CSU, Chico

Clarissa Rowley, Agricultural Education Master's Program

Clarissa Rowley, Agricultural Education Master's Program

Clarissa Rowley is living proof that graduates from the California State University, Chico College of Agriculture venture out into the world after graduation with drive, passion for the agriculture industry, and hopes and dreams for the future. Rowley’s hopes and dreams are already in the making. An agricultural education graduate, she is now in pursuit of her master’s degree through CSU, Chico’s new online agricultural education master’s program. 

Rowley was a member of FFA in high school and always thought that teaching agriculture one day would be fun, but she was planning on majoring in agricultural business at Modesto Junior College (MJC). It was through involvement in clubs and events at MJC that Rowley discovered her passion for the FFA organization and teaching agriculture. Upon transferring to CSU, Chico, Rowley decided that agricultural education was where she belonged, and she declared it as her major. 

“I haven’t really looked back since I decided to pursue agriculture education,” Rowley said. “I love the day-to-day classroom stuff, educating kids about agriculture and the opportunities involved in high school and beyond, going to field days and exposing them to new and amazing things, and seeing my students grow from awkward little freshmen to not-as-awkward young adults.”

While at CSU, Chico completing her undergraduate degree, Rowley was extremely active within the College of Agriculture. She served as an officer for the agriculture education club, Alpha Tau Alpha, was an Agriculture Ambassador, and a member of Alpha Zeta. She also worked at the University Farm Crops Unit and received her artificial insemination certification during her time at CSU, Chico. Based on her high involvement, Rowley was nominated as the 2010 Star Student for Agricultural Education. 

Rowley has now transferred the multitasking and leadership skills she developed and used at CSU, Chico to a new endeavor: teaching. She started her first semester in the credential program student teaching at West Valley High School in Cottonwood, California, under the supervision of Ron Hardin, Tom Vasquez, and Katie Reid. Rowley primarily taught in the agriculture mechanics shop with Hardin but also taught agriculture science with Vasquez and floral with Reid. Her second semester of student teaching was completed at Nevada Union High School in Grass Valley teaching ag earth science, ag biology, ag economics and government, agriculture communications, and horticulture with Karen Henderson. While at Nevada Union, Rowley also helped coach the parliamentary procedure team and poultry judging team. 

After completing her student teaching and receiving her teaching credential, Rowley was hired for her first teaching job at Fall River High School in McArthur. Here she joined Rick Neugebauer and taught agriculture science 1-2, agriculture leadership, and pre-algebra to seventh graders. At Fall River, Rowley also coached parliamentary procedure and agronomy teams, as well as creed speaking, prepared public speaking, best informed greenhand, and job interview contestants. She was also was the senior class advisor and the DJ for school dances. 

In 2012, the teacher who supervised Rowley during her second semester of student teaching at Nevada Union High School retired, and Rowley replaced her. Two years later, she continues to teach at Nevada Union with Katie Alling and Luke Browning.

“It was an easy transition coming back to the school and classroom that I student taught at,” said Rowley. 

She currently teaches agriculture earth sciences, agriculture biology, and agriculture communications.  Outside of the classroom, Rowley coaches creed speakers and the livestock and poultry judging teams.  She is the advisor for the FFA chapter’s steer projects and serves as the main FFA advisor for the chapter officer team, which helps serve the chapter’s 351 agriculture students. 

For Rowley, being an agriculture educator is the best job there is. “It is extremely rewarding to give back by providing that same influence and impact on my students that FFA did for me,” she said. “Plus, high school students are the only ones who laugh at my jokes.”

In the summer of 2012, Rowley decided to apply for the master’s in agricultural education program at CSU, Chico. The online program offers an opportunity for teachers like Rowley to work full time while earning their master’s degree. 

“I wanted to challenge myself to pursue a higher degree while I was still young and in the ‘school mode’ while I still have the time and money to complete it, and while I still have the dedication to be a student and not just a teacher,” said Rowley.  

 “It was important to me to become a part of the master’s program that the agriculture education department at Chico State has worked so hard to get established,” she said. “The online aspect was an extreme bonus in that I could complete courses while I’m still working full time. And it was nice to work on class work while still in my pajamas on a Sunday afternoon.”

Graduate program director Dr. Mollie Aschenbrener has worked closely with Rowley through her graduate classes. “Clarissa is an excellent example of the type of master’s student CSU, Chico can be proud to call our own,” Aschenbrener said. “She advanced her knowledge and skills while serving her students as well as her community. The impact of her degree will be seen through the development of her students throughout the rest of her career.”

For her final project, Rowley is studying employability skills that are necessary in the workforce such as time management, people skills, problem solving, and working as a team. Her goal is to find where gaps are found between the skills students have and the skills employers are looking for. She compared 30 skills by surveying the skills that employers in Nevada County deemed as most important for entry-level employees and then also surveyed high school agriculture students to see what skills they thought were the most important. She hopes to then incorporate curricula into agriculture classes that will develop the skills high school students need in order to be better suited for the workforce.