Washington State University Viticulture Professor and Extension Specialist Michelle Moyer has been promoted to a full professorship and recognized with the Faculty Excellence in Extension Award from WSU’s College of Agricultural, Human & Natural Resource Sciences (CAHNRS).
“Dr. Moyer is an outstanding member of the Department of Viticulture and Enology (V&E),” said Department Chair Jean Dodson Peterson. “She has established a dynamic viticulture program for the sustainable production of grapes. Additionally, she is collegial, kind, and resourceful, working tirelessly to support growers, students, and faculty. Along with the rest of the V&E faculty, I am thrilled she was recognized for her efforts.”
The Faculty Excellence in Extension Award is designated for individuals who demonstrate leadership and program innovation, scope, and impact. In addition to her supervisor’s nomination, the selection process also included letters of recommendation from individuals at universities throughout the country who have similar career paths to Moyer.
“The award provides third-party validation that our efforts have meaningful impact in Washington and beyond,” she said. “It’s nice to know that their letters expressed how much they value me and that my work at WSU is worthy of recognition.”
Moyer, who is based at WSU’s Irrigated Agriculture Research & Extension Center (IAREC) in Prosser, has enjoyed diagnosing plant problems since she was a kid working at her father’s ornamental plant nursery. She studied plant pathology as an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, but it wasn’t until her graduate studies at Cornell University that she honed her focus to wine grape diseases.
Today, Moyer’s vineyard research at WSU examines the benefits of using rootstocks to manage soil-borne pests and diseases, contributing to an incremental shift from own-rooted vines to grafted vines in vineyards. She has also worked to advance the sustainable management of powdery mildew disease in U.S. vineyards.
“Dr. Moyer’s impactful research and Extension programs have brought international recognition to WSU as a center of viticulture excellence,” said Naidu Rayapati, IAREC director and Moyer’s supervisor. “She has established successful partnerships with Washington’s grape and wine industry and implemented Extension and outreach programs that translate evidence-based knowledge into practical vineyard applications.”
As an Extension specialist, Moyer brings a holistic approach to her work, which includes conducting workshops, writing publications, and managing websites and social media. She also spends much of her time in the community, attending grower meetings and sitting on various agricultural and wine and grape boards within the state and nationally. After Moyer hears about the challenges growers are experiencing, it’s time for her favorite part of being an Extension specialist: helping people find solutions to their problems.
“It’s really rewarding,” she said. “I’m able to provide an option or a list of options that people can integrate to improve their wine grape systems.”
As a research faculty member, Moyer also values the time she spends with graduate students.
“It’s fun to help students work through a problem and watch them develop a research skillset,” she said. “I also love being the first to see a scientific result that can be used to provide practical solutions for vineyard managers.”
The transition to full professor represents a typical career progression for many faculty members, but Moyer emphasizes the flexibility that such a promotion allows when it comes to long-term projects.
“As full professor, I’ll be able to tackle bigger challenges and research solutions that might take more time to come to fruition,” Moyer said.
In addition to her Extension and research work, Moyer teaches three courses for the V&E department’s viticulture and enology certificate, a two-year program for industry professionals that includes online and hands-on learning sessions.
Moyer, who also won the 2020 American Society for Enology and Viticulture Extension Distinction Award, hopes this latest honor helps solidify the connection between the newly created V&E department, CAHNRS, and the university as a whole.
“This award inspires me to continue working just as hard, if not harder,” Moyer said. “It also demonstrates that the V&E department has a very strong presence in the state and that we’re dedicated to building a robust Extension program.” —