By J. Scott Angle
The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) is the world’s best university-based citrus science organization. We’re the largest, and we’re more than a century old.
So, we’re constantly bringing in new talent. Extension Highlands County citrus agent Lourdes Pérez Cordero started on Sept. 7. She met with Highlands County Citrus Growers Association (HCCGA) Executive Director Ray Royce on her very first day and attended the association’s board meeting in her first week.
Her hiring illustrates two important things. First, industry input is essential in identifying the right person to help you. Royce provided that input as a member of the search and screen committee and as an active participant in the interviews. So did HCCGA board member Emma Ezell.
Second, we’re not just the best in the business at citrus research but in teaching as well. After a national search, we discovered that we were growing our own best person for the job. We found Pérez at the Citrus Research and Education Center working on her master’s degree in entomology.
The Highlands County assignment is so important that we wanted her on the job as soon as possible. She’ll work toward completion of her master’s degree this academic year.
I can attest that starting a job in the era of COVID-19 limits opportunities for the in-person meetings on which strong relationships are built. Please help Pérez help you by inviting her to your grove, letting her know what you need, introducing her to your colleagues and asking her questions. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
She’ll be the first to tell you she has a lot to learn, but she has also already learned a lot. Pérez has worked for the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service, distinguished herself as a student award winner at the Entomological Society of America and made important contributions to the work done at the UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center (CREC), where she has been based for the past year and a half.
She’s been schooled in the psyllid by Lukasz Stelinski and Lauren Diepenbrock, and she knows her way around the CREC to find the experts and expertise she’ll need to answer your questions.
Pérez won’t be 100% citrus. She has some 4-H responsibilities, and her full title is agriculture and natural resources agent. That covers a lot of ground. But in Highlands County, it means citrus is a priority, and her training and connections are in fighting the psyllid.
The land-grant mission makes homegrown talent like Pérez’s possible. Without great teaching, we wouldn’t have the person we needed for this Extension position. Without a dedicated Extension agent, you wouldn’t benefit as much from the great research she will translate and deliver to you.
The land-grant system is a network that strengthens each university, so I’d also like to give a shout-out to our sister land-grant Florida A&M University, where Pérez earned her bachelor’s degree in agricultural sciences, for preparing her for the rigors of UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences master’s level study.
One other thing about Extension. It’s a two-way street.
The land-grant mission is a university-industry-government partnership. You help us identify real-world challenges and add your on-the-ground observations to our empirical data to guide solutions. Pérez will be another conduit for your input to reach the faculty at Lake Alfred, Immokalee, Fort Pierce and Gainesville. Please let her know what you need.
J. Scott Angle is the University of Florida’s vice president for agriculture and natural resources and leader of UF/IFAS.
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