College of Agriculture

Megan Rivera

Agricultural Education

Countless hours in the back of the van, evaluating hundreds of animals each day, and endless pacing and repetition can sum up the life of a livestock judge. It’s Megan Rivera’s experience nearly every weekend.

From a farming and ranching family, the senior agricultural education major is no stranger to agriculture. In FFA, she enjoyed competing on career development teams, showing livestock, and gaining leadership experience, but it wasn’t until her senior year that her yearning to get back into the classroom became clear.

“I always thought teaching ag would be a fun, rewarding career, but when we got a new ag teacher my senior year of high school, it became a reality,” she said. “[Rebecca Mendonza] had a love for working with students and managing a classroom that was amazing.”

It was then that Rivera’s path became clear, and her collegiate journey began at Modesto Junior College (MJC) as an agricultural education major. She started to think about where she wanted to go next.

“I knew that Chico [State] had the best ag ed department out there. I had a great connection in high school and junior college with Dr. [Brad] Dodson, and getting to know him, and Dr. [Mollie] Aschenbrener was a great way to really show me what Chico had to offer,” Rivera said. “The summer after my freshman year, at the CATA conference, I remember Dr. A running over to me and throwing her business card down, yelling, ‘Come to Chico, we love MJC kids!’ It was that moment I knew that Chico would be the perfect place for me.”

At MJC, her passion for the industry grew through her courses and while working for Adam Mendonza with No Limit Genetics, a show swine operation, who ultimately opened up even more opportunities once she got to Chico. Stemming from a simple text between Mendonza and Chico State lecturer and judging coach Clay Carlson, Rivera gained a spot on the Chico State livestock judging team and a job at the swine unit.

Broadening her perspective in agriculture, Rivera worked at Duarte Nursery in Hughson with a sales representative during this past summer, although her roots will always tie back to animal science. She looks forward to sharing her experiences judging, travelling with her peers, and unique industry based perspective with her students.

“Ultimately, I’d like to get my masters, but I’m excited to teach high school students,” she said. “They’re really weird and really cool, so I can’t wait to teach. At that age, I feel like you make the biggest impact and really influence these students.”

If she’s not on campus or travelling with her team, Rivera can often be found working at the University Farm swine unit. Rivera has been at the unit for two years, works as the herdsman, and lives at the farm.

“It’s definitely a lot of work being out there all the time, and I have my personal alarm clock each morning with hungry sows, but I’ve enjoyed all the experience I’ve gained,” she said.

“Megan has been a great employee and has definitely contributed to the success of the unit. Her positive attitude and excitement will make her a very good high school agriculture teacher, who will hopefully become a great asset for the College of Agriculture, sending us students like her in the future,” Carlson said.

Rivera competed on the 2018 Academic Quadrathalon Team, the 2019 Livestock Judging Team, and participated in the Young Cattlemen’s Association and Rangeland Management club. Committed to her faith, Young Life College and several bible studies have also played a transformative role in her life and experience at Chico State.

On the College of Agriculture, Rivera said the people define the welcoming community, with faculty who push you to be your best but care and want to connect with students.

“The ag ed faculty have this undeniable love for what they do, and their facilitation skills are always a great representation for what we should strive for in our own classrooms,” she said.

Among those who have influenced Rivera, Aschenbrener said she holds Rivera to the same esteem.

“I’ve gotten to see Megan as a facilitator in FFA and at Chico State, and I’ve been thoroughly impressed. She’s competent, and her desire to work with young students is amazing, so I’m excited to see her in the classroom,” said Aschenbrener.

“Dr. A was the biggest influence and recruiter that brought me to Chico, and she continues to be a role model for me today,” Rivera said.

Along with the support of faculty members, Rivera said she wouldn’t be the same without the love and support of her close-knit family. Being a first-generation college student, she recognizes her journey has not been easy and credits her family with getting her here today.

“They have no doubt had the biggest influence on my life, considering how close we all have been my entire life,” she said. “The support of my family and excitement that the agriculture faculty had for me being here gives me a sense of excitement each and every day. I wouldn’t be where I am, who I am, or what I am without them, and each day I am so thankful for that.”

As she graduates this fall and begins her new career in education, Rivera is enthusiastic about moving back to the Central Valley to pursue her teaching career and start a family.

“In ag ed we all have these dreams of where we want to teach, so, ultimately, I’d love to teach at a private Catholic school,” she said. “However, I look forward to influencing students wherever I end up.”