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College of Agriculture

Jonathan Najera

Animal Science

Obtaining a bachelor’s degree is a feat on its own. Completing this degree as a first-generation college student while working a full-time job is an even bigger accomplishment. When senior Jonathan Najera walks across the stage at commencement in May, he can claim this victory. 

Growing up in Anaheim, Najera’s livestock experience would be almost non-existent if it weren’t for visits to his grandparent’s small ranch in Mexico, where chickens, goats, and cattle were the norm. Although he was never immensely involved, these small glimpses coupled with visits to veterinary practices in southern California sparked an initial interest that carries his career forward today.

“I always enjoyed learning new things and enjoyed ‘nerding out’ in chemistry. I started to have an interest in where food comes from, how agriculture affects me, and where I could fit into it,” he said.

These growing interests, along with the campus scenery, are what ultimately led the animal science major to Chico State.

Since beginning his undergraduate studies in 2015, Najera has maintained a full course load each semester while working full-time jobs off campus—starting at Rush Personnel and Del Taco, where he quickly rose to management positions. During his senior year, Najera shadowed a veterinarian at Durham Veterinary Clinic in order to jumpstart his experiences in veterinary medicine before obtaining full-time employment as a veterinary assistant at Valley Oak Veterinary Center in Chico.

Najera has also remained involved in the Pre-Veterinary Club on campus since his freshman year and now serves as the organization’s vice president. Working alongside Interim Associate Dean Patrick Doyle and animal science professor Kasey DeAtley, he has also become involved in conducting undergraduate research. Najera’s current research evaluates Alturas Ranch heifers with the goal of correlating feed efficiency and reproductive success traits.

Even with his busy schedule, Najera has found time to give back through involvement with the Manger Clinic each year, caring for the pets of homeless individuals in the county. Partnered with the Jesus Center, this free clinic helps to vaccinate and treat the pets of people who are unable to do so themselves.

Without the constant support from his friends and family, Najera said he would not be on the path he is today. Faculty has also played a large role throughout his undergraduate career, particularly lecturer Kate Moore and Doyle.

“Not everyone coming into animal science at Chico State has livestock experience, and it can be intimidating, and we can feel out of place,” Najera said, “but having faculty that care to take the time and thoroughly explain things make all the difference. [Moore] was very influential, and through my upper division courses and research Dr. Doyle has been a great supporter.”

“Jonathan is one of those students that comes along and reminds me why I became an educator,” Doyle said. “I have to always make sure I’m on my ‘A’ game for research meetings because he’s inquisitive and always brings great research questions. Jonathan has his sights on becoming a veterinarian and works hard to make sure he has the knowledge and skill set to be successful in the field. I know he will be successful in whatever lies ahead.”

Doyle continues, “To be honest, there is a selfish part of me, the research advisor, who would like him to pursue graduate school and continue in research. He has the mindset and drive that makes for a good research scientist, so I could see him doing a combined DVM/PhD program in the future.”

Through a career in veterinary medicine, Najera hopes to combine an interest in biomedical science with a love for animals. After applying to several veterinary schools across the country, the waiting game has begun to determine the next steps for Najera’s career.

“I’m not sure where I’ll end up, but I’ve applied to schools across the country. Not that I want to leave my family, but it’s my time to see what’s out there and explore the next chapter of my life,” he said. “At Chico, beef cattle have found a place in my heart, but I’m also interested in exploring other specialties such as exotics and surgery.”

For incoming pre-veterinary students in the College of Agriculture, Najera says the best advice he can give is to not give up on your dreams.

“Applying to programs and vet schools, a lot of the time it can feel like we’re all up against each other, but we’re all in our own race,” he said. “We’ve all been dealt different cards and have different experiences that led us to this point, so you should never feel discouraged.”

One of the managers of the Pre-Vet Club Facebook page, Najera carries on the tradition of “Mental Health Monday” started by his predecessor Amber Illescas (ANSC ’19). In a recent “Mental Health Monday” post, Najera shared a meaningful quote.

“The contest is a lion fight. So chin up, put your shoulders back, walk proud, strut a little. Don't lick your wounds. Celebrate them. The scars you bear are the sign of a competitor,” he said.

While Najera’s future path is currently uncertain, he looks forward to pursuing his dream and caring for livestock and domestic animals in any capacity, knowing he can always look back to the College of Agriculture for support.