DAFVM Spotlight Employees

The administration for the Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine (DAFVM) plans to spotlight two employees each month. All benefits-eligible professional and support staff employees within the Division qualify as part of the pool from which employees will be chosen. Highlighted employees will be randomly selected and given his or her choice of a $50 prize from DAFVM to be claimed from specific vendors at MSU. See Guidelines.

Ben Berry
Ben Berry
June 2016

Dairy Equipment Processing Operator II
MSU Dairy Plant

Years in Position: 3
Years of Service to MSU: 3

While most people are asleep at 2:30 a.m., Ben Berry is already starting his work day.

Berry is a Dairy Equipment Processor in the milk room at the Mississippi State University Dairy Plant. He processes milk, cheese and ice cream for the plant. He also pasteurizes and sterilizes milk, and processes the cream to make butter.

“If it has to do with dairy, then I have something to do with it at some part in the process,” Berry said.

Each day, he has to have the milk ready by 6 a.m.

“It’s crucial that I’m on time with everything I have to do. If I’m late, the whole plant is late,” he said.

Berry said that he enjoys being a part of one of the well-known aspects of MSU.

“It’s such an honor to be a part of something that is this big of a deal,” he said. “It’s one of those jobs where you see just how much work is put into the final product.”

One of Berry’s favorite memories is the 75th anniversary of the Edam cheese.

“There were cameras everywhere in the plant,” Berry said. “It was pretty neat to be part of it.”

Berry worked in auto part sales before working at MSU. Several members of his family also work at MSU. When the opportunity arose to work at the dairy plant, he took advantage of it.

“I really didn’t know what I was getting into,” Berry said. “It’s worth it when I can see the work at the end of the day and be proud of it.”

Nathan, his younger brother, followed in his footsteps. He is a student worker in the dairy plant.

“If I didn’t work with him, I wouldn’t see him as much as I do,” he said.

Berry can be found in the outdoors when he is not at the dairy plant. He enjoys hunting, fishing and farming. He also likes to spend time with his wife, Amanda Berry.

Walter Solomon
Walter Solomon
June 2016

Research Associate III
Delta Research and Extension Center
Stoneville, Washington County

Years in Position: 16
Years of Service to MSU: 16

No two days look the same for Walter Solomon at the Mississippi State University Delta Research and Extension Center. The variety in his work is one of his favorite aspects of his job.

Solomon serves as a Research Associate at the DREC in Stoneville. He is involved in every aspect of the plant pathology program with a focus on data analysis and manuscript preparation.

He works closely with plant pathologist Dr. Tom Allen to study and conduct research on diseases in crops, including cotton, soybean, corn, wheat and rice.

Solomon appreciates that his job is not mundane or routine.

“I like the ability to work outside in the field, but also work inside on the computer,” he said.

The variety of work also means he has several opportunities to interact with people with different areas of expertise.

“This provides me an opportunity to learn new things from highly knowledgeable individuals, which is very rewarding,” he said.

Solomon has always been interested in science.

“With an educational background in chemistry, biology, entomology and plant breeding, agricultural research was a good fit for me,” he said.

He spent 12 years working for the United States Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Research Service in Stoneville in the entomology unit before moving to the MSU center.

Solomon helped to develop rice varieties for 11 years with the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Experiment Station before he became a research associate in the pathology program.

“One of my favorite memories on the job is getting to travel with the rice breeder to the rice winter nursery in Puerto Rico to harvest our rice varieties grown there,” Solomon said.

A true outdoorsman, he enjoys fishing, hunting and gardening during his spare time. He also likes to ride his Harley Davidson motorcycle.

Solomon has three children, Amy, Eric, and Joseph. He also likes spending time with and spoiling Crosby and Henry, his two grandsons.


  • The drawing for the DAFVM Staff Spotlight recognition will take place the last week of each month and be announced the first working day of the upcoming month.  Names are pulled randomly from a pre-populated Banner list.
  • To be the highlighted staff for any given month, the employee must have acceptable recent performance evaluations on file. Those evaluations will be reviewed prior to acknowledgement of the employee and awarding a prize. The evaluation itself will not be viewed but rather HRM will provide a general recommendation based on the employee’s past reviews.
  • The selected employees will be notified by letter from Dr. Greg Bohach, Vice President, DAFVM.
  • A required photo and a brief  interview of the recipients will be posted on the DAFVM Staff Council Web page www.dafvm.msstate.edu/advisory/spotlight/. This information will also be displayed on the monitors of the first floor of the Bost Building, as well as in other MSU locations and publications.
  • Each recipient can choose one of the following prizes:
    • $50 gift certificate to the University Florist
    • $50 gift certificate to the MAFES Sales Store
    • MSU apparel item ($50 value)

At each annual DAFVM Summer Celebration, the Staff Spotlight recipients from the previous year will be acknowledged. The DAFVM website will have an archive of all winners listed by month/date.

An employee cannot be chosen more than once during a two (2) year period.