May 13, 2016Vol. 46, Issue 6

The Real Race

Triathlete Enrique Piñon goes the distance in and out of class

A long distance runner in high school, Piñon joined the Chico State Triathlon Club his first year in Chico. One of the biggest challenges he overcame was learning how to swim, which he mastered upon joining and was competing in within a matter of months.

A long distance runner in high school, Piñon joined the Chico State Triathlon Club his first year in Chico. One of the biggest challenges he overcame was learning how to swim, which he mastered upon joining and was competing in within a matter of months.

Finishing the Ironman 70.3 Lake Tahoe, a 70.3-mile triathlon, was a moderately impressive accomplishment for senior Enrique Piñon. Keeping up with his school and club obligations? That’s the real race.

Motivated by his family, the agriculture business major takes advantage of every opportunity to learn, make connections, and dive fully into leadership roles for the clubs in which he’s involved.
 
A long distance runner in high school, Piñon joined the Chico State Triathlon Club his first year in Chico. One of the biggest challenges he overcame was learning how to swim, which he mastered and competed in within a matter of months.
 
“It was really challenging. I’m still not the best swimmer,” said Piñon, whose strength comes from both physical and mental endurance.
 
“My dad works in the fields and so does my mom. I’ve done that work, too. I worked where my mom works in a big cooler where we get raw vegetables and process them,” he said. “Having a hands-on experience, experiencing what my mom does when she’s working just really gave me an appreciation for what she does, what my parents do for me in order to support me going to school.”
 
Piñon originally came to Chico from Santa Maria, where he was involved in 4-H and Future Farmers of America, to pursue an option in crops, horticulture, and land resource management. However, after visiting with American Ag Credit, CoBank, and Farm Credit West at the annual Agriculture Career and Internship Fair, Piñon saw a better fit for himself in agriculture business.

After discovering this interest in finance, Piñon joined the Finance Club, where he served on the executive board, held positions as treasurer and director of administrative affairs, and organized conferences alongside the club president.

This year, Piñon was part of the 2015 College of Agriculture Food Marketing Team, which won the national title in October at the Food Distribution Research Society Case Study Competition in Philadelphia. The team worked to market a product to industry leaders and put together the best package among numerous teams from across the nation.

He balances his academics with his athletics. The Triathlon Club travels and competes year-round in various college races at schools such as Stanford University, UC Davis, and UC Santa Barbara. Piñon has served as the club’s treasurer for three years, managing the club’s finances, fundraising, dues, and reimbursements.

He balances his academics with his athletics. The Triathlon Club travels and competes year-round in various college races at schools such as Stanford University, UC Davis, and UC Santa Barbara. Piñon has served as the club’s treasurer for three years, managing the club’s finances, fundraising, dues, and reimbursements.

Piñon has also been a leader in the Crop Science and Horticulture Club since his freshman year. He has served as president, vice president, and treasurer, and has organized the club’s attendance at the California Association of Pest Control Advisers annual conference as well as conferences hosted by the California Seed Association. Piñon reached out to industry leaders to speak at club events and subsequently found a passion for connecting his peers to professionals.

“There is no better feeling than helping a classmate get a job with the contacts they meet in the Crop Science and Horticulture Club,” he said.
Piñon also gained experience working at the University Farm. He volunteered to grow and harvest vegetables for the Organic Vegetable Project, worked for class credit at the Organic Dairy Unit, and was part of the Pastured Poultry Project.

He balances his academics with his athletics. The Triathlon Club travels and competes year-round in various college races at schools such as Stanford University, UC Davis, and UC Santa Barbara. Piñon has served as the club’s treasurer for three years, managing the club’s finances, fundraising, dues, and reimbursements.

Being so active is something Piñon prides himself on as part of his college experience. He came into school knowing experience was what would set him apart from others, and his interests and the offices he has held have built a reputation that speaks for itself.

Piñon is the first person in his immediate family to go to college, and he doesn’t take that lightly. Both of his parents emigrated from Mexico and work in the fields and produce processing. He recognizes the sacrifices made to support him and says his greatest motivation is his father, who has always put his children first.
 
“I think about him every day,” he said of his dad. “Sometimes when I’m studying or I’m tired of reading, tired of doing homework, I think of my dad. He never stopped. He’s always working. So, how selfish is it of me to not want to study for this exam? He’s really my motivation.”

That motivation and hard work has paid off. Over the past four years, Piñon has been awarded more than $40,000 in scholarships in recognition of his accomplishments.
 
“Those [scholarships] are very important,” he said. “My parents don’t have money to support me financially, so those scholarships, really they’re the only reason I can finish school.”
 
Piñon’s work ethic led him to an internship as a credit analyst at Farm Credit West in Santa Maria last summer. There, he assisted in reviewing and spreading customer financials, looking at tax returns, visiting operations, checking water supplies, and reinforcing inspections to ensure that farms were operating to the best of their ability.
 
“[My dad] brags about me all the time to his workers. When I was interning at Farm Credit West, [that] his son got an office job—that was a big deal,” Piñon said.

After graduation, Piñon plans to complete a summer internship as a credit analyst for CoBank before beginning graduate work in the fall to pursue an MBA, something that’s sure to continue to make his family proud.
A version of this story originally appeared on the College of Agriculture’s website.

Riley Quinn is a junior studying agricultural business, and Erica Vietor is a junior animal science major. Additional reporting was contributed by Kate Post with Public Affairs and Publications.

Photo of Chico State grads

126th Commencement

Four days of commencement ceremonies begin Wednesday, May 18. Search #Chico2016 on social media for a live chronicle of events.  See schedule.

Senior Sendoff

A Super Sendoff

The Alumni Association honored the Class of 2016 with a BBQ and fun activities to wish them a fond farewell. Watch Video.

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