Meet assistant professor and extension specialist Leslie Holland

As we celebrate Black History Month, we also want to celebrate members of our CALS community making history and a difference now and in the future.

Meet Leslie Holland!

What department do you work in? What are your research interests?

I work in the Department of Plant Pathology as an Assistant Professor and Extension Fruit Crops Pathologist. Broadly, I am interested in fungal disease complex etiology, the relationships between cultural practices and plant pathogen dispersal, and chemical and biological control practices. My current research investigates the biology and management of several pathogens in cranberry and grape production systems.

How long have you been at UW?

I started at UW–Madison in August 2020.

What are you most proud of in your work?

I am most proud of my work outside the lab; I am proud of the work I’m involved in with mentoring and advising students. While I’ve only been in my position at UW for a couple of years, working with students as they navigate their education, research interests, and professional development is very rewarding and the best part of my job. I am grateful for the support my mentors provided me and paying it forward has become a priority for me in my position. 

How has your identity shaped the work that you do?

My identity as a Black woman has shaped my work by providing me a platform to share my love for plant pathology, while also advocating and amplifying the voices and ideas of diverse students. I understand what it is like to be underrepresented and I know how isolating and lonely this can be. My identity helps me relate to others from diverse backgrounds. In terms of the research I do in my field, my identity is one that is not often represented, yet this provides me a unique opportunity to share my perspectives, approaches, and insights to problem solving.

In what ways can people help celebrate diversity?

Celebrating diversity can take many shapes. My favorite way to celebrate diversity is hearing (and learning!) from others with different and diverse backgrounds. I’ve learned so much from the people I’ve met throughout my educational journey and travels. I am also a big fan of celebrating diversity through Black art, from poetry to paintings. 

What advice do you have for young, Black scientists?

My advice for young, Black scientists: You belong wherever you are and wherever you want to be. There won’t always be faces that look like yours, but that does not mean you don’t belong. Science is an incredible journey, stay flexible, learn what you like and don’t like. Science is something that you do, and it does not have to define who you are. Celebrate wins (big and small), learn from failures. Never minimize or hide yourself, be your biggest advocate. Find good mentors.