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Global Food Systems Leadership

The official logo of K-State's Global Food Systems Leadership program

Global Food Systems
Leadership Program

Kansas State University
257 Leadership Studies
Manhattan, KS 66506


Meet Our Faculty

An interdisciplinary team of faculty from across K-State bring outstanding teaching practices and support to the Global Food Systems Leadership program. Read on to learn more about our team. 

Jason EllisDepartment Head, Associate Professorjdellis@k-state.edu

Jason EllisDr. Jason Ellis serves as Department Head of K-State's Communications and Agricultural Education and is an Associate Professor. Jason is the liaison between the Global Food Systems Leadership secondary major and Farm Credit Services.

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Jason is the department head for Communications and Agricultural Education, which offers degrees in Agricultural Education and Agricultural Communications and Journalism; is a founding department in the interdisciplinary Leadership Communication doctoral program; and helped develop the Global Food Systems Leadership secondary major. In addition, the department provides communications support for the College of Agriculture and K-State Research and Extension and operates the University Printing facility.

Jason continues to teach and advise students for undergraduate and graduate programs in agricultural communications and journalism and he conducts and disseminates communications research through an appointment with the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station.

Top 5 Strengths: Harmony; Deliberative; Consistency; Relator; Analytical

Favorite Quote: "A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don't necessarily want to go, but ought to be." - Rosalynn Carter


B.S. Kansas State University, Agricultural Communications and Journalism
M.S. Iowa State University, Meat Science
Ph.D. Iowa State University, Agricultural Education

Contact Information
301C Umberger Hall | 785-532-5804 ph | jdellis@k-state.edu

Sara GraggAssociate Professor of Food Sciencesaragragg@k-state.edu

Sara GraggDr. Sara Gragg is an Associate Professor of Food Science at K-State's College of Agriculture and teaches courses in food microbiology, produce safety and food policy. She also teaches GENAG 225: Fundamentals of Global Food Systems Leadership for the secondary major.

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Sara often tells others she is a food scientist, being introduced to this important career field by her mentors and through her service in the national FFA organization. Her interest in animal science began in high school showing horses, but quickly evolved after taking her first agriculture course and connecting with food microbiologist, Dr. Mindy Brashears. Sara has more than 17 years of experience in food safety research, and has traveled internationally to assist with food safety research and security efforts.

Sara enjoys connecting with students to inspire the next generation of leaders and agriculturists to apply their knowledge and skills to improve our global food system.

Top 5 Strengths: Competition; Significance; Learner; Analytical; Command

Favorite Quote: "You were not born a winner. You were not born a loser. You were born a chooser." - Anonymous


B.S. University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Food Science and Technology
M.S. Texas Tech University, Food Science
Ph.D. Texas Tech University, Animal Science

Contact Information
209 Call Hall | 785-532-1306 ph | saragragg@k-state.edu

Mary Kay SiefersDirector, Assistant Professor marykay@k-state.edu

Mary Kay SiefersMary Kay Siefers, Ph.D., is the Director of the Global Food Systems Leadership Secondary Major. She is also the Senior Associate Director and an Assistant Professor at the Staley School of Leadership Studies. Within the secondary major, Mary Kay teaches GENAG 225: Fundamentals of Global Food Systems Leadership and GENAG 325: Uncertainty in Global Food Systems Leadership.

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Mary Kay is passionate about her work with students in creating knowledgeable, ethical, caring, inclusive leaders for a diverse and changing world. As an instructor, Mary Kay is committed to designing transformational learning experiences that result in significant enough changes in students that both they and others recognize. One of Mary Kay's goals as a professor is to create a learning community that values each member's experiences and life stories so that students can discuss pertinent leadership issues and learn from one another.

Mary Kay is also a certified leadership coach with the Kansas Leadership Center. In her coaching she partners with her clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.

Top 5 Strengths: Empathy; Adaptability; Positivity; Woo; Includer

Favorite Quote: "It is not our differences that divide us; it's our judgments about each other that do." —Margaret Wheatley


B.S. Kansas State University, Secondary Education
M.S. Kansas State University, Animal Science
Ph.D. Kansas State University, Animal Science

Contact Information
257 Leadership Studies | 785-532-6085 ph. | marykay@k-state.edu

Jonathan UlmerAssociate Professorjulmer@k-state.edu

Jonathan UlmerJon Ulmer, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor in Agricultural Education with K-State's Department of Communications and Agricultural Education. He teaches GENAG 425: Global Food Systems Leadership in Action for the secondary major. Dr. Ulmer specializes in agricultural education. He teaches a variety of classes preparing students for a career as a High School Agriculture Teacher.

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Prior to coming to K-State, Dr. Ulmer served on the faculty at Texas Tech University and the University of Missouri. Growing up in Nebraska he earned his Bachelor's degree in Ag Education at the University of Nebraska and taught AgScience at Medicine Valley High School in Curtis Nebraska. He earned his Master's in Ag Ed at Oklahoma State University and his Ph.D. in Ag Ed at the University of Missouri.

Within the profession, Dr. Ulmer currently serves on the National FFA Board of Directors and the Curriculum for Agricultural Science Education Executive Committee. He is a member of the American Association for Agricultural Education.

Top 5 Strengths: Communication; Empathy; Positivity; Woo; Adaptability

Favorite Quote: "Best laid plans, and then life happens."


B.S. University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Agricultural Education
M.S. Oklahoma State University, Agricultural Education
Ph.D. University of Missouri-Columbia, Agricultural Education

Contact Information
308 Umberger Hall | 785-532-1250 ph | julmer@k-state.edu

Jessie ViphamAssistant Professorjessiev@k-state.edu

Jessie ViphamDr. Jessie Vipham is an Assistant Professor in Animal Sciences and Industry and teaches GENAG 425: Global Food Systems Leadership in Action for the secondary major. Jessie joined the Department of Animal Science and Industry at Kansas State University in August of 2015. Her appointment is 100% research as a member of the Kansas State Feed the Future Innovation Lab-Collaborative Research on Sustainable Intensification (SIIL).

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Jessie was raised on a registered Angus ranch in Northeastern Nevada. Growing up in a rural part of the country, Jessie was highly active in 4-H and FFA and held several offices at the local, county, and state level for both organizations. Her major focus was her beef and sheep projects, but she also participated in livestock judging and public speaking. During her graduate studies, Jessie discovered a passion for International research, and began to focus her efforts towards food security research in Latin America.

Jessie’s graduate training is in food microbiology and food safety. Jessie’s research at KSU will be based on developing sustainable agricultural systems, investigating methods to strengthen human nutrition and food safety, and creating capacity building and training programs for six target countries in Africa and Asia (Cambodia, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Senegal, and Tanzania).


B.S. Kansas State University, Meat Science
M.S. Kansas State University, Animal Science
Ph.D. Texas Tech University, Animal Science

Contact Information
108 Waters Hall | 785-532-3486 ph | jessiev@k-state.edu

Shannon WashburnAssistant Dean of Academic Programssgw@k-state.edu

Shannon WashburnShannon Washburn, Ph.D., is the Assistant Dean of Academic Programs with K-State's College of Agriculture and teaches GENAG 225: Fundamentals of Global Food Systems Leadership for the secondary major. 

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Top 5 Strengths: Relator; Belief; Maximizer; Connectedness; Adaptability

Contact Information
117 Waters Hall | 785-532-6151 ph | sgw@k-state.edu