MACOMB/Moline, IL – Western Illinois University Alumnus Cody Presny received a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Award in 2022.

Presny, a 2015 and 2019 graduate of the Recreation, Park and Tourism Administration (RPTA) programs, was awarded the 2022 U.S. Department of Agriculture Assistant Secretary for Administration Award by Agriculture Deputy Secretary Jewel Bronaugh and Assistant Secretary for Administration Oscar Gonzales.

“This is the second highest honor awarded to USDA staff, second only to the Secretary of Agriculture Award,” said Presny. “I received the award for my application of technical expertise in the modernization and enhancement of the Geographic Information Systems leveraged in the USDA Emergency Operations Center.”

Western Illinois University Alumnus Receives U.S. Department of Agriculture Award

Presny studied Natural Resource Management and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Analysis in tandem. During his time at WIU, RPTA Professor Rob Porter was an advocate for pursuing careers in the federal sector and for the application of GIS technologies through environmental conservation. Through Porter’s guidance and advocacy, Presny sought and landed a student career development position with the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

“Cody was an excellent undergraduate, so it was an obvious choice to recruit him for graduate school and a graduate assistantship,” said Porter. “He did an excellent job of supporting RPTA faculty in the Quad Cities through his administrative skills and office management. He assisted me with the duties involved in chairing a national conference. This task included organizing abstracts, sending them out for review, organizing feedback and distributing emails to presenters.


He assisted in graduate and undergraduate recruitment. His enthusiastic personality infects everyone around him. He is a kind, smart and charismatic person. I could guarantee that when he met with a prospective student, that student would eventually end up in RPTA. I am very proud of his accomplishments in his role with the federal government. Cody is a gem. Proof that the right person in the right place benefits not only themselves but everyone around them. Cody, just by being himself, makes everyone around him better.”

Presny earned a minor in Outdoor Leadership after participating in the Environmental Conservation and Outdoor Education Expedition program.

Presny reflects on his fondest memories at WIU including taking an active role in the Horn Field Campus Environmental Learning Project (HELP) student organization.

“Holding vice president and president positions in this organization honed my leadership skills and organizational abilities by taking an active role in the planning and execution of student volunteer opportunities, environmental improvement projects and fundraising events for WIU,” said Presny. “My experiences with Horn Field Campus and the Horn Field Environmental Learning Project fostered not only leadership opportunities but also helped to establish lasting relationships with my peers and RPTA faculty.


My time spent studying under and working alongside Professor Porter and Director Mindy Pheiffer stands out to me because of the level of passion they bring to their roles within the department. Both individuals empowered me, and presumably countless other WIU Alumni to become strong, confident and successful leaders in the professional world.”

Presny is not one to shy away from adventures or promoting environmental conservation and stewardship. He became known in the QCA for his 2016 paddling trip down the 2,320 miles of the Mississippi River aimed at supporting the Mississippi River Network and its work to protect the river. He and a classmate averaged 25 miles a day camping most nights to make the trek in three and a half months.

When asked what was one piece of advice he would give a WIU student, Presny answered to not take on the world alone.

“It can be difficult to succeed in the world alone,” said Presny. “Seek out opportunities to actively engage with your faculty, your peers and your community. The personal experiences you gain, the networks you develop and the opportunities that arise as a result will be the greatest takeaways from your college experience.

As I progress in my career, I continue to pursue opportunities in management and federal geospatial policy development. I reside in Washington, D.C., so engaging with WIU events in person has been challenging. I stay up to date with campus happenings by following the newsletters and other publications distributed by the university. I also keep up with some of the WIU faculty and staff. ”

In addition to this accomplishment, Presny was named the recipient of the WIU RPTA Department’s Graduate of the Last Decade (GOLD) in 2021.

“There wasn’t anything at Horn that Cody couldn’t do,” said Pheiffer. “From facilitating challenge courses to burning a prairie, Cody did it all. What a privilege it is to watch him continue to climb.”

For more information on WIU’s RPTA program, visit

Western Illinois University Alumnus Receives U.S. Department of Agriculture Award
Sean Leary is an author, director, artist, musician, producer and entrepreneur who has been writing professionally since debuting at age 11 in the pages of the Comics Buyers Guide. An honors graduate of the University of Southern California masters program, he has written over 50 books including the best-sellers The Arimathean, Every Number is Lucky to Someone and We Are All Characters.
Western Illinois University Alumnus Receives U.S. Department of Agriculture Award

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