I grew up in rural southeast Missouri with a great love for the outdoors, often foraging for mushrooms and wild greens, as well as hunting and fishing. I was a first-generation college student and attended Chadron State College on a football scholarship. My original plan was to be a sports medicine specialist, but I knew I had to change after I passed out in human anatomy class after working on a cadaver. I met Ronald Weeden, a major influence in my life, who was a botanist and a classic taxonomist and help me to find my interest in botany. After I graduated from Chadron State College, I came to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for my master’s degree and doctorate degree studying plant pathology under Gary Yuen. After that, I became an Extension specialist in plant pathology, primarily focusing on soybean pathology. During my years as a specialist, I had many opportunities to travel the world and see first-hand the impact of food insecurity. This informed me on the benefits of showing people how to produce more food sustainably, and thereby increase global food security. After 20 years as an Extension specialist, I am now the head of the Department of Plant Pathology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I am humbled to be in my role of leading our department and truly believe in the mission of this great university.
What is your position at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln?
I am the department head and professor in the Department of Plant Pathology.
What drew you to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln?
I started at UNL as a student for my master’s degree in 1992 with Gary Yuen. I had found a passion for plant pathology in my undergraduate program at Chadron State College. Professor Yuen was doing research in turfgrass pathology utilizing biological control agents. I found this very interesting and this started my path to an amazing journey at UNL.
What aspect of working in an educational setting do you enjoy the most?
As a faculty member and head of a department, I get to see all the great work our faculty do and how it impacts the lives of our students and the world’s food production through translational research. My favorite part is working with students and multiplying the impact factor we have to build a better future for our planet.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I have never had a world changing scientific discovery in my career but spent 20 years as Nebraska’s soybean pathologist. Doing this I had the opportunity to impact our world’s food production through translational research and teaching farm managers how to better manage their crop and reduce the impact of plant diseases. Over the years, there were many shared moments and farmer friends made. I privilege the memory of this time in my career. Today, I am so very proud of our students and if there was one thing to be proud of it would be my past students and the current students in the Department of Plant Pathology.
What is something that most people don’t know about you?
I am known to eat everything, but I really do not like black licorice! I also am not a big fan of kidney that is commonly served in Argentina.
What is your life like outside of work?
I play as hard as I work and love the outdoors. My hobbies include fishing, fly tying, hunting and cooking. I love to prepare a fresh meal of the latest catch or even mushrooms from a foray. I am an avid collector of edible mushrooms throughout the year. I love to show young people and those that have not experienced it what it means to be a hunter and why wildlife conservation is so important to maintain hunting in our future. For me, it is a lifestyle that I continue to teach those that have not had the opportunity to experience.