College of Agriculture

Matthew Bongiovanni

Agricultural Education

“Strive for progression, not perfection.”

The quote that senior Matt Bongiovanni often shares with students has shaped the guiding principles of the agricultural education major’s life and driven him to grow through all of his experiences. Since coming to California State University, Chico as a freshman, his passion for agricultural education has been unwavering, but new experiences and interests have expanded the career possibilities in his foreseeable future.

Matthew BongiovanniBongiovanni grew up in Tracy, California, as the youngest of three children.

“My parents and older siblings weren’t involved in agriculture at all. I joined 4-H with my cousin and started raising market hogs and showing cattle, and from there I got sucked in,” Bongiovanni said.

His interest in livestock led Bongiovanni to Future Farmers of America (FFA) at Tracy High School, where his appreciation for agriculture grew and he began to shape his goal to educate and expose students who do not come from an agricultural background.

When looking for an undergraduate program to complete his studies, Bongiovanni said that a strong agricultural education program and a supportive environment were key. After visiting the Chico State campus for FFA field days and meeting with now-retired agricultural education professor Brad Dodson, Chico State fit the bill.

“It’s like a second home for me. I’ve been able to build personal relationships with faculty and constantly feel a culture of support,” Bongiovanni said.

This culture of support and guidance begins with the faculty in agricultural education, where diverse skills and talents balance out to provide for one common goal: to develop effective teachers.

“In agricultural education, I’m treated as an individual and the faculty works with me, my strengths and weaknesses, to grow. They care about making connections so I’m not just another face in the crowd,” he said.

As a mentor, Bongiovanni said that he can always look to agricultural education lecturer Alyssa Schager for guidance.

“Matt Bongiovanni lights up a room when he enters. His charisma, sense of humor, and connection with others transcends to positive interactions and meaningful relationships,” Schager said. “He will be an impactful secondary agriculture teacher who will change the trajectory of students' lives with his ability to motivate and lead.”

As a future educator, Bongiovanni often reflects on his experiences in high school with advisor Nikki Maddux to shape his teaching philosophy. Although she no longer teaches agriculture at the high school, Maddux provided him with a sense of support and guidance that still plays an instrumental role in his life, and he hopes to mimic in his own career.

“All students have a need to be motivated and pushed to reach their highest potential. I want to give them that, just as I was,” he said.

In addition to Maddux’s influence, hands-on experiences have played a crucial role in shaping Bongiovanni’s teaching philosophies. Classes such as “Introduction to Plant Science” where he grew his own garden, and “Advanced Principles of Beef Production” where he gets to work with cattle, calculate EPDs, and evaluate bulls, provided experiences Bongiovanni says were highly valuable. He says that Professor Kasey DeAtley has provided relevant discussions and experiences in the industry.

For incoming freshmen, he advises students to “take advantage of faculty availability and to effectively communicate, because they really do want to help. The ability to admit when you need help to faculty and peers will help you get where you’re going,” he said. 

Through his principles on personal growth, Bongiovanni began to broaden his perspective at Chico State and expressed an interest in gaining new experiences in agricultural policy and leadership. As a result, Bongiovanni has served as a conference facilitator and coordinator for California FFA for three years, completed several internships with constituent outreach services for Congressman Doug LaMalfa, and served as an agricultural policy intern for the Agricultural Council of California. These positions allowed him to serve as a liaison between the general public and legislative representation.

“It gave me the opportunity to explore a career in ag policy and my passion for educating the public, giving representation to the agriculture industry while also changing my perspectives. I’ve grown as a person, not just academically, and have found new facets and opportunities in the industry,” Bongiovanni said.

Summer 2019 will bring a new adventure, as Bongiovanni will complete an internship in Washington, DC, with the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives as an agricultural policy intern. Learning about policy and advocating for agriculture at the federal level may be the deciding factor for where his career path will take him.

Outside of his academics, Bongiovanni values strong relationships with his family and friends, who he describes as an eclectic mix. He enjoys always learning new things and working with students to help them exhibit personal growth and success in their experiences.

Upon graduation in the fall 2019, Bongiovanni hopes to enter the teaching credential program, but plans to keep exploring his options for a career. Ultimately, he looks forward to obtaining a master’s degree in agricultural education, policy, or economics.

Although time will tell where Bongiovanni is in five years, he knows that whether he is storming the Capitol with legislators or building up students in his own classroom, he looks forward to shaping perspectives, educating, and advocating on all of the facets of the agriculture industry.