Dr. Denise Debusk

Why did you choose to enroll in the DPM program?

I originally came back to grad school to get enough Master’s credits to become a community college professor after teaching 7th grade science for a year and was taking several plant-related classes. Although most of my science experience is in medical and veterinary practices, students in my classes shared with me about the program and it peaked my interest, mainly due to the diverse job opportunities. I didn’t really have any experience with plants, but I figured that I could learn anything.

After graduation, what career paths/opportunities were available to you?

Since most of my internships were in extension and regulatory, opportunities included careers with state and federal agencies, as well as extension. I graduated in 2008 and my plan was to work with USDA in Maryland where I had done an internship, but with the recession and the influx of applicants, I wasn’t able to get that position.

Shortly after graduation, I was offered a position as a pest management consultant with the Navy and UF/IFAS Extension at the same time. I decided to move to Virginia for the Navy position where I worked for 6 years. I later came back to UF/IFAS Extension as an Environmental Horticulture agent for Alachua County and worked with them for 2 years.

What is your current occupation, and how has your DPM degree aided you in the tasks and responsibilities associated with your position?

I am currently a horticulture professor at Valencia College West and I find it ironic that I came back to a career that I originally wanted to do when I started grad school. I teach classes for the A.S. in Plant Science and Agricultural Technology program with Dr. Javier Garcés, another DPM grad.

The program is essentially a mini-DPM program, so I’m teaching the same classes that I took for the program, such as entomology, IPM, soils, nursery management, botany, and ornamental plant maintenance, just at a 1000-2000 level. I even thumb through my old notebooks to make materials.

Are there any challenges that your DPM degree has helped you overcome?

The program and internships helped me by giving me the knowledge and experience for problem-solving plant situations. This was especially important with the Navy where I inspected Navy installations and provided solutions for their pest problems, as well as for extension, where I was daily solving problems and identifying pests for homeowners.

Do you have any advice for current DPM students?

Pad your resume. Students should try to get as much experience as they can, especially if they don’t have a huge amount of life or work experience in the field. They should also attend conferences, join professional organizations, and network. It is easier to get jobs if you have connections. Practice your soft skills, through writing and presenting.

During the program, I tried to get better at writing, never realizing that I would have to write for the newspaper when I was an extension agent. Participate in the DPMSO! It was one of my best experiences, leading and connecting with students and faculty.