Faculty Spotlight: Taylor Ruth

Taylor Ruth
Meet Taylor Ruth, an assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication.
December 14, 2020

About Taylor

I have been living in the beautiful state of Nebraska for one year now, and even though I miss my hometown of St Augustine, Florida, Lincoln is starting to feel like home. I am a three-time Gator, receiving my bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees from the University of Florida. I had gone to college to study microbiology with a grand plan of becoming a “scientist”. I still am a scientist, just not what I had initially imagined. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in microbiology and cell sciences, I worked in the Department of Horticultural Sciences at the University of Florida in a maize genetics lab for one year. I quickly recognized I did not have the patience to work in a lab or the stamina to work in a field, but I absolutely loved talking to people about the research happening in that lab. Helping people to make informed decisions about the food they purchased was something I found to be incredibly satisfying, and I wanted to make a career out of that if possible. 

Once I realized my passion was communicating about science, specifically related to food, I pursued a master’s degree and doctorate degree in agricultural communications. During this time, I worked for the UF/IFAS Center for Public Issues Education, partnering with multiple commodity organizations to conduct consumer research. Helping these organizations develop strategic communication plans to promote their commodities showed me the importance of applied research in communications and sparked my interest in research. I am a social scientist now, and while this was never a career I had pictured for myself, I could not imagine doing anything else.

What is your position at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln?

I am an assistant professor of the science of science communication in the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communication. I love working with the students in the Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Communication (AESC) program, teaching skills related to media literacy, visual communication, and public speaking. I am also actively engaged in research investigating how people process complex information related to agricultural and natural resources.

What drew you to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln?

The job call for my current position felt like it was written for me, my experiences, and my interests. As soon as I stepped onto East Campus for my interview, it felt like home. Everyone I met was supportive of the position and the AESC program – the opportunities truly seemed endless.

What aspect of working in an educational setting do you enjoy the most?

I NEVER thought I would be a teacher – it just never really interested me. However, in graduate school, I had a teaching assistantship and worked with students in a professional writing class. One assignment was a resume and cover letter, and about a month after I had provided feedback, a student stopped by my office to tell me he had been hired for a job at a local hospital. He thanked me for my feedback on his application and said told me he hoped this job would make him competitive for medical school. This was when I realized that teaching was so much more than writing tests and quizzes. If we do our jobs right, we can set our students up for a successful future. That is easily my favorite part – nothing gives me more joy than seeing students begin to make their own connections between the content covered in class and the life they are experiencing outside the walls of the university.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

I don’t have a great track record of keeping plants alive, but this summer I was able to grow my own cherry tomatoes. They were delicious, and I was so proud of myself for not killing them!

What is something that most people don’t know about you?

I used to be a dance instructor and taught clogging, tap and ballet. My favorite dance I ever performed was a clogging routine to Devil Went Down to Georgia by Charlie Daniels. To this day, I cannot keep my feet still when I hear that song play.

What is your life like outside of work?

My main activity outside of work is spending time with my 20-year-old thoroughbred mare, Millie. I have had her since she was 3 years old and fresh off the racetrack. She definitely enjoys her life now as a dressage horse. I also have a cat named Felix, who was very excited when I brought home a puppy for him to play with in June. The puppy’s name is Willow, and she is definitely taking up a lot of time outside of work now!