CALS students take top honors in UW–Madison Student Employee of the Year competition

University of Wisconsin–Madison dairy science student Morgan Larson helps take care of the campus Meat Lab and the students who work there. Auna Kaufmann-Schwartz, a UW–Madison wildlife ecology major, takes care of the UW Arboretum and its visitors. Larson and Kaufmann-Schwartz have shown remarkable dedication to their campus jobs, and both were recently recognized for their hard work through the first annual UW–Madison Student Employee of the Year competition.

The competition, which is hosted by the UW Student Employment team and recognizes three winners, awarded first place to Larson and second place to Kaufmann-Schwartz. Both are College of Agricultural and Life Sciences seniors who will be graduating in May.

Morgan Larson

Morgan Larson works as the assistant manager at the Meat Lab, putting in almost 30 hours per week on the job while also excelling academically and as captain of the UW–Madison Women’s Club Hockey Team. In this role, she helps oversee a wide variety of Meat Lab tasks: the handling of animals, the production of meat products, compliance with food safety protocols, working with state meat inspection agencies, retail sales of meat products in Bucky’s Butchery store and the Babcock Hall Dairy Store, as well as managing student employees.

Larson, from Loyal, Wisconsin, went into her position knowing virtually nothing about meat science. But, from early on, she took the initiative to learn the skills she needed, says Dan Schaefer, animal sciences professor and Larson’s nominator for the award.

“Morgan realized that she needed experience with specific techniques,” says Schaefer. “She saw the need for professional growth, arranged for mentorship and forged ahead. She holds herself accountable for her responsibilities.”

In her role, Larson interacts and works with a number of different people including department faculty members, company representatives, the state meat inspector and workers at Bucky’s Butchery and the Babcock Hall Dairy Store. She is in charge of managing around 15 student employees.

“Morgan leads by example, and she demonstrates organization, dedication, responsibility and a calm demeanor,” says Schaefer. “For the last [student employee] orientation meeting, which kicks off each semester, Morgan developed discussion points with no supervisory input from me, reflecting her responsibility and maturity.”

For Larson, the high point of the job is the people. “The best group of people I have met are the other students who work here with a passion for meat science. I couldn’t do what I do without a great crew of students,” she says. “I have learned more than I ever thought possible about meat science here, and I look forward to continuing to learn after graduation.”

Larson plans to continue working in the meat science industry after graduation.

Auna Kaufmann-Schwartz has been an assistant ranger at the UW Arboretum since 2016. She works with the arboretum ranger, Stephanie Petersen, to patrol the grounds, educate the public, maintain signage, take care of visitors and buildings, and collect data throughout the year.

Auna Kaufmann-Schwartz

“Auna’s natural curiosity and desire to learn are the foundation that make her such an invaluable employee,” says Petersen, who nominated her for the award. “She approaches each shift with excitement and treats her position as an opportunity to learn more about the world around her.”

In addition to the natural world, Kaufmann-Schwartz, who is from Holmen, Wisconsin, also interacts with visitors on a daily basis and has a knack for talking with visitors about rule violations in a positive way that articulates the reason for a given policy.

“Auna has demonstrated her ability to address visitors in a polite, thoughtful, level-headed way,” says Petersen. “She has shown maturity beyond her years and sets an excellent example for others.”

Kaufmann-Schwartz has gone above and beyond when it comes to her Arboretum involvement. In 2017, she took part in the Arboretum’s summer camp, teaching children about science and the environment. As a painter and photographer, her art was on display in the Arboretum’s Visitor Center gallery in 2018. For Kaufmann-Schwartz, all of these aspects of her work have come together to create an ideal place to work.

“The Arboretum helped Madison become a home to me,” she says. “I received endless advice from the current and former ranger, I met some of my closest friends here, and I was given many opportunities to explore my interests outside the scope of my precise job description.”

After she graduates in May, Kaufmann-Schwartz plans to work as a field technician for the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies in Wyoming.