TITLES: Associate Extension Scientist; Director of Pest Management University; Director of Florida’s School IPM Program
ORGANIZATION: University of Florida
YEARS IN THE INDUSTRY: 24
FAVORITE PART OF THE INDUSTRY: “I am so grateful to be part of an industry that does not seem to ‘see gender’ if there is a problem to be solved. We are simply focused on finding a resolution to the problem, and if you can provide information that helps in the resolution, they will work with you. Many work relationships have turned into friendships that I hope will be lifelong.”
Like many urban entomologists, Dr. Faith Oi says she “fell” into the field. As a college student in her home state at the University of Hawaii in the late 1980s, she nabbed a job working in the lab of Drs. Minoru Tamashiro and Julian Yates.
“Their lab focused on termites, including termiticide testing under conditions in Hawaii and Formosan subterranean termite pressure,” she recalls. “I did a lot of dish washing, but also learned about how to set up experiments, manage data, and ask research questions.”
The professors had an “open door” culture in their lab, Dr. Oi notes, that introduced her to various faculty, students and pest management professionals (PMPs). She found herself drawn to the field, particularly the extension side of educating and learning. Among “Dr. T’s” graduate students was Pest Management Professional (PMP) Hall of Famer Dr. Nan-Yao Su (Class of 2018), who then became Dr. Oi’s professor when she did her graduate work at the University of Florida (UF). She graduated from UF in 1994, and taught at Auburn University in Alabama before returning to UF in 1998.
Today, in addition to her teaching and extension duties — and continued industry speaking engagements and termite research — Dr. Oi is director of Pest Management University (PMU) and Florida’s School Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program.
PMU started as an industry request for training. It developed into a multidisciplinary team that provides programming for the industry. Attendees come from across the U.S., Canada, Abu Dhabi, St. Lucia, Bahamas, Trinidad/Tobago, China, Taiwan, Japan and Singapore.
“Integrated pest management in schools is a critically important component of healthy schools, but there is almost no funding to support it at the state or federal level,” she notes. “To leverage our resources, we have encouraged school districts to send employees to PMU. We offer a variety of classes year-round, and they can send employees at times that best fit their schedule.”
Dr. Oi notes that industry opportunities for women have changed for the better since she began.
“We’ve been able to observe the changes in enrollment at PMU where the second generation — or more — includes daughters, as well as sons,” she adds. “The women who come to PMU are ‘all in,’ and are some of the best PMPs I’ve had the pleasure to work with. I absolutely think the industry will change in the future. But if there is anything I’ve learned about this industry, it is that it is resilient.”