Meet Dr. Cecilia Monclova- Santana Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist
Empathetic, enthusiastic and passionate, Cecilia educates farmers and students to think outside the box!
Cecilia Monclova is an Assistant Professor at Texas Tech University with a joint Extension appointment at Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center. In her teaching appointment, Dr. Monclova teaches a Plant Pathology course and in her 75 % extension appointment is the current plant pathologist working with cotton, peanuts and other crops. Cecilia Monclova earned her master’s degree in Plant Pathology at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez and her doctorate from North Dakota State University. With a broad knowledge of endemic plants, nematology, bacteriology and fungi, Cecilia assists farmers in developing high-quality extension and research programs based on their crop needs.
Dr. Monclova- Santana actually never planned to be a professor but during her undergrad years with a passion for microbiology and plant pathology, she had the opportunity to take a course by a teaching assistant that inspired her to be an excellent communicator and dynamic professor. She expresses that she became so interested in the microbio class, so moved and active by the grad student that she decided to pursue higher education in order to become an educator. Therefore, Cecilia completed a master’s degree in plant pathology at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez under Dr. Merari Feliciano focusing on endangered plant species at the karst region of Puerto Rico to detect plant pathogens threats. Followed by a Ph.D. at North Dakota State University (NDSU) under Dr. Julie Pasche on the characterization of the pathogenic races of rust in dry bean in North Dakota using germplasms and farmers samples to understand the plant susceptibility to this pathogen.
There’s always a little bit of everything
Cecilia expresses that as an islander studying and working abroad is tough, especially in Nordic states like North Dakota. Living by herself, the language barrier and the cultural shock were the top three difficulties that Cecilia surpassed. Dr. Monclova- Santana stated that in order to keep it together and being stable during her doctorate years she prioritized herself over academic life.
“Is VERY important to be emotionally and mentally healthy in order to accomplish your goals in a realistic way”
Cecilia explained that during her masters she missed so much by being working all the time that by the time she started her Ph.D. she took it very seriously and focused on working productively and taking many breaks as needed.
Shout out to all the people who help!
Cecilia explains that she does not measure her life with academic accomplishments but celebrates it with the people she encountered and helped during the accomplishments throughout her journey. She emphasizes that her accomplishments are graduating for every title she has successfully earned.
Female representation matters
Monclova- Santana has many women that opened doors for her, lifted her up, made her realize that she is not alone. She believed that if it wasn’t for empowered women like Dr. Maricelis Acevedo, a professor and scientist that welcomed her in NDSU, she wouldn’t have the opportunities and networking she currently has. Her Ph.D. advisor, Dr. Pasche, embraced Cecilia to have a loud voice, the right to speak up and Dr. Merari Feliciano who molded her and shaped her to be the young researcher Monclova is today. Everything because of support, believing and help provided by other women in the field.
“Speak up, be honest, be professional, don’t let anyone be over you because you are a woman”
Connect, feel, understand
We know that we feel comfortable when we are surrounded by other women. It is not about being in a comfort zone all the time but be challenged with a team backing you up. Cecilia expresses that it is crucial to highlight women in the Ag sciences because they are needed in order to keep fighting and working towards our goals. She expressed that work is less hard when you have someone that feels you, connects with you and understands you.
“Find someone that you can connect to, that they can lift you “
She described her current environment as very supportive and united with people that can fight together for a cause. She expresses that these peers would fight for her and by her without asking.
“It’s a very nice feeling, having peace knowing there are people backing you up and supporting you constantly”
New minds, new agriculture
Cecilia stated that she is moved by the path that she had during the last 10 years of her life. In her educational appointment, Cecilia loves being very active, hands-on projects, pushing her students to be creative, able to formulate questions and hypotheses outside the classroom. Cecilia don’t believe in tests, so she makes sure she teaches them how to use all the information provided and available to students. Monclova motivates them to use the information properly to make future decisions and inspires them to be and think beyond the textbook.
Devoted to the farmers and the future of agriculture in Texas, Cecilia wants to see and try to change the agricultural scenario. Meaning, changing crops, taking the farmers out of their comfort zone. She wants to be part of the new agriculture that is about to come.
Shape the place where you wish to be next
Top three advises that Cecilia recommends the following: Life Research and Extension Center. Following her passions, working closely with the farmers and helping them make her feel secure. In the classroom, she desires to create courses where the students learn how to connect the dots, how they play a role and have a voice in the community as a scientist, in social activities, politics and in the world.
For the young women out there
Top three advises that Cecilia recommends the following:
· Work your way through, prove them wrong
· Find people that will make you grow, shine and support you
· Above all, when you make it, help others, make it easier for someone else
You can find Dr. Cecilia Monclova at
Linked In: Cecilia Monclova
Twitter: The Cotton Gal
Thanks, Dr. Monclova-Santana for your outstanding work and for the interview!
This interview was written by WAGS co-founder Andrea Lugo-Torres