Iowa State University, Ames, IA
Associate professor/Extension Field crops pathologist
Time in that position: 12 years in extension; 5 years as associate professor
Distribution of efforts: 70% extension; 30% research
Degree held, thesis/dissertation topic: PhD with a focus on bacterial diversity of Ralstonia solanacearum
Typical workload in spring:
Spring is quieter from an Extension perspective; I may have one farmer/industry meeting a week. Consequently, I use spring to catch up on writing manuscripts and proposals. I try to meet weekly with students and staff.
Typical workload in summer:
In summer I average 2 to 3 field days a week. Field research starts. The days I am in my office are spent finishing up manuscripts and proposals. Most of my staff and students are busy with research, but I make time to meet with them as necessary.
Typical workload in fall:
Early fall is also busy for field days and end-of-season assessment of fungicide field trials around the state. Consequently, I spend most of the week on the road. The end of fall is busy analyzing field data, returning reports to companies, and preparing for winter Extension meetings.
Typical workload in winter:
Extension is very busy in winter. I have 2 to 3 extension meetings per week and so may make it to the office on the other two days of the week. When I am in the office, I meet with students and staff or industry reps regarding field trials for the upcoming summer.
Most rewarding thing about working in Extension:
The most rewarding part of working in Extension for me is interacting with people and helping them succeed. I am passionate about plant pathology, and I love to teach my stakeholders about the disease triangle, tips and tricks to diagnose diseases, and disease management in terms of manipulating the disease triangle. Farmers and agribusiness professionals are eager to learn and to apply what they learn. Moreover, I often learn from them through their experiences or observations. No day is ever the same. Field days can differ from day to day; interactions with groups at field days can differ from group to group; similarly, discussions and questions can vary from group to group, event to event, day to day.
Challenges with Extension work; what early career professionals need to know:
Probably the biggest challenge is a 24-hour day. Travel time eats into time for other requirements of the job (writing, reading, mentoring students and post docs, etc.). Traveling to and from field days or farmer/agribusiness meetings may take an entire day. Emails and other office work do not stop while you are on the road. It’s often difficult to find time to stop and just read and to catch up on what is going on in regards to research in your field of expertise. Developing relationships and earning your stakeholders trust can be difficult at the beginning of a career in Extension. Developing a program that documents impacts, changes in your stakeholders’ production practices as a result of your outreach, is necessary.
How Extension is evaluated at your institution. Briefly describe the way tenure and/or promotion differs compared to research or teaching positions.
At ISU, Extension, research and teaching are all valued equally.
Advice to graduate students and early career professionals who want to pursue a career in Extension:
Extension means working with people, so being a people-person is a priority. You need to be flexible- a presentation might go extremely well with one group of stakeholders and fall flat with another group. Learn how to read a crowd and interact with them. Extension is busy – it seems like Extension people are always on the go, juggling way too many balls. Being able to prioritize your “to do” list helps you be successful. Good time management skills are also necessary. Try to attend as many Extension events as you can, and learn from other Extension professionals; pay attention to techniques they use to teach, or how they interact with a group and educate.
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