Employer: Area Extension Educator, University of Wyoming
Degree/Program: MS, PhD, Soils (2014)
Thesis/Dissertation: Agricultural use and community acceptance of biosolids compost produced at a rural waste water treatment plant.
What you do in your current work?
I work with farmers, ranchers, and gardeners in northwest Wyoming to increase their access to research-based information, help solve problems, and support producer-led research. Based on my interest and education, I focus on soil management and compost. However, the job of an Extension Educator requires an ability to find answers to any question about agriculture, horticulture, entomology, turf, biology, or natural resources that might come in the door. I work closely with other Extension Educators and Specialists to answer questions, develop programs, and address needs across the state.
What it was like being a graduate student at WSU Mount Vernon NWREC?
I enjoyed my time at NWREC and gained invaluable professional and academic experience. I had the opportunity to work with some very dedicated and exceptional researchers and gained an appreciation and respect for the role of public scientists. Due to the support of my advisor and access to technology, I was able to stay at NWREC for the entirety of my PhD program. Classes and committee meetings were held via the WECN video link, and I could stay onsite to focus on my research while still benefiting from academics on campus.
I noticed that while on campus working on my MS degree there was little cross-departmental collaboration for graduate students. In contrast, at NWREC I regularly worked with faculty and technicians from multiple departments. Many of them provided invaluable guidance, research and publication opportunities, and mentoring during my time at NWREC. This greatly expanded my knowledge and experience, and helped me develop stronger research projects.
During my second year as a student at NWREC I organized a soil workshop for farmers and ag professionals. This gave me the opportunity to work with NWREC staff to host the event, and I gained valuable Extension experience. I also had the opportunity to speak at field days, give presentations to local clubs, and teach classes for regional Extension events like the Country Living Expo.
How did being a graduate student at an R&E Center prepare you for your current employment?
It was my time at NWREC that really developed my interest in Extension work, and set me up for my current career. I was able to work with top-notch Extension scientists (faculty and technicians) and get solid understanding of what makes for a good Extension research program.
What advice do you have for prospective graduate students at WSU Mount Vernon?
Take advantage of working with faculty who are not on your committee! As a graduate student at NWREC you will have many opportunities to collaborate with scientists from multiple departments. Also, take advantage of the opportunity to organize and host Extension events at NWREC, speak at field days, attend grower meetings, and teach classes. NWREC is a wonderful facility with great faculty and as a student you will have access to so many opportunities beyond what you might otherwise have on campus. Best of luck!