Center for Regenerative Agriculture and Resilient Systems

Three Faculty Affiliates for CRARS Win Awards for Outstanding Service

by Sheryl Karas MA, CRARS staff

Hossein Zakeri, Betsy Boyd, and Garrett Liles

Recently Chico State honored eight faculty members with Outstanding Faculty Awards and Chico State Services did the same through their Research, Scholarly and Creative Activities (RSCA) awards. We’re so pleased and proud that three of our faculty affiliates with the Center for Regenerative Agriculture and Resilient Services (CRARS) were selected! All faculty members in the College of Agriculture, Betsy Boyd won for Outstanding Faculty Service, Hossein Zakeri won for Outstanding Research Mentor, and Garrett Liles won for Outstanding New Project Director. These awards are among the highest given at CSU Chico and celebrate faculty excellence through teaching, scholarly and creative activities, service, and dedication.

Betsy Boyd, Outstanding Faculty Service

Betsy Boyd is the youngest member ever to have been elected chair of the CSU Chico Academic Senate and has served in that position for ten years. That includes two years as chair of the faculty governing body during the presidential transition from 2015–2017 and actively participating on the Presidential Search Committee that resulted in the selection of the current CSU Chico president Gayle Hutchinson. Boyd also spearheaded the joint statement on shared governance that was endorsed by all major entities on campus and is seen as marking a new era in University leadership.

Previously, Boyd became known for her skill and grace in helping the senate’s Educational Policies and Procedures Committee work through a very challenging curriculum dispute in 2013-15. She was rewarded for those efforts by being elected by her colleagues to represent Chico State on the Academic Senate of the California State University. She also has served the University’s Curriculum Advisory Board and the Budget Committee and Academic Affairs Budget Task Force Committee, and recently received the Kathy Kaiser Service Award for her contributions to the senate and the University. 

Somehow Boyd also finds time to serve as the program coordinator for the College of Agriculture’s academic program where she advises up to 65 students each year. She also spearheaded the creation of a new undergraduate degree in plant and soil science and actively works on her own research on potential management tactics that can be implemented in Integrated Management Programs for cropping systems throughout the world.

Why do so much? Boyd says, “I love our students and I am fully committed to the University and its mission. A big part of what motivates my dedication to leadership activities is a desire to help ensure that through consultation and shared governance all voices of faculty, staff, students, and administration are taken into consideration before consequential decisions are made.” Boyd believes this is in the best interest of students, the mission of the University and the betterment of both the Chico State campus and surrounding communities. 

Boyd has a BS and MS in entomology from Washington State University, and a PhD in entomology from University of California, Riverside. She has been with Chico State since 2008.

Hossein Zakeri, Outstanding Research Mentor

Professor Zakeri was honored for his strength in helping students realize their full potential while expanding important research opportunities in his field. His research on the use of legumes as a cover crop(opens in new window) for creating healthier soil and agroecosystems has attracted more than $1 million in research funding. It supports 25 undergraduate students, two graduate students, and a postdoctoral researcher who themselves have won awards and given presentations at regional and national conferences, in classrooms, during field days, and at other events.

“I enjoy research more than anything else. To me, research is not entirely a job—it is a great addition to life that keeps my mind fresh. With this perspective, long days working to develop research grant proposals and manuscripts, battling with data, or hoeing and spraying weeds in the field are the joys of my life,” Zakeri said. He also enjoys passing on this love of research to his students by meeting with them every week, providing hands-on research guidance, and helping them improve their presentation skills. For the past two years, he has been a faculty mentor in the Chico STEM Connections Collaborative and also mentors students in the Summer Undergraduate Research program. His students are quite enthusiastic about his support and the opportunities they get to experience with agricultural enterprises throughout the state.

Zakeri’s own education includes a BS in agronomy and crop breeding from Isfahan University of Technology in Isfahan, Iran, and an MS in crop physiology from Tarbiat Modarres University in Tehran, Iran. He then received a PhD in crop physiology and cropping systems from the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Canada. Afterwards Hossein worked for Crop Development Centre and Agriculture and Agri-food Canada studying pulse crops nodulation, pea nitrogen fixation, and canola water use efficiency and drought tolerance mechanisms.  

Garrett Liles, Outstanding New Project Director

Garrett Liles was recognized for his numerous accomplishments and contributions in his field as well as for grant writing and grant management activity and potential for future success. In particular and most recently, this work has centered on the development of the Regenerative Agriculture Demonstration Laboratory(opens in new window) (RAD Lab) and a related program for Soil Sciences Undergraduate Research Experiences (RAD-4-SSURE). The RAD Lab was created to do soil processing and provide teaching and research opportunities at the University farm and faculty research space in Plumas Hall. It provides students with valuable field and lab assessment experience while also providing services for the assessment of soil quality and health, food quality and nutrient density for local farmers. 

Liles has also been involved in numerous collaborative projects. Funded projects include those done with the California Rice Research Board, the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and the United States Forest Service. Projects awaiting review and funding include more collaborative work with NRCS Soil Science Research in Lassen Park and with the CA Dept of Fish and Wildlife quantifying and monitoring multiple benefits of ecosystem restoration and enhancement along the Cosumnes-Mokelumne corridor.  

Shunning an opportunity to talk about his accomplishments, Garrett Liles prefers to talk about how great it is to help students have research opportunities in soil science and his desire to make this work exciting and fun. He currently is providing graduate mentorship to five students and for one undergraduate. His personal research interests include soil, C, & resource assessment, soil health & regenerative management practices, landscape & disturbance processes, biophysical seed treatment, science education, communication & outreach, digital and physical archiving.

Liles has an Interdisciplinary BS in Soil Ecology from CSU Chico, an MS in Soil & Watershed Sciences from the University of Washington in Seattle, WA, and a PhD in Soil Science from UC Davis. He joined the faculty at Chico State in 2015.