Recently Farm Press published a news release about seven college students receiving the 2021 AMVAC Cotton Industry Advancement Scholarship. I made a quick scan down the recipients list as I was preparing social media posts about the information. A couple of names caught my attention: Jessica Dotray and Yeager Pfannstiel, both Texas Tech ag majors.
If you know me at all, you know I'm a bit crazy about my alma mater, especially the College of Agriculture, so when I saw their names among other honorees, from universities in Georgia to California, I was proud, to say the least. Out of the seven, two are from Tech. Pretty impressive!
While I haven't had the pleasure of meeting Yeager, I met Jessica in 2019, at a field day at the Halfway Research and Extension Center. She was busy working but stopped to say hello, snap a photo with her father, who I was interviewing, and then she was off again. She struck me then as bright, engaging, and excited about research.
I reached out to her master's advisor, Cecilia Monclova-Santana, who nominated Jessica for the $2,000 scholarship. I asked her to tell me about Jessica and why she nominated her.
Jessica is Monclova-Santana's first graduate assistant. Monclova-Santana used words like dedicated, hard-working, eager to learn and a good communicator to describe her. She said one of the things that impresses her most is how well-rounded Jessica is as a scientist, from the field to the lab. Usually, researchers are strong at one or the other. Monclova-Santana says she is proficient at both. "Jessica knows her science," she said.
Plant Pathologist Cecilia Monclova-Santana, who has a joint appointment with Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension and Texas Tech University, Lubbock. (Photo by Shelley E. Huguley)
The scholarship recipients can use their money how they see fit. Monclova-Santana hopes Jessica will apply her funds towards her last trip as a graduate student to present her research at the Beltwide Cotton Conferences in 2022. She encourages her students to use as many opportunities as they can to present their research while also improving their communication skills. She said it's not only important that they be able to verbalize their work to the scientific community but to their producer audience also. Beltwide is a great venue to do just that.
To date, Jessica has presented at seven conferences. Monclova-Santana said when Jessica first started with her, she told her she didn't like to talk in front of an audience. She's obviously overcoming that. Just as important as are the diseases they're studying, is the ability to talk about them, she said.
Monclova-Santana is proud of Jessica as a fellow scientist but especially as a female scientist. And in a male-dominated field, she said she reminds Jessica and the other female graduate assistants, "You have a voice. You are a woman in ag." Congratulations, Jessica, and to all the winners. We are proud of you!
Scholarship winners include Caitlyn Lawton, University of Georgia; Fernando Dominguez, California State University; Jacob Smith, Mississippi State University; John Winkler, University of Georgia; and Walton Parker, Mississippi State University.
Look through this gallery to see just a few of the women making their voices heard in agriculture. (Wish I could include all of you! There are so many I've had the pleasure of working with!)