CSU, Chico

Natalie Oelsner, Agriculture Education

Natalie Oelsner, Agriculture Education

“Competitor,” “leader,” and “coach” are only a few words that describe senior agricultural education major Natalie Oelsner. She embodies competition—leading the CSU, Chico women’s rugby team, coaching youth sports teams, and excelling in her studies at CSU, Chico. 

Oelsner attended Galt High School, where she first became involved in agriculture through the Future Farmers of America (FFA) program. The experience established her career direction.

“I don’t believe there is another industry as impactful as agriculture,” Oelsner said. “Even though I am not directly involved in it, the FFA taught me so many great lessons I would never have learned on my own. I would not be the person I am today without it.”

In her time as an FFA member, she served as a chapter officer, competed on floriculture judging teams, and showed lambs at the Sacramento County Fair. Valuing her family above all else, Oelsner followed her sister to Chico, with encouragement by Audrey Denney, former outreach coordinator for the College of Agriculture.

On her quest to work in agricultural education or leadership development, Oelsner has honed her facilitation and leadership skills. She has worked as a facilitator for Greenhand Leadership Conferences (GLCs) and put on workshops at the National FFA Convention. She has also facilitated a leadership seminar for a junior college women’s basketball team while working summers at her parents’ restaurant supply company, Cresco Restaurant Supply, in sales and advertising.

Oelsner speaks about her time in FFA highly, crediting her growth and desire to pursue a career in agricultural education and leadership to a few key teachers and mentors. One such mentor was CSU, Chico graduate Marcus Hollan, who she worked with in her time facilitating GLCs,

“He instilled in me a passion for making students better,” she said. “He helped me learn to love working with students.”

Dane White, Mandy Garner, and Cheryl Reece, agriculture teachers at Galt High School, are also key figures in Oelsner’s pursuits and remain huge mentors in her life. “One day I hope to leave an impact on a student’s life like they did on mine,” Oelsner said.  

After coming to CSU, Chico to play basketball and then deciding to focus her time on academics, Oelsner joined the women’s rugby team her freshman year. “Rugby gave me a group of people to call my family, and has taught me how to be a strong minded, tough individual,” she said.

Oelsner’s mental toughness was put to the test in January of 2014 when she sustained a concussion in a rugby match during the team’s opening tournament, sidelining her for the rest of the season. She refused to give up on the sport she had come to love, refocusing her attention to coaching youth rugby.

“Playing and coaching rugby has taught me so much about selflessness, hard work, and dedication not only to the game but to whatever we do in life,” Oelsner said.

Within the College of Agriculture, Oelsner credits Audrey Denney and agricultural education professor Brad Dodson for encouraging her along the way. Dodson helped build her confidence to pursue agricultural education and leadership. Of his Agriculture Leadership class, she said, “The concepts taught in this class relate directly to my life and have shown me that it is OK to be real and myself.”

Oeslner says Denney continues to play a role in her experience as a student.

“To me, she is smart, independent, and successful, carries herself with grace and confidence, and has a genuine passion for making the world a better place,” Oelsner said. “She embodies the type of person I wish to be. And of course, she has the best sense of humor.”

A few accomplishments and accolades Oelsner has received over the course of her three years at CSU, Chico are the Lt. Robert Merton Rawlins Merit Award Scholarship, the Superior Ag Scholarship in the College of Agriculture, and the California Women for Agriculture North Valley and San Joaquin Valley scholarships. She took first place at the California Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers Discussion Meet and ended up placing in the top four at the national competition. Oelsner was named rookie of the year and most inspirational on the CSU, Chico women’s rugby team. 

In her spare time, Oelsner enjoys CrossFit workouts, playing rugby, reading when she has the chance to do so, and spending time with her dogs and family. After graduation, she sees herself obtaining a teaching credential as well as her master’s in agricultural education and leadership, and teaching agriculture. She hopes to work full time and settle down wherever the job may take her.

When asked what her favorite thing about the College of Agriculture is, Natalie responded, “The humans! Faculty and students are so real and genuine, and there is sense of family and home here at our college, which I believe is unlike any other college of agriculture in the state.” 

“I chose education as an option because I believe as humans, we build a foundation on education—and it makes us who we are as people,” she said. “Without education, especially a lack of knowledge about what we eat, we would cease to exist.”

It’s fitting that Oelsner studies agricultural education and leadership, given the ways she spends her time outside of the classroom. Academic achievement, athletic success, national titles, and serving as a role model to youth sports teams in Galt and Chico are just a few ways in which Oelsner will continue to make an impact in agricultural leadership and education.