Ana María Vázquez-Catoni
Dr. Tina Wu, University Relations Coordinator with MANRRS
Enthusiastic and engaged, Tina works to support underrepresented groups in the agricultural sciences through outreach, education and programming.
Dr. Tina Wu is the University Relations Coordinator with MANRRS (Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences), a national organization that's primarily focused on providing professional development and networking opportunities for students, especially minorities, ethnic and racial minorities in the agricultural sciences, including natural resources and other related sciences.
Dr. Wu works as a liaison between the national office for MANRRS and the multiple collegiate chapters across the United States. In her role, she develops and implements programming through evidence-based practices to support both chapter sustainability and growth.
From microbiology to agricultural extension
While pursuing a bachelors in Microbiology at Iowa State University, an introductory class on plant pathology taught by Dr. Gwyn A. Beattie, piqued her interest. Dr. Beattie eventually became Tina's mentor and undergraduate lab advisor and was very encouraging of her interests in outreach and science communication. This later led her to a Summer Internship Program at Cornell University, where she started cultivating an interest for international agriculture and extension, which is the process agricultural research is applied to current practices through farmer education.
Tina's Ph.D. project at the department of Plant Pathology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW) focused on enhancing integrated disease management of tomato late blight in organic systems. Her main goal was to evaluate the effects and efficacy of biopesticide on the Phytophthora infestans- tomato pathosystem, .
"This project included both applied and “basic” or "bench lab work", which I enjoyed! I think what interested me most about the project was learning how to apply and articulate the science and the findings to different stakeholders."
Preparing for the non-academic job market
In Tina's experience during graduate school, she was used to hearing about jobs in Academia or the private sector. However, when she learned about working with a nonprofit as an option, it was more in tune with her interests. A nonprofit job is one that works for organizations to serve through charity, education, science, art, philanthropy, or religion where they aim to create the most impact possible in their area of focus.
"When the opportunity with MANRRS popped up, I was excited to be able to combine my skills and interests in research, teaching, and outreach to support historically excluded students as they pursue higher education."
Tina was able to acquire transferable skills for her current position during her Ph.D. One of the many ways Tina developed her ability for extension in graduate school was by participating in "What's Eating My Plants?" (WEMP), an outreach group by plant pathology graduate students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison that aims to increase scientific accessibility and literacy through plant science outreach. By working with WEMP, she was able to explore the realm of outreach, education and programming, all at the same time!
In addition to WEMP, participating in the Wisconsin Institute for Science Education and Community Engagement Scientific Teaching Fellows Program at UW was critical for Tina. Tina recalls having gained a lot of confidence in her teaching skills, project management, and developing curriculum to teach a semester course.
"Both of those experiences were really fundamental to helping me decide what I wanted to do after I graduated."
The importance in addressing agricultural illiteracy
When asking Tina what she considers an important issue to address within agricultural sciences through the lens of her experience so far with MANRRS, she believes the lack of agricultural literacy is a big issue and improving diversity, inclusion and equity efforts are a great start.
"The issue off agricultural illiteracy is exacerbated in historically excluded populations, especially for students that don't have access to agricultural sciences. Understanding agriculture is important to understanding not just our food system, but also socioeconomic, cultural, and political systems. Increasing appreciation and access to ag and natural resources is really important to ensuring justice within these systems."
Your wellbeing is your priority
Beyond her work, Tina believes in advocating for your wellbeing, starting with rest!
"I think rest is very important: not being afraid to take time off for yourself, spend time with friends or family, and taking care of your mental health especially."
Tina also enjoys reading, traveling and exploring new cultures and cities through food.
Tina's advice for younger students
"Trust the process, trust yourself that you can do it. I feel like as a person who is primarily in predominantly white spaces, it can be very difficult to navigate. Oftentimes, it feels like everything is against you. You have to trust that you are where you are supposed to be and you’re not doing it alone."
You can contact Dr. Tina Wu at (firstname.lastname@example.org) and follow her on LinkedIn and Twitter (k-tinawu).