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College of Agriculture

Austin Dowse

Star Student in Agricultural Business

Retired United States Navy SEAL, podcaster, and author Jocko Willink said, “Always take extreme ownership.” This favorite phrase of senior Austin Dowse describes the moral character and overall mindset of the 2018 Star Student in Agriculture Business, who prides himself on his ability to take responsibility and ownership, positive or negative, in any given situation.

Dowse comes from the small Siskiyou County town of Grenada, California, just south of the Oregon border, where he said, “Everyone knows everyone.” The community served as a supportive backdrop, and it also gave him his first glimpse of commercial and niche livestock production. Following in the footsteps of his older sister, fellow College of Agriculture student Tayler Dowse, Austin began raising and showing cattle at the age of four. Dowse’s parents, both agriculture business graduates of Oregon State University, provided the platform for his passion to flourish, and his small high school and influential FFA advisors further propelled his interests by providing leadership experiences to all students within a competitive environment where they had the opportunity to thrive.

Dowse had planned to enter the Air Force Academy when he graduated high school, but a devastating knee injury forced a change of plans. In 2015, Dowse was offered the Bell Family Presidential Scholarship, and after a visit with then-interim dean and Professor Dave Daley, he decided that everything happens for a reason, and Chico State was where he belonged.

“It’s just one of those things that happen that you don’t expect but you have to roll with it,” he said. “I’m glad I ended up here and I have no regrets.”

During his first visit to campus, Dowse met staff member Sarah DeForest, whom he said set the professional yet comfortable tone for the rest of his experience at Chico.

“Austin initially comes across as very quiet and reserved, but as you get to know him you realize how intelligent, driven, and quietly confident he is,” DeForest said. “It has been a pleasure to watch Austin mature from a reserved and unassuming freshman into a confident leader within our college.”

At Chico State, Dowse dedicated the majority of his extracurricular time to the livestock judging team. Prior to time at Chico, Dowse had never traveled east of Lake Tahoe, but dedicating his free time and weekends to traveling, the livestock judging team exposed him to agriculture production across thirty states while representing the college at national shows. Judging coach and lecturer Clay Carlson has played a vital role in Dowse’s life and served as an impactful mentor.

“I met Austin on his first visit to Chico, prior to his first semester, and was immediately impressed with his seriousness on academics and fondness for livestock,” Carlson said. “He’s very diligent and hardworking and takes a no-nonsense approach to life. I can only imagine he will be successful after he graduates from CSU, Chico.”

“I have spent more time with [Carlson] than anyone at Chico. Some was forced [on long judging trips in the van], but most wasn’t,” Dowse said. “He is the best coach I’ve ever had, and I look up to him.” 

Beyond the livestock judging team, Dowse is also a part of the Young Cattlemen’s Association and the Society of Ag Managers. In 2017, he attended the Agricultural Applied Economics Association Annual (AAEA) Meeting in Chicago as part of the Chico State Quiz Bowl Team, where he also earned second place in the Earl O. Heady Decision Sciences Spreadsheet Competition. This competition requires the creation of a spreadsheet and poster, in which Dowse analyzed the economic benefits of using differing chemicals in fruit processing at a local processing plant. He described the meeting as rewarding, both in his team’s triumph as well as the honor of representing Chico State at the national level.

Dowse has worked with agricultural business professor Kishore Joseph on several research projects. He described his role in one project, as he gathered and compiled data regarding live cattle prices in California for comparison against the Chicago Mercantile Exchange prices. Projects such as this provide Dowse the opportunity to link his passion for animal agriculture with that of business and economics.

One of the highlights of his time at Chico State has been the people he met. The roommates he met in the dorms turned out to be some of his best friends today, even though they may not be the same major or have the same backgrounds. Dowse enjoyed meeting people outside the College of Agriculture and learning their stories.

He praises the College of Agriculture for providing a close-knit family atmosphere and community. Dowse appreciates the ability to walk down the hallways of Plumas Hall and encounter friendly, familiar faces of students and professors who truly care.

He advises incoming students to try new things and get to know the faculty outside the College of Agriculture because they may find a new passion for something they never thought they might enjoy.

“What’s unique about Chico is the real opportunities you have to branch out of your comfort zone.” Dowse said.

In the future, Dowse looks forward to attending graduate school to further his studies in economics. His interests include economic development, trade, and the exchange of equities and futures. He is considering the possibility of pursuing his doctorate degree as well.