|February 10, 2000
Volume 30 Number 12
|A publication for the faculty, staff, administrators, and friends of California State University, Chico|
Agriculture's Wes Patton Receives Outstanding Service Award
Professor Westley Patton, Agriculture, has been awarded the 1999-2000 Outstanding Faculty Service Award for his "extraordinary and inspiring" devotion to students, the university, the agricultural community, and his profession.
"My focus has always been on students first," he said. Students first is more than a slogan for Patton. He has been an adviser to individual students, to Students for Responsible Agriculture, and to the inter-club council. His involvement in recruitment and retention has been extraordinary, from the individual calls and visits he makes to high schools to his involvement in the development of the peer tutoring program within the College of Agriculture.
Patton gives students real-life experiences in his Agriculture Leadership class. Students learn how to plan events, work with industry representatives, provide community services, and develop their own self-confidence as future agricultural leaders by coordinating twenty to thirty activities. They help with the Fall Festival, organize educational field days at the University Farm for local youth, and develop outreach projects to community college students. At the beginning of the class students prepare a résumé and a cover letter detailing why they would like to coordinate a particular event. Patton then brings in community people to conduct interviews with the students. Once a student is assigned a particular project, Patton has only one rule, "I ask that you do it in a professional manner that represents yourself and the university well. I'm not going to micro-manage you -- but if you get in trouble, come to me and we'll work it out." It's a formula that's been popular and effective with students.
Patton, a fifth generation sheep rancher, has a life-long interest in the sheep industry and teaches related courses. He has been involved in state organizations throughout his career. He and his wife raised sheep for many years, and produced hundreds of lambs for 4-H and FAA students. Patton currently serves on the board of directors of the California Wool Growers Association.
Patton also raises Dexter cattle and served as director and president of the Dexter Cattle Association. In 1998 he went to England to the World Congress for Dexter Cattle.
All of his activities -- committee work, livestock growing, student advising, farm management, and community involvement -- enhance Patton's work with students. "That's why I've always stayed involved in the livestock industry myself, and several other professors do the same thing. We can come to work every morning with a real example -- some days it's a real bad example, and other days it's a real good example, but nevertheless, a real example."
The University Farm, officially known as the Paul L. Byrne Memorial Agricultural Teaching and Research Center, gives students a connection to the daily reality of agriculture that Patton believes is an essential part of their education. When budget cuts limited faculty release time for management, Patton continued his level of involvement without compensation. He believes the farm is "the best teaching tool that we have, the best public relations tool that we have, and the best outreach function that we have." Students get to apply their classroom learning; the local agricultural community uses the farm for meetings, field days, and educational events; and prospective students can visit the farm to see what the College of Agriculture does.
Patton was involved in an overhaul of the agriculture curriculum. Faculty went to employers hiring agriculture majors and asked what they needed in new employees. The college then re-vamped the program to include more industry needs, including a two-semester applied research course in which students design, conduct, and report original research. The research is often funded and then published in trade magazines or academic journals. Patton explained that the key to success for this course is the combining of students from different disciplines. An animal science student's team may include students in plant science and range management who will bring another perspective to the project.
Patton has served on twenty-seven college or university committees since 1992, and is currently involved with over a dozen. He refers to his university committee work as "a natural thing to do. Things need to be done, and I'm the kind of person who likes to know what's happening. The best way to know what's happening is to get involved in the decision making."
His most recent involvement is the co-curricular committee. "There are other people on campus who work with students, and they have the same kinds of concerns and problems that we do, so I'm excited about that one."
Patton graduated from Chico State, received his Ph.D. from Oregon State, and came right back to the North Valley. As for receiving the Outstanding Faculty Service Award, Patton muses, "I'm not sure that they got the right person... I don't set out each day and say, 'Well, I'm going to do this because it's going to be good for something.' It's just part of what happens in a day at work." -- BA
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