College of Agriculture


Keely Martin Bosler

It's 275 miles from the State Capitol steps in Sacramento to the home where Keely Martin Bosler grew up in Fort Jones, California. Sometimes the distance feels worlds apart to the College of Agriculture's 2016 Distinguished Alumna, who serves as cabinet secretary to Governor Jerry Brown. Nestled in the picturesque Scott Valley, between Mount Shasta and the Oregon border, Fort Jones has a population of just 687. How did the small-town daughter of dairy farmers from far Northern California wind up as a top advisor to the governor of the nation's most populous state? For Bosler, the road to Sacramento ran through Chico State.

The daughter of Charlie and Marlene Martin loved growing up on her family's dairy and alfalfa farm, but she couldn't wait to leave home. She joined the Future Farmers of America (FFA) chapter at Etna High School and went on to serve as the president of the FFA's Superior Region, which is headquartered at the CSU, Chico University Farm. Through frequent visits to campus for FFA events and meetings, she got to know the College of Agriculture and fell in love with the college town.

"Chico was an easy choice. The faculty knew me here and wanted me to come," Bosler recalls. "And it was just far enough away from home that I felt like I was really going somewhere."

She entered Chico State as an agricultural business major. She knew that her tolerance for risk was too low to go into production agriculture, and her 18-year-old logic told her that "business is where you make the money."

Once she was on campus, Bosler made the most of her time. As a freshman, she enrolled in the General Studies Thematic Program, a yearlong immersion in general education that was team-taught by five different professors. During her college career, Bosler was also the president for the Students for Responsible Agriculture and a member of the Young Cattlemen's Association (YCA), competed on the ethics bowl team, volunteered with Community Action Volunteers in Education (CAVE), worked at the Associated Students Bookstore, helped with Summer Orientation and assisted with a variety of College of Agriculture events. One of her most formative experiences was competing on the Chico State Livestock Judging Team, coached by Professor Dave Daley.

"I had such a great experience," she said. "Professors like Dr. Daley are so passionate about sparking excitement for learning. Livestock judging is not just about evaluating livestock. It's about communication, hard work, and learning how to be a part of a team."

One of her biggest life lessons came during a livestock judging team practice when Keely admits to having monopolized the conversation with her trademark "type A" enthusiasm. In not so many words, Daley brusquely told her to stop talking. Shocked and hurt, she eventually came to appreciate the lesson.

 "Being a part of a team means that everyone has a chance to express their opinions. I needed the reminder to be quiet and listen."

Bosler graduated summa cum laude from CSU, Chico in 1997. Inspired by an economics class she had enjoyed, she entered Cornell University to pursue a master's degree in applied economics.

"As an undergraduate, I thought economics was fascinating and fun. I found out in graduate school that it's actually really hard," Bosler said.

Despite the program's rigor, Bosler graduated from Cornell with her master's degree in 2001 and earned the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association's Outstanding Master's Thesis Award for her thesis analyzing United States apple export markets.

Unsure what to do with her new master's degree, Bosler applied for a job with the Legislative Analyst's Office (LAO) in Sacramento.

"I didn't really know what the LAO did, but I wanted to move back to California and be closer to my family," she said. "It turned out to be a perfect fit."

Working for the LAO, which provides the California legislature with nonpartisan fiscal and policy analysis, Bosler discovered that she loved public policy.

"There's never a dull moment. There's always a problem to be solved. There's always something new to learn," she said.

Bosler's curiosity and drive has led her to multiple offices and positions in the state government, including the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, and the Department of Finance, where she served as chief deputy director from 2013 until early 2016. Throughout her career, Bosler has developed a reputation as a practical, grounded problem solver. Her common-sense approach as the governor's primary spokesperson on the state budget is one of the reasons Governor Jerry Brown appointed Bosler as his cabinet secretary in February 2016. As cabinet secretary, Bosler is the one of the governor's top policy advisors and oversees the cabinet, which is composed of the secretaries of each major state agency.  

Despite her demanding career, Bosler's family is her top priority.  She is married to fellow Chico State alumnus Mitchell Bosler (BS, Mechanical Engineering, '98), and together they have two young daughters, Alessandra and Henrietta. Bosler serves on the site counsel at her daughter's school and is also a member of the Capital School Planning Task Force at CSU, Sacramento. It's her strong personal community, including her in-laws Bob and Sally Bosler, whose support allows her pursue her career while raising a family.

"That's something I always stress to students and young professionals, is the importance of building a community," Bosler said. "The friends you make in college become the basis of your network throughout your career. With a sturdy support system, you will always have people who care for you and help you through life."

Bosler also takes time to give back to her alma mater, serving on the advisory council for the College of Agriculture.

"Having attended one other university, and observing other colleges through my work, it's clear to me that CSU, Chico excels in its focus on teaching, with professors who truly want to teach and engage with their students."

Bosler received the College of Agriculture's Distinguished Alumni Award at a ceremony in the Bell Memorial Union on April 8, 2016. While on campus she spoke with several classes, telling students, "It's OK if you don't know today exactly what you're going to do with your life. College is a rite of passage where you demonstrate that you can show up, do the work, learn, and build upon your learning. Your job right now is to be a sponge and soak everything up."

Bosler advised students to keep an open mind about their futures. "I remember being in my early 20s and feeling like I wasn't getting ahead as quickly as I should. But just be patient, take advantage of opportunities, and realize that life doesn't always end up how one envisions it—and that's perfectly OK."

Bosler considers it to be an honor to be selected as the 2016 CSU, Chico College of Agriculture Distinguished Alumna.

"When I look at the list of past distinguished alumni, I am truly humbled to take my place next to such influential individuals. I have always been proud to be from this campus and this college."

Bosler returned to campus again on May 17 to serve as the commencement speaker for the College of Agriculture, where she quoted Thomas Jefferson, saying, "I'm a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it."