College of Agriculture

Samantha Poldervaart

Star Student in Animal Science

If she’s not in class or working on her family’s dairy, you can almost always find senior Sammie Poldervaart in the barn with her horses, spending time with family and friends, or camera-in-hand running her local photography business. Although she’s consistently recognized in her animal science courses for her tenacity and work ethic, Poldervaart excels beyond her courses and that has earned her recognition as the 2019-2020 Star Student in Animal Science.

With agriculture right in her backyard each day, senior Sammie Poldervaart is no stranger to hard work. Born into a third-generation dairy family in Orland, production agriculture has been a way of life and formed the passion she plans to pursue upon graduation this May.

“I always knew I loved the dairy industry and working with animals so thought my only option to pursue a passion in animal science was by going to vet school,” she said.

In order to pursue her degree in animal science, Poldervaart began her college career at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo as a pre-veterinary major. However, coming from a small town the large program never felt like home to Poldervaart. 

“When I got to Chico, I felt like more than a face to faculty and immediately made personal connections,” Poldervaart said. “They really care and help you find your passions and push you to pursue them.”

In professor Celina Phillips Animal Nutrition course (ANSC 330), Poldervaart felt that push through a simple note on the back of her exam from the professor.

“When I first met Sammie, she was very quiet but I noticed how she excelled in my class. One day, I wrote on the back of her exam, “Hey, have you ever thought about graduate school? You should come chat with me.”,” Phillips said.  

Since the interaction with Phillips and encouragement from other faculty in the program, the senior has begun her venture to graduate school applying to several programs across the country.

“One thing I asked students to share in their research presentations at the end of the semester was personal impact of the course.  Sammie talked about how this course confirmed that she wanted to go to grad school and learn more about ruminant nutrition,” Phillips said. “She will be an awesome graduate student that will likely be ahead of others starting their masters as well.”

Alongside Phillips, Poldervaart has been involved with undergraduate research through the nutrition class and a personal project based on growth rate associated with the supplementation of bypass fat in lambs. Poldervaart will present this research at the Western Section Association of Animal Science Meeting in June.

In addition to her studies and work at the farm, Poldervaart has remained active in the industry through gaining experience shadowing dairy nutritionist, Wes Schager, of Schager Dairy Consulting.

“Going on calls and visiting with producers has allowed me to really get my feet on the ground with consulting,” she said. “Wes has become a role model in the industry and has been influential in my pursuit of graduate school, sharing what he went through and giving a different perspective of working in the industry.”

In addition to Phillips and Schager, Poldervaart said that professors Kasey DeAtley, Patrick Doyle, and Grazyne Tresoldi have been influential throughout her undergraduate career.

“All of the faculty in the college want you to succeed, and it’s refreshing to feel that,” she said. “[for incoming students] Don’t settle for being just a face in our classes. Making connections with faculty and building relationships is so important and sets you up for your future career.”

A 2020 graduate, Poldervaart has also earned the honor of Cum Laude, representing the top of her graduating class. Once she finishes graduate school, Poldervaart hopes to obtain a consulting job with an established company before ultimately becoming an independent consultant for dairies in the north state.