Upper Midwest Dairy Industry Association

Congratulations to our 2019 Gene Watnaas Scholarship Winners

The Gene Watnaas Scholarship Winners for 2019 are Josh Brown, Elizabeth Endres and Rebekka Paskewitz. The scholarships were set up to recognize individuals pursuing an education in a field that will enhance the safety of  dairy and food products.

The Gene Watnaas scholarship was named in honor and now in memory of retired long time UMDIA General Manager Gene Watnaas recognizing his many contributions to the dairy industry.

The scholarship program is funded by members and supporters of the Upper Midwest Dairy Industry Association. UMDIA received many applications from outstanding candidates for the $1000 scholarship awards.

Josh Brown

Josh Brown is a DVM candidate at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine and a native of  Hastings, MN. Josh grew up on a dairy farm and has been exposed to veterinary medicine through his mother a DVM. He was an active 4-H and FFA member and provided leadership on a number of projects. He has worked on several dairy research projects leading teams of students, communicating with farmers, collecting samples and completing lab work.

Josh described his future plans, “While I am aware there are external factors that will influence my career path as a veterinarian, there is one aspect of medicine that will hold true, my primary focus will be on dairy production medicine. My career goals are to begin in general practice while expanding my knowledge to become an expert in the field of dairy production medicine. As I gain more experience, I will hopefully gain the respect of farmers and add consultation to my practice. Then, as I become comfortable and ready to expand the scope of my practice, I will add reproductive technologies to my practice such as sexing fetuses, embryo transfer, in vitro fertilization, and ovum pick up. “ 

Josh went onto say  “I will give back to UMDIA is through advising producers in the Midwest about how to improve herd health and production. This will not only positively influence the producer but also the industry as a whole. The consulting aspect of production animal medicine is growing exponentially, farmers are looking to veterinarians for aide in making difficult decisions and how to improve the herds. Consultation will be a cornerstone of my veterinary practice after graduation.”

Elizabeth Endres

Elizabeth Endres is a 2020 DVM candidate from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Ms. Endres grew up near Waunakee, WI on a 300 cow registered Holstein farm which has now expanded to  over 700 cows. Endres has been active in the dairy community her entire life through her family’s farm, 4-H, FFA,  and Junior Holstein Association. At the University of Wisconsin, she has participated in the North American Collegiate Dairy Challenge on the first place national team and the National Intercollegiate Dairy Judging team second place team, in addition to the Badger Dairy Club, and as a student member in the AVMA and AABP.

When asked to explain her future plans and career goals, Ms. Endres states, “Following graduation, I hope to work in private food animal practice working with primarily dairy cattle in the Midwest. Outside of ultrasounding and performing DA surgeries, I hope to bring innovative new ideas and skills into the practice, such as training for Spanish-speaking employees. I took Spanish classes throughout high school and college, but never felt fully comfortable speaking the language until speaking it every day with other employees during a summer internship on a 3,300-cow dairy in California. I would love the opportunity to utilize my Spanish skills to make meaningful connections with employees and train them how to perform certain tasks. Outside of the day-to-day responsibilities of being a food animal veterinarian, I hope to give back to organizations such as the Upper Midwest Dairy Industry Association, American Association of Bovine Practitioners, and the Wisconsin Holstein Association, just to name a few. Veterinarians are trained in zoonotic disease, epidemiology, and disease pathogenesis and therefore a great resource when dealing with food safety, especially food-borne disease. As animal health and welfare experts, they also know what it takes to produce a wholesome, safe product for consumers. I hope that through my involvement in various organizations, I can use my veterinary training to provide insight about animal health, food safety, and other dairy-related issues.”

Rebekka Paskewitz

Rebekka Paskewitz grew up near Staples Minnesota and started showing dairy cattle from her uncle’s farm at an early age, along with working on the farm. She is a currently studying Agricultural Education and Animal Science at South Dakota State University  where she is involved in a wide range of campus activities including serving as Campus Ag Day Chair and is a member of the SDSU Dairy Club. Ms. Paskewitz has held a number of high level positions in her leadership career, having previously served as Minnesota State FFA Association Reporter and Princess Kay of the Milky Way the goodwill ambassador for the Minnesota dairy community. She is also serving as an Agriculture Future of America Leader Fellow 2016-2019.

Rebekka has taken a non-traditional approach to entering a career in the dairy community through her major of agricultural education. She feels strongly that as dairy grows and develops from its traditions, we are able to include a variety of specializations in our farms, processing facilities, and food markets. More specifically, as we aim to engage consumers more directly with their food, the role of education in our industry is more valuable than ever.

Rebekka shared her future plans , “As a futuristic young adult, I find the goals of the dairy community invigorating. While the values of dairy farming remain the same, there is no time like the present to diversify the talents of our dairy farmers, the environmental practices we use, and the variety of products we process. In the same way, I plan to diversity our uses of agricultural education to further promote the dairy community and the consumer’s familiarity with our farms and food products. After graduating I have the intent to work as an agricultural educator and community outreach specialist within a farm or rural community. Through this position I aim to transparently share agriculture with the general public through interactive farm tours, agricultural-based science labs in classrooms, and multi-media platforms that promote the quality and safety of dairy foods. Agriculture has a long-standing goal of bridging the gap between consumers and producers. I feel strongly that this goal can be more readily achieved by inviting eaters of all backgrounds to be a part of our daily lives as dairy farmers. In return, the support gained from this type of engagement will benefit UMDIA in their pursuit of improving the quality and safety of dairy and food products. “

Congratulations to our 2018 Gene Watnaas Scholarship Winners

Morgan Krause

University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Major Animal Science Dairy Production, Agricultural Communications & Marketing. Minor Agricultural & Food Business Management

Kirby Krogstad

University of South Dakota, Dairy Production

University of Nebraska-Lincoln, graduate studies, Dairy Cattle Nutrition

Rachael O’Leary

University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine, Food Animal / Production Medicine

Upper Midwest Dairy Industry Association Gene Watnaas Scholarships

The Upper Midwest Dairy Industry Association is a non-profit group whose purpose is to promote the dairy industry by providing information, educational services, networks and contests that encourage improvement in the quality and safety of dairy and food products.

In an effort to recognize individuals pursuing post-secondary education in a field that will enhance the quality and safety of dairy and food products, UMDIA will be awarding up to two $1,000 scholarships to qualified applicants. Applications are due January 31 each year.

Minimum eligibility for UMDIA Scholarship Applications:

  • Pursuing a degree in Animal Science with emphasis in dairy, Dairy Science, Food Animal Veterinary Medicine, Dairy Manufacturing, Dairy Technology or Dairy Food Science. (Other degree programs may be considered if there is strong evidence of commitment and contribution to the dairy industry.)
  • Applications from freshmen and sophomore students will only be considered in the absence of qualifying junior or senior applicants
  • Completed at least one semester with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0
  • Plans to complete their degree program
  • Reference letter (from a faculty member or dairy industry leader, not a family member)

Download the application form

Please note: This is an on-line Microsoft Word document.  When you have completed the form, save it and email it to us.

Past Scholarship Award Winners:

2018 Gene Watnaas Scholarship
Morgan Krause, Kirby Krogstad, Rachael O’Leary
2017 Gene Watnaas Scholarship
Brooke Carrow, Katherine Kindschuh
2016 Gene Watnaas Scholarship
Emmalee Blough, Johanna Knorr
2015 Gene Watnaas Scholarship
Jennifer Jelinski, Mary Leibenstein
2014 Gene Watnaas Scholarship
Emily Plapp, Sarah Roerick
2013 Gene Watnaas Scholarship
Jacob Achen, Matthew Holdvogt
2013 Pioneer Dairymen’s Club Memorial Scholarship
Ashley Adamski, Samantha Scroth
2012 Gene Watnaas Scholarship
Jessica Hammerand, Abigail Wirt
2012 Pioneer Dairymen’s Club Memorial Scholarship
Courtney Lasky
2011 Gene Watnaas Scholarship
April Johnson, Laura Weisz
2011 Pioneer Dairymen’s Club Memorial Scholarship
Megan Kleve
2010 Gene Watnaas Scholarship
Charlie Schiller, Abby Udermann
2010 Pioneer Dairymen’s Club Memorial Scholarship
Nicole Stevens
2009 Gene Watnaas Scholarships
Amber Hazel, Lucas Sjostrom
2009 Pioneer Dairymen’s Club Memorial Scholarship
Jacquelyne Koch
2007 & 2008 Gene Watnaas Scholarships
Jennifer Becker, Jacquelyne Koch, Samantha Wahls