Auburn University will confer degrees upon hundreds of new alumni the weekend of May 6, and the College of Agriculture is proud of its exceptional members of the 2023 graduating class. Read below about seven who excelled during their time here and are headed on to great things.
Susan Fuller, School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences
Danville native Susan Fuller is receiving a Bachelor of Science in Fish & Allied Aquacultures from Auburn.
During her time at Auburn, she was involved in the Auburn chapters of both the American Fisheries Society and the United States Aquaculture Society. She also worked as an undergrad lab technician in Jim Stoeckel’s Crustacean and Molluscan Ecology Lab (affectionately known as CAMEL).
She has also been part of Alabama Rivers and Streams Network including Connectivity (ARSNIC), conducting surveys to evaluate stream connectivity and aquatic organism passage in East Alabama.
She will continue this work after graduation by assisting with a series of literature reviews assessing water quality stressors to mussels.
“Approximately 70% of mussels in North America are imperiled to some degree, and we need comprehensive data on the effects of water quality stressors such as temperature, salinity, low dissolved oxygen and agricultural contaminants,” Fuller said. “To allow managers and conservationists to use this synthesized data effectively, we are summarizing all known lethal and sublethal tolerance data for freshwater unionid mussels across lifestages and by taxa. As part of the Alabama Rivers and Streams Network including Connectivity team, I will be assisting with surveys evaluating stream connectivity and aquatic organism passage in east Alabama.”
Fuller has worked in and will continue to work in Uphapee and Uchee Creek as well as the Pea River watershed.
“I help manage the team of field technicians as well as assist with quality assurance and quality control of data collected,” she said. “This summer I will be working on a publication to communicate our findings of stream crossings and aquatic organism passage in Uphapee Creek.”
Johnathan Hampton, Department of Horticulture
Huntsville native Johnathan Hampton is receiving a Bachelor of Science in horticulture with a focus in pre-landscape architecture and minors in business and Spanish.
During his time at Auburn, Hampton was involved in Ag Ambassadors, the Auburn University Landscape and Nursery Association (AULNA), the College of Agriculture’s Alumni Mentoring Program, the Tiger Excellence Scholars Program, and The Honors College.
Hampton has been involved with Ag Ambassadors since his freshman year, serving as treasurer and giving specialized tours of the horticulture department’s Paterson Greenhouse research unit, where he aided in filming recruiting materials and guided groups of prospective high school students.
“Serving as an Ag Ambassadors has sharpened my interpersonal skills and has taught me the true value of collaboration and outreach,” Hampton said. “It is humbling to think that four years ago, I was an incoming student who was walked around the College of Agriculture by an Ag Ambassador. It is my sincere hope that every tour that I have given since my involvement with the organization has made a positive impact on each prospective student’s enrollment process and college decision-making.”
Hampton also served as vice-president of AULNA and represented the association at this year’s National Collegiate Landscape Competition, where he placed first in both Annual & Perennial Identification and Woody Ornamental Identification.
Finally, he participated in the college’s Alumni Mentoring Program, where he met with historian and horticulturist Abra Lee.
“The program was very engaging, and I gained many useful professional tools, in addition to learning valuable history as it relates to African-American contributions to the green industry as a whole,” he said. “I still keep in contact with Abra to this day, and she continues to be a blessing in my life.”
After graduation, Hampton will spend the summer in Auburn working as a design intern for R&R Landscaping. In August, he will move to Arlington, Texas, to pursue a master’s degree in landscape architecture at the University of Texas at Arlington.
Tyler Martin, Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology
Wilmer native Tyler Martin is receiving a degree in agricultural business and economics with a minor in marketing.
During his time at Auburn, Martin has been best known for his excellence and participation in the National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA).
“I have been a part of this organization for all four years that I have been here and have been the Auburn chapter president for the last three,” Martin said. “The main way in which I have been involved is by competing in NAMA’s student marketing competition each year, and then in their sales competition for the first time this year. These competitions take place at NAMA’s annual agri-marketing competition which took place in Kansas City in 2022 and St. Louis this year.”
Martin has also spent his four years at Auburn as a member of the Agribusiness Club, actively attended meetings, farm tours, fundraisers and other events throughout this time.
And for the last five semesters, Martin worked as a Supplemental Instruction (SI) Leader worked with Academic Support, helping other to succeed in the business calculus class he excelled in first.
After graduation, Martin will worked as a sales trainee with Helena Agri-Enterprises Specialty Division. Helena is one of the foremost agronomic solutions providers in the United States. It markets and sells inputs that improve agricultural productivity for greater customer returns. This includes seed and seed treatments, fertilizer and application services, crop protectants, financial services and precision ag services. Helena also has its own line of products through Helena Products Group, which includes adjuvants, crop protection products, fertilizers, crop production products and seed treatments.
Diva Rigney, Department of Animal Science
Athens, Alabama native Diva Rigney is continuing her education here at Auburn. She graduates with a Bachelor of Science in animal science-equine and will pursue a Ph.D. in ruminant nutrition under Brandon Smith, with a long-term goal of working in academia.
Rigney was the recipient of the 2023 senior William ‘Bill’ Warren Leadership Award presented in the Department of Animal Sciences and was named the 2023 College of Agriculture Outstanding Student.
In her time at Auburn, Rigney worked as an undergraduate research assistant in the Ruminant Nutrition Lab. She presented her project titled “Comparison of Ruminal and Fecal Volatile Fatty Acid Production from Cattle Fed Four Bermudagrass Cultivars” at the 2023 American Society of Animal Sciences conference in Raleigh, North Carolina. She also earned an Undergraduate Research Fellowship, which allowed her to conduct a research project titled “Effect of preservation method on nutritive value of kudzu forage.”
She served as an Agriculture Orientation Leader; as secretary, standards committee head, philanthropy committee head, and a member of the scholarship committee of Sigma Alpha; as a learning assistant for Courtney Heaton’s ANSC 1050 and ANSC 2050.
She was a cofounding member and senior ambassador of the Undergraduate Research Ambassadors, and she participated in Forage Bowl and Horse U. She competed at 2023 American Forage and Grasslands Conference in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, helped teach the horse lab for Introduction to ANSC for six consecutive semesters, and assisted with Horse Judging competitions for 4-H and FFA youth.
Rigney was also a long-time student worker at the Auburn University Equestrian Center, which developed into her becoming a barn staff shift leader. She left this role only when the opportunity was presented for her to become an undergraduate research assistant in the Beef and Forage Nutrition Laboratory.
“Diva has shown to be a dedicated and devoted servant leader in her extracurricular activities,” said Animal Sciences Department Head Wayne Greene.
Catherine Walls, Department of Poultry Science
Arab, Alabama native Catherine Walls is receiving a Bachelor of Science in poultry science with a business minor.
During her time at Auburn, Walls was involved in the Poultry Science Club and served as the communications chair and president.
“Auburn has had my heart since I was a little girl,” she said. “It was the only school that I applied to. These past three years I have been able to live my lifelong dream of being an Auburn Tiger and I am so excited to forever be a part of the Auburn Family.”
Walls has accepted a job as hatchery supervisor and trials coordinator for Aviagen at the company’s Alberville Research and Development Center. Aviagen
Aviagen is a world-leading supplier of quality broiler breeding stock, with operations in more than 100 countries. The company aims to play a leading role in feeding future generations by producing a healthy and sustainable source of protein.
The company has also been a major supporter of the Department of Poultry Science at Auburn University, from pledging financial support of the Charles C. Miller Jr. Poultry Research and Education Center to the creation of an endowed professorship and student fellowship.
Kylie Weis, Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology
Joliet, Illinois native Kylie Weis is staying in Auburn after she receives her Bachelor of Science in applied biotechnology with a minor in philosophy. She’ll be starting a Ph.D. in plant pathology under the advisership of Neha Potnis, investigating the potential of the bacteria Xanthomonas to be used as a biotechnology tool for the advancement of agriculture.
Weis was a member of the Auburn University Marching Band for four years. She played piccolo and held the American Flag Shield for the National Anthem at football games. She was also a member of Sigma Alpha sorority Beta Eta chapter for three years and served as scholarship and fundraising chair.
In the College of Agriculture, Weis participated in an Undergraduate Research Fellowship with Geoffrey Williams optimizing a method of DNA extraction from beeswax. She also participated in a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates at Cornell University studying the effects of GMO soybean on bumble bees. She conducted research in Potnis’ lab for three years and recently had a paper published as first coauthor in the journal Phytopathology.
Finally, she recently received the Comer Medal of Excellence for Agricultural Science.
Victoria Wright, Department of Crop, Soil & Environmental Sciences
A Charlotte, North Carolina native, Victoria Wright is receiving a degree in environmental science. She’s headed to the University of Wyoming in the fall to start on her Ph.D. in atmospheric science.
During her time at Auburn, she was a member of the Crop Soil and Environmental Science Club for four years and this year joined the leadership as the historian. She also attended the annual SASES meeting in Baltimore this year, where she competed on the Auburn Quiz bowl team and was selected the 2023 Outstanding Senior Award recipient from Auburn University.
In 2019, Wright was on the Auburn University Soil Judging team that won regionals at Virginia Tech. She placed fifth individually overall at that competition.
Wright took advantage of undergraduate research opportunities and worked in the Auburn Paleoenvironmental Lab. The lab reconstructs paleo-environmental change from sediment cores, which are mostly collected from shallow lakes, or other relatively small bodies of water.
“The group’s research is fascinating and drew me into the lab,” she said. “But more importantly, the group of people in the lab have shaped me into the person I am today, and I will be forever grateful to have gotten to work with them all.”
Wright also studied abroad through one of Auburn’s shared programs with Sorbonne Université in Paris, France, where she completed a French minor.
Wright founded the Auburn University Softball Club Team and was president of the team for a year and a half.
“I was one of the starting pitchers, played outfield, and was an acting coach for the first semester,” she said. “We practiced twice a week and competed against other schools in the southeast in six weekend-series between the fall and spring semesters, traveling for half of them and hosting half of them. This team brought me back to the game I love, introduced me to so many teammates turned into friends, and gave me the opportunity to make a lasting impact and legacy at Auburn University before I left. It has been a great four years and I have tried to give back to Auburn as much as it has given me.”