez, Lani Xiong, Shirley Vang, Linda Erdahl, Chris Strand, Kam Schroeder, Marilyn Hofland, Annette Shepardson