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​​​​Meet the Candidates for the 2020 APS Officer Election

​​Vice President Candidates

​Councilor-at-Large Candidates


Candidate for Vice PresidentThomas A. Evans ​

Professor, Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, University of Delaware, Newark

Area of Specialization: Etiology, epidemiology, and management of oomycete/fungal and bacterial diseases of lima bean and virus diseases of vegetable crops and cultivated rose.

Academic Record: BS and MS in botany, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, 1974 and 1977; PhD in botany and plant pathology, Michigan State University, 1985.​

Brief Description of Professional Achievements: In 1986, I joined the University of Delaware Department of Plant and Soil Sciences as a research plant pathologist and was promoted over the years to assistant professor and associate professor and then to full professor in 2007. I am recognized as a leader nationally and internationally in vegetable plant pathology and food security and for my delivery of plant health programs in developing countries. During my career, I have taught a wide range of undergraduate and graduate courses in plant pathology and botany, and I currently teach a popular course for nonmajors, People and Plants: Feast or Famine, Introductory Plant Pathology and Current Concepts in Plant Health, annually. I have directed or co-directed 17 MS and 4 PhD students and served on 25 additional committees.

The focus of my research for 34 years has been on viral, fungal, and oomycete diseases affecting vegetable crops. Over the past 20 years, I have concentrated my research efforts on the management of Phytophthora phaseoli, the causal agent downy mildew of lima bean (Phaseolus lunatus). This includes characterization of physiological races, development of more effective predictive models, characterization of sources of resistance, and development of a reference genome for lima bean. I have worked for many years on the spread of rose rosette disease (caused by Rose rosette emaravirus) in multtiflora and cultivated rose in the mid-Atlantic region. In 2012, I was selected as the scientific advisor for the first National Summit on Rose Rosette Disease, held in Newark, Delaware, and the submission of a large multistate USDA-NIFA-SCRI proposal, funded in 2014. Over my career, I have published more than 80 research articles in refereed journals and numerous extension publications and have received grants as PI or Co-PI totaling more than $6 million.

Service to APS: I served as the organizing chair for the APS-sponsored International Congress of Plant Pathology in 2018 (ICPP2018), held in Boston. I served the Potomac Division of APS as vice-president (1992), president (1993) and councilor (2004–2007). I served as a member of the Office of International Programs as the co-chair of the Library Support Program (1992–1999). I served on the Teaching Committee from 1990 to 2000 and chair in 2000. I served one term as associate editor of Plant Disease (1996–1998) and as senior editor for the APS Education Center for two terms (2009–2015). I served APS Council on the Financial Advisory Committee, the ad-hoc committee that developed a vision for APS's future international programs, the committee that developed the proposal to host ICPP2018, and for a decade, as lead councilor to ISPP.

Other Professional Service: I served in senior leadership roles of the International Society for Plant Pathology as treasurer (2008–2013) and vice president (2013–2018). I have provided service for USDA-ARS as a panel chair for the Office of Science Quality Review (2007), for USDA-NIFA-OREI as a review panel member (2015), and as the grant panel chair for the USAID-Middle Eastern Research Collaborations program (2005). I served for 20 years as member and chair of the Zoning Board of Adjustment of Rehoboth Beach.

Awards and Honors: I received the APS Potomac Division's Distinguished Service Award in 2006 and in 2010 was awarded President Obama's Volunteer Service Award from USAID's Feed the Future Program for the thousands of hours of service provided to USAID and Partners of the Americas working with vegetable growers in Jamaica and the Dominican Republic. In 2018, I was elected Fellow of APS and ISPP. In 2019, I received the Excellence in Teaching and Advising award from the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Delaware.

Statement of Vision for APS: We live in turbulent times, and global climate disruption threatens our agricultural and food systems and is changing the landscape of our planet. APS is recognized as a global leader in plant health, and there has never been a greater need for global collaborations to help provide enough affordable and safe food for the world. The membership of APS is increasingly diverse and international in scope, and we must continue to improve our linkages with plant pathologists around the globe. We have memoranda of understanding with numerous national plant pathology societies, from China to Nigeria to Brazil. We should continue to reach out to other national societies and build relationships that will benefit our society and the planet. My vision for APS is that we continue to increase our leadership role in assisting others to make global connections through the dissemination of plant health information via both physical and virtual meetings, the large portfolio of digital publications from APS PRESS, and by connecting people through online meetings over Zoom or other platforms.

My vision for the future of APS meetings is that we continue to expand on the work of our Annual Meeting Board. Their work in reshaping the meeting structure for the ICPP 2018 was an excellent step in the right direction. The congress was extremely successful in expanding our relationship with other societies and sharing our knowledge of plant health globally with more than 2,400 attendees from 75 countries. More than 50 volunteers from our society participated in the organizing process, along with our professional staff and consultants. It was truly a team effort, and it was a pleasure to work with all involved. I believe that we must continue to innovate in the ways we hold meetings and communicate with the world.

APS faces challenges over the coming years, and many of these are related to our financial health. My vision is that we raise our leadership role in plant health education by expanding our digital publications and increasing the number of online educational programs offered to our members and to others around the world. We should use these kinds of online programs for the education of K–12 students, graduate students, stakeholders, and students in other countries. This could become a significant revenue stream for our society. The changing expectations of our subscribers and members influence the way in which we publish. An excellent example of a rapid response to changing needs is the launching of the PhytoFrontiers journal. We must plan for these inevitable changes to ensure the financial health of APS. As our electronic publications continue to grow, we should support them financially ensuring their success and hence APS. APSnet is the world's window onto our profession and is the best vehicle promoting the value of what plant pathologists do for the world. Continued investment is necessary if we are going to communicate effectively with our members, subscribers, stakeholders, legislators, and the public. 

It is critical for APS to engage and support young professional plant pathologists, so they discover the value of membership in our society. This segment of our profession has evolving styles of engagement, making it necessary to ascertain what they need from APS, as they are the future of our society. We face the challenge of retaining and supporting our emeritus members. We need to find ways to keep them engaged with our society so that we do not lose the knowledge, experience, dedication, and energy of these valued members. APS is fortunate to have effective leadership, an abundance of outstanding volunteers, and a highly qualified and committed headquarters staff. Although I believe I have many ideas to contribute, I know that I do not have all the answers for the challenges we face. However, I am certain that if we work together, APS can surpass its past successes.

Candidate for Vice PresidentRon Walcott​​

Associate dean of the UGA Graduate School and professor of plant pathology, University of Georgia, Athens

Area of Specialization: Biology of seedborne bacteria and fungi, development of classical and molecular techniques for rapid detection of seedborne pathogens, and development of effective chemical and nonchemical seed treatments.

Academic Record: PhD in plant pathology, University of Georgia, 1999; MS in plant pathology, Iowa State University, 1995; BS in plant pathology, Iowa State University, 1993.

Brief Description of Professional Achievements: I have been an active APS member for my entire academic career, which spans more than 20 years. During this time, I have served in several leadership roles at the University of Georgia (UGA). In 2005, I was a member of the inaugural LEAD 21 program, which provides leadership and professional development training for faculty at land grant universities. I served as the associate director for the UGA Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) Lilly Teaching Fellows (LTF) Program from 2007 to 2011. The CTL-LTF program provides opportunities for cohorts of early career assistant professors to develop effective pedagogical skills. As associate director, I assisted with the screening and selection of fellows and the execution of the program.

I served as the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) assistant dean for diversity and multicultural affairs from 2008 to 2013. In addition to serving on the UGA CAES leadership team, I was director of the Office of Diversity Relations, where I led efforts to recruit and retain underrepresented minority (URM) students. This included administering the CAES Young Scholars Summer High School research internship program and advising the UGA chapter of Minorities in Agriculture and Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS).

I was the graduate coordinator in the Department of Plant Pathology, where I managed graduate student enrollment and served as departmental liaison to the UGA Graduate School from 2015 to 2017. In 2017, I became the UGA Graduate School associate dean and served as the chief of operations until 2019, when I assumed the responsibilities of interim dean.

Service to APS: I have volunteered for a range of roles. In addition to my active engagement in the Seed Pathology Committee for the better part of the last two decades, I served as the Seed Pathology Committee chair from 2015 to 2017. I also served two terms (2006–2008; 2013–2015) on the APS editorial board as senior editor for Plant Disease, and since 2016, I have been a member of the APS Annual Meeting Planning Board.

Statement of Vision for APS: I have benefited personally and professionally from my membership and active participation in APS. I consider APS members to be my tribe, and I have been a loyal annual meeting attendee. As a midcareer plant pathologist, I thoroughly appreciate the scientific programming and the networking and professional development opportunities offered at APS annual meetings. However, it is critical that APS continues to provide real value and to appeal to graduate students, early career scientists/professionals, and industry, government, and international plant pathologists.

To sustain our society, we must convert graduate students and postdoctoral associates into loyal members by facilitating placement in plant pathology-related careers. We must also seek to attract new APS meeting attendees/members that we have not previously engaged. We must do this while maintaining the interest of APS mid- to late-career members, including government and industry constituents. Some of the challenges we face include the cost of meeting attendance, the cost of publication charges, and the lack of opportunities for career advancement for early career professionals.

To ensure the future success of APS, we must do the following:

  • Maintain the reputation of APS as the premier international society for plant pathologists.
  • Ensure that the costs of APS membership and participation in annual meetings (e.g., registration) remain affordable, especially for graduate students, early career professionals, and international plant pathologists.
  • Ensure that the programming and timing of APS meetings appeal to industry, government, and international attendees to maintain their interest and attendance.
  • Be deliberate in featuring diverse presenters (women, underrepresented minorities, and international scientists) in special sessions and leadership positions in APS.
  • Prominently feature opportunities for networking, professional development, and career advancement for graduate students and early career professional at APS annual meetings.
  • Continue to improve the rankings of APS journals and to increase journal access for domestic and international plant pathologists.
  • Continue to streamline the APS manuscript review processes and reduce publication costs.

Candidate for Councilor-at-Large—​Courtney Gallup​

Crop Protection Center of Expertise leader, Corteva Agriscience, Integrated Field Sciences, Indianapolis, Indiana

Area of Specialization: Serve on the Integrated Field Sciences (IFS) Leadership Team to strategically guide the IFS Division in operational excellence, organizational health, and cross-functional integration. Lead the Crop Protection Center of Expertise organization, comprised of global and zonal biology leaders who are experts in their scientific disciplines, and direct research science programs across disease management, weed management, and biological characterization sciences. The team may serve on cross-functional development programs to identify and characterize new product concepts, achieve registrations, and deliver successful product launch and positioning strategies through technical leadership, or they may serve as technical experts in support of overall portfolio strategy and third-party partnerships.

Academic Record: PhD in plant pathology (August 2009), Department of Plant Pathology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh (advisor: Dr. H. David Shew). Dissertation title: “Influence of resistance in Nicotiana tabacum on race and mating type shifts in Phytophthora nicotianae populations." BS in botany and horticultural science (December 2002), North Carolina State University, Raleigh.

Brief Description of Professional Achievements: Office of Private Sector Relations (OPSR) Board:director 2013–2019; ex-officio 2011–2012; 2026 Professional Development Forum: member 2016–2019; Pathogen Resistance: member 2015–present; Nominations Committee: member 2015–2018; Teaching Committee: member 2011–2014; Industry Committee: chair, vice chair, member 2009–2017. I am a long advocate of volunteerism, mentorship, and professional leadership. I am particularly proud of three new initiatives that were implemented through OPSR that continue today: (1) Created an endowment in 2014 through fundraising and with support from the Don and Judy Mathre Education Endowment. This endowment supports the Experiential Awards; (2) Established Individual and Departmental Experiential Awards in 2015 for graduate students and postdocs to learn about career opportunities and gain technical expertise; and (3) Implemented a biennial cadence for industry to host a multiday tour for graduate students and postdocs to visit private-sector facilities and learn how organizations operate and what types of careers may be available to plant pathologists. Additional contributions from OPSR included forging a partnership with the Public Policy Board to prepare statements to EPA in response to program requirements memoranda on behalf of APS and fundraising $240,000 toward operating expenses and bursary for the International Congress in 2018. Outside APS, my career with Corteva Agriscience progressed quickly. I started as a field scientist in Iowa working in herbicides and seed traits and then moved through a series of expanding roles: field station scientist in New Zealand working on discovery fungicides and insecticides, field science leader for the Midwest Field R&D organization, global biology program leader for discovery fungicides, North America biology program leader for development fungicides, global biology leader for development fungicides, global technical discipline leader, and now crop protection center of expertise leader. In my current role, I serve on the Integrated Field Sciences Leadership Team to strategically guide the division in operational excellence, organizational health, and cross-functional integration. I lead the Crop Protection Center of Expertise organization, comprised of global and zonal biology program leaders who either direct research across fungicide and herbicide development programs or serve as technical experts in support of overall portfolio strategy and third-party partnerships. ​

Service to APS:

  • Office of Private Sector Relations, director (2013–August 2019)
  • Nominations Committee (2015–2018)
  • Dow AgroSciences, sustaining associate (2010–2013)
  • Dow AgroSciences, exhibitor (2010–present)
  • Industry Committee, vice chair (2010–2011)
  • Industry Committee New Products & Services, representative (2009–2010)
  • Industry Committee, member (2009–present)
  • Student Committee, chair (20082009)
  • Student Committee, vice chair (2007–2008)
  • Special Session on Teaching for 2008 100th Annual Meeting, organizer
  • North Central Division of American Phytopathological Society, member (2010–present)
  • Southern Division of American Phytopathological Society, member (2004–2009)

Other Professional Service:

  • North America Fungicide Resistance Action Committee, 2015–present
  • Plant Pathology Society of North Carolina, student representative (2005–2006)
  • NC State Plant Pathology Graduate Student Association (2004–Present)
    • President (2005–2006)
    • Vice president (2004–2005)
    • Gamma Sigma Delta—Agricultural Honor Fraternity (inducted 2008)
    • Pi Alpha Xi—Horticultural Honor Fraternity (inducted 2004)

A​wards and Honors: Crop Protection R&D Progress Award for Innovation (2017); North Carolina State University Nusbaum Scholar Award (2011); Flash Point Award for Outstanding Professional Development finalist (2010). 

Statement of Vision for APS: APS has the opportunity to attract and retain midcareer professionals while also growing and more fully engaging its private-sector membership. Among our APS colleagues, more than any other segment, midcareer professionals are challenged to maintain active memberships. Focus groups reveal conflicts in priorities for this segment, such as supporting student/employee travel over themselves; networks already established; personal obligations for young families; more targeted content at other society conferences; and potentially a lack of APS-led professional development initiatives targeting midcareers. Adding to the complexity, it is increasingly common for professionals to change jobs. How does APS maintain its value to people who have conflicting personal and professional priorities while also shifting their career trajectories? One avenue is to support development resources tailored to the midcareer professional: managing program budgets; stewarding diversity and equality in research programs; situational leadership; courageous conversations; people development; and more. Another avenue is to broaden the reach of our membership across nontraditional audiences, such as food manufacturers, digital ag technology developers, and small entrepreneurs. Expanding membership into new sectors will attract and engage the private sectors, create an opportunity for members (including midcareers) to similarly expand their networks, and steward new collaborations within the discipline. As liaison between the membership and APS Council, the councilor-at-large has a unique opportunity to engage in the interests and concerns across separate but linked groups of our membership and help APS leadership integrate their activities into one unified vision. The councilor-at-large also has a responsibility to communicate the society's initiatives and direction throughout the membership so that they can create their own objectives to help achieve their goals. Standing at the cross-roads and deciding on a path to grow and engage our membership will require full commitment across the society and full engagement from the councilors-at-large. If offered the opportunity, I look forward to learning more about our membership, learning more about our current and future initiatives, communicating the vision, and guiding our membership toward that vision. 

Candidate for Councilor-at-Large—Thomas Mitchell​

Department chairman, Department of Plant Pathology, The Ohio State University, Columbus

Area of Specialization: Fungal molecular biology

Academic Record: PhD in plant pathology, North Carolina State University (2000); MS in plant pathology, Clemson University (1994); BS in plant science, The Pennsylvania State University (1992)

Brief Description of Professional Achievements:

  • 2019–present: department chair, The Ohio State University, Department of Plant Pathology
  • 2017–present: professor, The Ohio State University, Department of Plant Pathology
  • 2014–2018: Liberty Township Board of Trustees, Liberty Township, Ohio, chair (mayor equivalent) 2014–2016, vice chairman 2017, elected
  • 2015–2017: faculty fellow for all OSU Graduate Program assessments, The Ohio State University Graduate School, 25% appointment
  • 2012–2017: associate professor, The Ohio State University, Department of Plant Pathology
  • 2007–2012: assistant professor, The Ohio State University, Department of Plant Pathology
  • 2001–2007: research assistant professor, North Carolina State University, Center for Integrated Fungal Research
  • 2005–2011: adjunct faculty, Oklahoma State University Department of Entomology and Plant ​Pathology
  • 2005–2007: adjunct faculty, Fayetteville State University Department of Biology
  • 1999–2001: senior research scientist, North Carolina State University, Fungal Genomics Laboratory

Service to APS: I became a member of APS and attended the Southern Division Meeting and the APS Annual Meeting while earning my MS degree at Clemson University. My first involvement in APS leadership was as chair of the Graduate Student Committee, and as part of that group, I served as the Graduate Student Representative to the APS Foundation. During that time and through my postgraduate work at NCSU, I organized and ran three sessions and secured a USDA meeting grant to host speakers. Following graduation and my arrival at The Ohio State University, I worked on several projects for APS; the most impactful was with the Governance Reform Committee, where I led the design and creation of the current Nominations Committee. The second major service point for me was when APS Council appointed an Office of Education (OE) to be the strategic body to coordinate all societal activities with regard to education. I was asked to be a founding member of this office and sat as its director for two terms until 2019. The other APS service activities that I have been part of are as follows:

  • 2016–present: 2026 Professional Development Forum, member
  • 2011–present: Office of Education (OE), member and director (2 terms)
  • 2008–present: Molecular and Cellular Phytopathology Committee, member
  • 2011–2014: Phytopathology, associate editor
  • 2010–2014: Nominations Committee, member
  • 2012: North Central Division Bioinformatics Workshop, organizer
  • 2011–2012: Committee on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, member
  • 2010: Special Session—Small Molecules in Phytopathology: The Good, Bad, and Ugly, co-chair
  • 2009–2010: Nominations Sub-Committee Ad-hoc Committee for Governance, Reform, chair
  • 2008–2010: Ad-Hoc Committee for Governance Reform, member
  • 2009: Special Session—Genomes Off the Beaten Path, co-chair
  • 2008: Special Session—Fungal Genomics Enters the Post-Genome Era, chair
  • 2008: Special Session—Resistance Genes—Past, Present, and Future, co-chair
  • 2007–2008: Ad-Hoc Committee for Leadership and Volunteerism, member
  • 2005–2007: Biochemistry, Physiology, and Molecular Biology Committee, chair/vice chair
  • 2005: Special Session—Molecular Biology of Necrotrophic Fungal Pathogens, chair
  • 2004: Special Session—Genome Based Studies of Fungi, chair
  • 1996: Special Session—The Art of Research in Plant Pathology, chair
  • 1997: Foundation, graduate student representative
  • 1996–1998: Graduate Student Committee, vice chair/chair

Other Professional Service:

  • 2019–present: OSU College General Education Theme Committee, member
  • 2019–present: OSU College Turfgrass Visioning Taskforce, co-leader
  • 2017–2019: OSU Level 2 Research Misconduct Faculty and Graduate Student Review Panel
  • 2015–present: OSU Sophomore Transformational Experience Program (STEP), mentor
  • 2013–2016: OSU Graduate School Curriculum Committee, member; OSU Graduate Program Assessment Committee, member; OSU ATI Re-Envisioning and Implementation, member
  • 2013–2015: OSU Study Abroad Oversight Committee, member
  • 2013–present: CFAES Assessment Committee, member
  • 2012–2015: Ohio Board of Regents, Secondary Career–Technical Alignment Initiative,

Lead Advisor for Biotechnology Career Pathway Initiative

  • 2012: APLU-APS Summit, meeting attendee
  • 2012–2017: Translational Plant Sciences Graduate Program Committee, member and chair; Translational Plant Sciences Dual Degree Program Committee with São Paulo, Brazil, member
  • 2012–2014: Center of Applied Plant Sciences Summer Internship Committee, chair
  • 2012: OSU Strategic Plan on Diversity, member
  • 2011: UCAT Assessment Workshop, panelist
  • 2011–2015: CFAES Honors Committee, departmental representative
  • 2011–present: Department of Plant Pathology Undergraduate Student, major and minor advisor
  • 2010–present: Department of Plant Pathology Academic Affairs, committee chair/member; CFAES Academic Affairs Committee, member
  • 2010–2012: Department of Plant Pathology Quarters to Semesters Conversion, lead faculty
  • 2010–2016: OSU Faculty Committee for Admissions and Athletic Considerations, member

Awards and Honors:

  • 2008: Faces of the Future on Plant Pathology, American Phytopathological Society
  • 2011: Teaching Award of Merit, National Association of Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture
  • 2012: OSU Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching, semifinalist
  • 2014: Green Collaborative Achievement Award, Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission
  • 2014: Rodney F. Plimpton Outstanding Teacher Award, The Ohio State University, College of Food, Agriculture, and Environmental Sciences
  • 2014: Educators Award, National Association of Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture
  • 2016: Volunteer Award, American Phytopathological Society

Statement of Vision for APS: When I became a graduate student at Clemson University, I recall being excited about going to my first professional meeting. That meeting was the APS Annual Meeting in Nashville in 1993. I clearly recall telling a fellow graduate student about the meeting. He was studying plant biochemistry. He said to me, “Do you really think that you should be going to those meetings?" The implication was that his impression of plant pathology's place in plant science was not high. I cannot express how wrong that individual was or how much my professional identity has been formed by APS. The people in our society, be they students, members, or headquarters staff, have visibly guided my research, facilitated my development of professional networks, and provided a platform to develop my leadership acumen. As I reflect on taking a larger leadership role in APS, I first consider our mission and strengths. Summarized briefly, APS aspires to generate and disseminate knowledge about plant health to audiences worldwide. Our strengths lie in the vast breadth of the fields of scientific inquiry in which our membership engages, our focus on the development of young and early career professionals, and our dedication to knowledge accessibility and dissemination. I feel that how we operate as a society, to stay true to our vision and values while tending to our strengths, is a paramount function of leadership, and I will argue that changes that challenge our core values are happening now at a faster rate than I have seen during my time as a member. As I envision our near and distant future, I feel that we will need to keep ever more mindful of our identity and relevance to membership. For example, we know that many faculty members and junior scientists no longer have traditional plant pathology training and that they self-identify with a wide variety of disciplines. Many are not members of APS. Understanding the strengths, values, goals, and habits of the generations of students, professionals, and faculty members that comprise the newest and next clade of our membership is critical. We have already witnessed a rapid evolution in how members consume scientific content and how they judge value. Furthermore, the forums where scientific discourse takes place are astoundingly diverse. I have personally enjoyed the depths of discussions I follow on Twitter with scientists globally. Keeping a close eye on these dynamics is a key aspect of the society's leadership. I am excited as I see where our science is going with the advent of new tools and techniques such as artificial intelligence, advanced machine learning, microscopy technologies, big data analyses, and futuristic detection and diagnostic techniques, to name a few. My goal as part of the leadership of this society is to enable members to harness all these changes and opportunities, to seek and disseminate new understandings of plant disease and health, and to combat perennial and emerging threats to food security and safety.