Announcing CFANS Commencement 2024 keynote and student speakers

April 11, 2024

We are pleased to announce the keynote and student speakers for our 2024 commencement ceremonies.

CFANS Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony | Friday, May 3, 2024 at 2 p.m. | 3M Arena at Mariucci

Jim Luby

Keynote Address | James Luby (PhD ’82 Plant Breeding) is a professor in the Department of Horticultural Science at the University of Minnesota where he has directed research in fruit crops breeding and genetics since 1982. The emphasis of his program is to develop new varieties that combine a satisfying eating experience for the consumer with cold hardiness and disease resistance. His research aims to determine the inheritance of important fruit and tree traits and identify important genetic loci and DNA markers for use in DNA-informed breeding. Luby grew up in Wisconsin and his education includes a B.S. degree in Crop Science from Purdue University and a Ph.D. in Plant Breeding from the University of Minnesota.

Under his direction, the University of Minnesota fruit crops breeding program has introduced and commercialized 31 cultivars of apples, wine grapes, blueberries, strawberries, and other fruits. Apple introductions include ‘Honeycrisp’ and SweeTango®, #1 and #10 respectively in retail value in the US in 2020. Luby teaches and advises graduate and undergraduate students in plant breeding and fruit production. He has published over 150 peer-reviewed papers and book chapters. His awards include induction as a fellow in the American Society of Horticultural Science (2002) and the Society’s Career Awards for Outstanding Researcher (2014) and Outstanding Graduate Educator (2020) as well as the American Pomological Society’s Wilder Medal for outstanding contributions to fruit breeding (2008).

Yasmin Mohran

Undergraduate Student Speaker | Yasmin Mohran (BS ’24 Nutrition Studies) will graduate with a Bachelor of Sciences in Nutrition Studies and a Minor in Public Health from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in May 2024. She was born and raised in Northern Virginia. From a young age, Yasmin exhibited a passion for cooking but struggled with many digestive challenges that sparked her passion for understanding nutrition. She has served as a Teaching Assistant and Academic Tutor; worked in numerous nutrition roles; and helped with research projects focusing on heart failure, Alzheimer's disease, and abdominal obesity. She is a Dean's List and Cargill Thrive Scholarship recipient and has volunteered in healthcare settings, mentored prospective students, and advocated for her peers in various leadership roles. After graduation, Yasmin will go on to earn her Master of Public Health (MPH) in International Health with a concentration in Human Nutrition at Johns Hopkins University. Her career goal is to become a nutrition epidemiologist.

CFANS Graduate Commencement Ceremony | Saturday, May 4, 2024 at 1 p.m. | Ted Mann Concert Hall

Jonathan Slaght

Keynote Address | Jonathan Slaght (MS ’05 Conservation Biology, PhD ’11 Wildlife Conservation) is the Regional Director of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Temperate Asia Program, where he oversees WCS conservation programs in China, Mongolia, and Afghanistan, and projects in Russia and Central Asia. He received both MS and PhD degrees from the University of Minnesota, in Conservation Biology (2005) and Wildlife Conservation (2011), respectively, and a BA in Russian Language from Drew University in New Jersey (1998). Slaght is also an author: in addition to bylines in The New York Times, The Atlantic, and other notable media outlets, a memoir of his PhD experience called “Owls of the Eastern Ice” was published in summer 2020 to acclaim. It was named a New York Times Notable Book for 2020, nominated for a 2020 National Book Award, and won the 2021 PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award. He is currently working on a book about tiger conservation in Russia.

Drew Carter

Graduate Student Speaker | Andrew (Drew) Carter (PhD ’24 Food Science) was born and raised in Minnesota. From a young age, he demonstrated a strong interest in science and cooking, which led him to complete undergraduate degrees in Biology and Chemistry; he is now graduating with a PhD in Food Science. He is passionate about education and science communication, having minored in mass communication in undergrad. He has served as the Communications Coordinator for the Department of Food Science and Nutrition for the past five years. He enjoys translating complex topics into understandable messages that can be used to foster scientific literacy in the general public. Drew is a lover of nature and will spend as much time outside or in the sun as he can. He hopes to spend his future career supporting planetary health, as the natural world is both scientifically fascinating and foundational to the human experience. His immediate post graduation plans are to finish several internship and certificate programs. After that, he intends to use the multifaceted training he received in CFANS to build a career for himself that will be fulfilling, varied, and contribute to the betterment of life on Earth.

We look forward to celebrating the class of 2024! For more information on Commencement ceremonies, visit this page.