Apr 23, 2019

Agriculture students learn off-campus

The education of Fresno State students is not restricted to the library or chemistry labs. Through various opportunities students can gain knowledge working in the same field in which they hope to build a career after graduation.

Randy Perry, a professor in animal science and agricultural education who specializes in beef cattle, said that for students interested in agriculture have a first-rate classroom in Fresno County.

“We’re in agriculture and Fresno County is the number one agricultural county in the whole world,” Perry said.  “We have all kinds of stuff around us here.  You got the best producers in the world, especially on the plant side and some on the animal side.  We have got the best dairies in the world right around here, same with poultry facilities.”

Michelle Ganci, a professor in animal science and agricultural education who specializes in poultry science, added that you cannot learn everything you need inside a lab.

“I am a huge believer in hands-on education,” Ganci said.  “I learned what I know from hands-on work.  Most people learn better by doing. You can use computer models, but to see it in action and working right is important.”

The significance of this is that whenever the curriculum reaches a point where it would be better for the students to receive specialized instruction, there are a host of appealing options in the area.

“We try to mimic some of that stuff with ag lab but a lot of these outfits are so much bigger than what we can do,” Perry said.  “The speed with which they can do it is way accelerated. They can get a much better experience than we can give them here. It’s invaluable.”

Equally important is the opportunity to travel outside the area to network with possible future employers and learn about various industries.  Ganci said every year she takes as many students as she can to the International Poultry Exposition in Atlanta, where her students compete and learn how to act and dress for a job.

“Employers from all over are looking for interns and to make job offers,” Ganci said. “Every student I took last year had job offers and internship offers.  There was more job offers than students. It’s through traveling experiences that students finally get it.”

Not all students have to travel to Georgia, though, to make their mark while completing their research.  For Joy Hollingsworth, a graduate student in the plant science department, her learning destination was about an hour away from Fresno State.

Hollingsworth said in spring of 2011 she was talking to her thesis adviser about options for her research and most were campus-centric.  In one of those conversations she heard about an opportunity at UC West Side Research and Extension Center in Five Points in Fresno County.

“It was a really great project and they were looking for a graduate student to run point,” Hollingsworth said. “It was right time, right place.”

The opportunity to do research on irrigation systems off campus at a research center where she would meet people who were in her field of interest was invaluable.

“I think it helped a great deal,” Hollingsworth said.  “It gave me an opportunity to work with a lot of different people.  I got to meet a lot of great contacts.”

Hollingsworth, who is graduating in May, credits her time at Five Points with helping her achieving her goals.

“I got a job with the University of California, Davis, working on stations throughout California,” Hollingsworth said.

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