Q & A with Julie Grossman

April 24, 2024

Grossman was named Associate Dean of Undergraduate Programs, effective March 1.

Julie Grossman

Last month, Julie Grossman, PhD, began her tenure as Associate Dean of Undergraduate Programs. Julie is a faculty member in the Department of Horticultural Science working toward sustainable and resilient food production systems. Get to know Julie, as she shares her leadership style, her advice for CFANS students, and some surprising fun facts. 

For those who haven’t met you, tell us a little about yourself.

Thanks for asking!  I am originally from the small town of Galesburg, Illinois, located in the middle of the bump of the western side of the state. I completed my MS in Soil Science and my PhD in Agronomy and Plant Genetics right here at UMN. I left lovely Minnesota following my PhD, and was at Cornell then North Carolina State University for a few years, until I found my way back in 2014, thanks in part to Professor Jay Bell, who was the CFANS Associate Dean of Undergraduate Programs at that time.

For much of my career I have carried out my research in Latin America. Following my undergraduate degree, I lived in Costa Rica for two years, where I worked for the School for Field Studies study abroad program. I then conducted my PhD research on organic coffee production in Chiapas, Mexico, followed by post-doctoral research in Brazil on these really cool anthropogenic soils found in the Amazon. 

I continue to lead a very active soil science lab in the Department of Horticultural Science, where my team works to better understand plant-soil-microbe relationships to improve ecological nutrient cycling on vegetable farms. One of my favorite parts of that job is mentoring both graduate and undergraduate students. I wouldn’t be where I am today without my amazing team of scientists.

How would you describe your leadership style? 

I like to think of myself as a collaborative leader and build teams based on mutual respect, trust, and strong personal relationships. Earlier this month, my lab attended a yoga retreat together, and in past years, we have gone cross country skiing as a group. We all do our best work when we know each other as real people, so I strive to create working environments that facilitate that kind of relationship-building.

What is a goal you are working toward in this new role? 

One of my goals is to become more familiar with each of our academic programs and departments. In my first month in the position, I have been amazed by the incredible work that is being done by our staff and faculty  to make CFANS a truly welcoming place for our undergraduate students.

How do CFANS students inspire you?

I love CFANS students because they are dot-connectors!  Their capacity to use science, and the socio-economic context of that science, to solve the most critical global problems of today is inspirational and, in my opinion, is just what the world needs.

What advice would you give CFANS students?

Explore! Take classes that you are not sure you will like, and the results may surprise you. In college I was a biology major with an economics minor. As part of my minor, I took an Economic Development course that completely changed the trajectory of my career toward agriculture and food production.

People may be surprised to know that… 

I am a competitive rower, and in spring, summer and fall can be found four days each week rowing many different sizes of boats down the Mississippi River with my teammates (including fellow CFANS faculty member Liz Davis), right in the middle of the city! The other day we hit a wave so big it washed right over the side of the boat and soaked us all (cold).