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Visionaries: Liberal arts are what make us human

While it’s no secret that Janna Beckerman is passionate about plant pathology and its importance to producers, she was also eager to discuss some other key elements of her work that she believes are often overlooked in her profession.

When we started our conversation, I wanted to ask her about risk and the role it plays in her work. But you will see in the video that she felt more comfortable talking about the value of communication skills and liberal arts in pursuing science.

This was not the conversation any of us expected, but it turned out to be personally enlightening. One thing that stands out to me is when she credited Neil deGrasse Tyson as saying that aliens would be more interested in our culture than our technology. It made me think about how my role as a professional communicator is so vital.

Beckerman concluded her thoughts by encouraging aspiring science students to explore opportunities in liberal arts that strengthen skills in writing and critical thinking. She believes these types of experiences expand a person’s worldview, which is fundamental to effective science.
Meet the Filmmaker/Blogger
Ella Newcomb, student filmmaker and blogger Ella Newcomb, student filmmaker and blogger

Ella Newcomb is a junior agricultural communication major from El Paso, Illinois. Outside of her studies, Newcomb is very involved with Purdue and is an ambassador for the Department of Agricultural Sciences Education and Communication and a campus tour guide and Admissions Ambassador for the university. After graduation, Newcomb plans to pursue a career in public relations and become involved with global food security efforts.


This blog and video are part of the Visionaries series, which highlights the work and lives of researchers in the Purdue University College of Agriculture. The content for this series is created by the students of ASEC 280 (Digital Storytelling).

Explore other videos and blogs created by our student-filmmakers
Videos are also available on the Purdue Agricultural Sciences Education and Communication YouTube channel

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