Land & Environment

Encompass Fellowship Takes Ag Grad Student Into the Research Field, the Lab & the Halls of Congress

By Shelby Ruud Jarman |

Grad student Tina Sullivan has been an Encompass Fellow for the past academic year.

Tina Sullivan does outstanding research in the lab and field and has been invited to present her work at conferences with other plant and soils scientists. But she has also explained her research to members of Congress and their staffers and asked them to support federal funding for research at the nation’s land-grant universities.

A doctoral student in the Department of Plants, Soils and Climate at Utah State University, Sullivan has represented the College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences as an Encompass Fellow for the past academic year, a program overseen by the American Society of Agronomy and sponsored by Bayer Crop Science. It is designed for graduate students pursuing careers in the agronomic, crop, soil and environmental sciences. Annually, just 10 graduate students from across the country are selected for the prestigious positions.

Sullivan was chosen to be a fellow based on her excellent academics, research and her involvement on campus and in the profession. Her research focuses on alternative options for drought defense in the Intermountain West. She studies topics such as water optimization for silage corn, irrigation management practices for industrial hemp, and the efficacy of wetting agents and soil biologicals.

“Few graduate students have the passion that Tina does for her research,” said Matt Yost, associate department head of the Department of Plants, Soils and Climate and Sullivan’s doctoral adviser. “The results that Tina will produce are helping target scarce irrigation water and identifying how soil health will help optimize water use. This will be especially important work for the western United States, where recent megadroughts have caused extreme damage to the agriculture industry.”

Sullivan and the other Encompass Fellows presented their research at the largest annual national conference of agronomy, soil and crop scientists, and they participated in the Graduate Student Leadership Conference. The students also participated in Congressional Visits Day to advocate for food, agriculture, and natural resources research funding to lawmakers and their staff members.

Meeting with congressional staffers during Congressional Visits Day to discuss important agricultural issues was especially meaningful to Sullivan.

“We were able to speak on our perspectives about research and ask them to vote to help fund research grants that go toward work at land-grant universities,” she said. “We asked for certain language to go into the 2023 Farm Bill. We were trying to make sure the people we represent, which includes researchers, farmers and anyone who is touched by agriculture, had their voices heard.”

The fellowship also includes professional development workshops focused on leadership skills and the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion. As a woman in a STEM field, DEI is important to Sullivan and she has faced discrimination and dismissal of her expertise based on her identity.

“People look at me and think I’m too young or not smart enough to help them,” she said. “They’re surprised to learn I’m a certified crop adviser. But I know what I’m talking about and I’m there to help them. That’s something that I’ve had to overcome.”

Along with the fellowship, Sullivan’s accomplishments also earned her an invitation to the exclusive Bring Them In program from Bayer Crop Sciences, where she networked with Bayer scientists and explored possible career opportunities.

Sullivan plans to finish her current fieldwork and defend her dissertation in April of 2024, after which she will be looking for a postdoctoral fellowship or Extension position.


Shelby Ruud Jarman
College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences


Tina Sullivan


Research 900stories Agriculture 228stories

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