By Nicole Casuso | DPM Fall 2016 Newsletter
Q: Describe your academic background?
A: B.S. in biology and chemistry from Valdosta State University (GA). I grew up on a farm in Georgia. It was in my childhood that I learned animal husbandry. My work today includes, cow-calf management as well as crop production.
Q: What is your current occupation and how has your DPM degree aided you in the tasks and responsibilities associated with your position?
A: I’m currently the County Extension Director of Osceola County. I have been an Extension Agent since graduation also serving as the Extension Director of Hernando and Sumter Counties simultaneously. I would encourage DPM students to look at Extension as a potential career. I enjoy bringing the newest agricultural
techniques and technologies to our producers in Florida. The training in the DPM program has proven extremely valuable to those producers. On a daily basis, I use the knowledge gained through the DPM program in plant pathology, entomology, and weed science. I currently supervise 35 individuals. You may think I didn’t learn leadership in the DPM program, but there were always electives. As an elective, I had Extension Administration taught by Dr. Nick Place. Nick would later become the Dean of IFAS Extension.
Q: What prompted you to pursue your present career and where are you located?
A: My uncle was a County Agent in Georgia. As a young 4-Her, I always admired the County Agent. This was an individual that was expected to be an agricultural know-it-all. They were highly regarded in the community as a source of information and a conduit to the Land-Grant University. After I graduated from UF, I was fortuitously selected as the Agriculture Agent in Hernando County. I would remain in Brooksville for 12 years. After five years, I was appointed as the County Extension Director. Later I became the Multi-County Extension Director for Hernando and Sumter Counties. I really enjoyed working with the producers of these Counties, and worked with won-derful County staffs and elected representatives to bring science to their policy decisions. I am extremely happy to be se-lected to be the Osceola County Extension Director. I look forward to establishing those same relationships with the County Government and strategic partners that I’ve been accustomed to in Brooksville and Bushnell.
Q: Why did you choose to enroll in the DPM program?
A: The initial reason was definitely because of Dr. George Agrios. At least all of us in the first class knew the reputation that Dr. Agrios had within scientific community. After I started the program, I realized that George was the tip of the intellectual iceberg. I would be remised not to mention my committee chairman, Dr. Tom Kucharek, and how much I continue to learn from him today. That generation of teachers that I had were unrivalled in their knowledge and experience.
Q: From a personal standpoint, how has your DPM degree influenced you?
A: Being an Extension Agent is not a job, it is a lifestyle. When a farmer or rancher needs your help at night or on the weekends, that is part of the lifestyle. The life that I have today was completely influenced by that meeting with George Agrios in 2000.
Q: Do you have any advice or words of wisdom for current DPM students?
A: Learn about everything agricultural related that you can. Do not assume that you will be working with agronomic crops…take that tropical fruits course. If you choose a career in Extension, go to the in-service trainings (IST) to become a better Agent. Many ISTs are available to bring you up to speed very quickly if you take advantage of those.