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Age Demographics and Trends in Graduate Recruitment in Plant Pathology in the US University System

David Gadoury: Cornell University

<div>An untold success story of our profession is how challenges posed by future retirements and declining interest in graduate studies were resolved by strategic planning and actions at the societal level. Censuses of the US university system in 2007, 2011, and 2017 enumerated all plant pathology faculty and graduate students. The APS membership database was used to construct the faculty age distribution in 2007 compared to 2017, and student members were surveyed and interviewed to identify factors that were decisive in selection of plant pathology as a career. Findings of these studies, including the identification of work experience and internships as a principal factor generating commitment to graduate study, were communicated annually to department heads and chairs. Promotion of practical experience to funding agencies and industry resulted in substantial support for internship and work experience programs. Program descriptions were aggregated on <em>APSnet</em> and edited for search engine optimization to raise visibility to online searches. There was a concomitant increase in the number plant pathology graduate students in the US university system from 694 in 2007, to 829 in 2011, and 975 in 2017. Faculty numbers remained unchanged from 2007-17, but the age distribution became markedly bimodal due to new hires. Age demographics, and consistent trends in faculty hiring and retirement indicate a need for graduate programs to operate near this level for the next 10 years.</div>