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From Oregon State Beaver to CAHNRS Ambassador president

By Carmen Chandler, CAHNRS Academic Programs

A Corvallis, Ore. native and born and raised Beaver, Madison Escobar’s experiences as an ambassador at Washington State University’s College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences (CAHNRS) drive her hopes and goals as the group’s newly elected president.

A woman snuggles a cute black and white cow that has a hat on its head.
Madison Escobar with a heifer in her Dairy Cattle Management class.

Deciding on what school to attend was not as easy as choosing her major, but WSU Pullman made a strong impression. By her senior year of high school, Madison knew that she wanted to go out of state for college, but she still searched for a town with the same feeling that she grew up with.

“Washington State University felt like home in the sense that it was a small-town community that I like, and I wanted to go somewhere new and have new experiences for my undergraduate education” she said.

Madison, a third-year Animal Sciences student on the pre-veterinary track, is applying to veterinary school this upcoming summer. Madison recalls that “animals have always been my passion from a very young age.” She said that studying animal sciences in college was a “perfect fit”, especially given her history of caring for family pets.

Madison began working with the Ambassadors in April 2021 when she found out about the program through her Animal Sciences advisor. When she started, the Ambassadors operated differently – they were fully remote due to the Covid-19 pandemic. As WSU reopened its doors in August 2021, Madison didn’t know what to expect going into her first in-person semester as an ambassador. However, this year has brought the ambassador team closer together.

“One thing I love about our team is how connected we all are,” Madison explained. “We are all from different majors, backgrounds, and areas of study. We all have the commonality of being super passionate, driven, and excited about our respective areas of study.”

In-person classes have introduced Madison to a new experience as an ambassador.

“I love working with people who have the same mindset as me and working with students who are passionate about spreading awareness to prospective students and getting the CAHNRS name out there,” Madison said.

The ambassadors serve as a student leadership organization that provides a connection for prospective students to gain knowledge of CAHNRS academic programs. Ambassadors encourage higher education and create awareness of opportunities within the fields of study that the college provides.

Becoming the group’s president was not originally the plan for Madison. “I knew that I wanted to push my involvement more. We had election nominations coming up and I knew I wanted to do something on the executive board, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do” she said.

Before elections, Madison said she was nominated by the current CAHNRS Ambassadors President.

“That felt really cool that he saw that potential in me,” she said.

Madison officially took over as president in late December, and already has plans for the Ambassadors program.

With her experience at WSU, Madison has advice for students considering enrolling in a CAHNRS program. She recommends talking to an ambassador or a student who is in the program, in addition to researching online.

“We have great information on our websites about the majors” she said. “And talking to students is a great way to understand a student’s perspective of being in CAHNRS”.

For current WSU students interested in being an ambassador, Madison suggests attending recruitment events throughout the semester. To become an ambassador, there is an interview application process twice a year at the end of each semester. Further information about the ambassadors can be found on the CAHNRS website.

Program leading dialogues on race and racism wins national Extension award

A voluntary training program aimed at preparing interested individuals to lead dialogues about race and racial issues has won the National Diversity in Extension Award from the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities. Washington State University Extension was a charter member of the Coming Together for Racial Understanding (CTRU) program and is expanding their work.

Around 20 people sit on folding chairs in a circle talking.
In 2019, the first group of WSU Extension CTRU trainees met in person to learn how to lead dialogues about race and racial issues.

In 2016, national Extension leaders formed a team to consider how Extension professionals around the country could respond to growing community tensions around racial issues, said Marcia Ostrom, WSU School of Environment associate professor and extension specialist. This team recommended building Extension’s skills and capacity to promote civil discourse on race through launching a voluntary nationwide training program.

Ostrom, who works on food and agriculture, organized a WSU Extension team to apply for the first week-long CTRU train-the-trainer program in 2018. Core teams of three from 20 states learned how to lead dialogue-to-change processes so they could go back and train their colleagues.

“Extension is here to serve everyone,” Ostrom said. “As a land grant institution, our job is to serve the population we have in Washington. That population is becoming increasingly diverse. We can’t really offer inclusive Extension programming unless we’re comfortable working across cultural and racial differences.”

The national CTRU program, coordinated by the Southern Rural Development Center, offers ongoing training and support for state teams. Thus far, WSU’s core CTRU team has focused on building capacity among Extension faculty and staff. They have trained 46 new volunteer facilitators to lead dialogues on race using the CTRU curriculum. In turn, these facilitators helped to lead study sessions for another 115 colleagues.

In one of their first programs offered for the public, trained CTRU facilitators worked with Michael Wallace of Whatcom County Extension and the county’s newly-formed Government Alliance for Racial Equity to hold dialogues on racial equity. Around 30 county employees, divided into four groups, engaged in facilitated weekly dialogues in November and December to develop a deeper understanding of how racism affects individuals, institutions, and communities.

Jenny Glass, a plant diagnostician at the WSU Puyallup Research and Extension Center, co-led a group of six county employees who volunteered to take part.

“We looked into culture and racism and talked about ways we can impact racism,” said Glass, who has worked at WSU for 20 years. “As a facilitator, we didn’t teach, we encouraged discussion and listening, guiding people through ideas. It was a great place to listen and speak.”

Glass signed up to receive the CTRU facilitator training after seeing an email describing the program.

“Over the years, I’ve become frustrated that we say Extension serves everyone,” said Glass, who teaches community groups about various plant diseases as one aspect of her work. “But in general, it feels like we don’t do that. I want to get my work out to underserved communities and this training is a great step in that direction.”

Jen Moss, a SNAP-Ed co-lead for the region covering Snohomish, Skagit, Whatcom, Island, and San Juan counties, said she had a very positive experience when she did the CTRU facilitator training. She also saw different reactions from her colleagues doing the training.

“I saw people have major revelations and moments of ‘Wow, this is important,’” Moss said. “And I saw people who have been doing work in this area for a long time get excited to engage in the topic with colleagues. There really was something for everyone.”

Moss has since facilitated conversations with people outside of Extension who are interested in learning more about topics like diversity, equity, and inclusion. She said participants like the fact that the program isn’t debate, it’s people talking with each other.

“One of the main tenets of this program is dialogue,” Moss said. “The program is more of a guideline. It’s not so scripted that we can’t bring in our own perspectives or tailor the training for specific partners.”

Anyone who wants to learn more about Extension’s role in leading civil dialogues on race and equity or the CTRU program can contact one of the core CTRU trainers for Washington: Marcia Ostrom; Bernardita Sallato; or Lee Anne Riddle.

Doctoral graduate in Crop Sciences helps improve crops that feed the world

Sandhu studying whear
As a doctoral student, Sandhu used a near-Infrared camera to measure spectral and vegetative traits of wheat plants at WSU’s Spillman Farm.

A new doctoral graduate of WSU’s Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, Karansher Sandhu is engaged in work that improves crops and products that are global food staples.

“I grew up on a farm,” in India’s northwestern state of Punjab, “and being a farm boy drove my interest to pursue a bachelor’s degree in agriculture.”

Sandhu majored in Plant Breeding and Genetics from Punjab Agricultural University, India, and made his way to WSU to continue his education, coming to WSU in the fall of 2017 to start on his doctorate directly after earning his undergraduate degree.

Karansher Sandhu
Karansher Sandhu

Sandhu’s academic work helped improve grain yields and nutritional quality in wheat, benefiting farmers and, ultimately, wheat-eating consumers.
Starting in 2022, Sandhu continues his work of discovery as a soybean product development scientist with Bayer Crop Sciences.

“With this, I will be taking the first step towards my early career development,” said Sandhu, who advises fellow students: “Always have a hunger to learn new things on your own, and from friends and professors.”

New Fruit Management grad Eric Barragan ready to assist apple, cherry industry

Eric Barragan
Eric Barragan, Fall 2021 Agricultural and Food Systems graduate.

A fall 2021 graduate in Agricultural and Food Systems, Eric Barragan plans to put his degree and experience in fruit and vegetable management to work to help apple and cherry growers.

“I was drawn into this field as a kid,” Barragan said. “I used to go to orchards to help my parents pick cherries. I enjoyed the environment, and grew a passion to learn more about farming.”

Hailing from central Washington, Barragan previously studied horticulture and tree fruit production at Wenatchee Valley College. He gained practical experience as an agricultural technician in Regional Extension Specialist Tianna Dupont’s lab at WSU’s Wenatchee Tree Fruit Research & Extension Center, where he scouted for integrated pest management efforts in pear orchards, identifying insect pests and beneficial predators, entered data, and drafted weekly reports for growers.

After graduation, Barragan will enter the workforce: “My goal is to help growers produce more fruit.”

Looking back on his college career, “I’ll always remember Cougar Football Saturdays,” Barragan said. “To my fellow Cougs, I’d say just continue to enjoy your time here. It goes by faster than you think.”

3rd gen Coug grad Dylan Hereford draws on hands-on, classroom experiences

Dylan Hereford

Graduating this month with a bachelor’s degree from WSU Animal Sciences and a focus on animal management, Dylan Hereford is a third-generation Cougar with deep WSU family roots.

“I was drawn to WSU for college,” said Hereford, whose mother, Julie Sovereign, and grandfather, Gerald Sovereign, attended the university before him.

Originally interested in pursuing veterinary studies, Hereford found animal management of dairy and beef cows “more in my wheelhouse.” Highlights of his college career include reproductive managment classes with Associate Professor Martin Maquivar, and experience in technical cattle reproduction classes.

His agricultural knowledge gives Hereford additional knowlege as he plans to enter the farm credit industry after graduation.

“For others pursuing my degree, some advice that I have is to gather all the hands-on experience that you can,” he said. “You’ll be glad for it later, once you’re able to relate it back to class. It honestly helps to be able to use it in your real life.”

’21 Ag Education grad bridges cultures, opens doors for Spanish speakers

Rodrigo Ascencio
Rodrigo Ascencio (right, with his wife Dana Ascencio), new graduate in Agricultural and Food Systems, helped Spanish speakers access ag-education lessons as a student teacher.

Fall 2021 Ag Education graduate Rodrigo Ascencio was drawn to agriculture by a happy accident.

Moving from El Salvador at age 7, Ascencio grew up in the United States. As a teen, he took a high school class on biotechnology.

“In my head, I thought it would be a class about bionic legs,” Ascencio said. “It turned out that it was an ag class, where we learned about the amazing world of agriculture.”

That science class sparked an interest that grew through college. Ascencio moved to the U.S., and enrolled at WSU, earning his bachelor’s degree this fall in Agricultural and Food Systems. He is now starting his career as an agricultural educator.

“It’s a necessity to teach people about agriculture and how much it matters to our everyday lives,” says Ascencio.

During his student teaching experience, Ascencio used his bilingual skills to adapt lessons for students who speak Spanish. This gave him valuable knowledge for his teaching career, and help make his future classroom a more welcoming, inclusive place.

“It’s always hard to communicate without knowing the language, and I hope to be a medium for those communities to communicate and succeed for the growth agriculture.”

In his own way, Ascencio has broadened the doors of agriculture thanks to his background and culture.

“I’ve had many students of color talk to me and saying how cool it was for them to have a teacher of color,” he said.

“As an immigrant to the United States and a first-generation college graduate, I believe it’s important to know that with hard work and dedication, you can better yourself and your future,” Ascencio said. “It might not be easy, but it is rewarding.”

Post-graduation, he will work at Pullman High School, and is excited to remain a part of the Pullman community.

“To other Cougs, I’ll say this: don’t get tunnel vision,” Ascencio said. “There’s a purpose for all the classes and all the paperwork. Be thankful for your teachers, they are there to help. Also, go Cougs!”

Different path leads fall grad Emily Takayoshi to Ag Education

Emily Takayoshi
Emily Takayoshi

Her path was different, but promising agricultural educator Emily Takayoshi found her way to success and graduation through WSU Agricultural and Food Systems.

“When I first came to WSU, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do,” said Takayoshi, who received her bachelor’s diploma Dec. 11, 2021.

Traditionally, WSU Agricultural Education majors follow a path from involvement in agricultural classes and ag involvement in high school.

But for Takayoshi, “it wasn’t until college, with a little help from my friends that pushed me in the Ag Ed direction, that I decided that this was what I wanted to do.” They encouraged her to sign up for the classes they were taking.

“I loved them,” and the more she learned about the profession, the more Takayoshi thought it was a great fit.

Ag education is needed, she says, “because it’s important to teach students how to be educated consumers and voters, as well as show them that there are careers in agriculture, from trade school all the way up to getting your doctorate. It’s also important for students to understand what agriculture truly is.”

The highlight of her college experience was “being on my own for the first time, surrounded by other students who were experiencing the same thing as me.”

Takayoshi is excited to be graduating this month. It’s been a long few years, with COVID happening for almost two.

“I would suggest to fellow Cougs to keep your Cougs close,” she said. “Being a WSU grad is a special thing, and we are all over the country. Wherever you end up, don’t be afraid to reach out to fellow Cougs for help.”

‘You have time’: Fall grad Abbi Prins finds opportunities on, beyond campus

Abbi Prins
Fall 2021 Animal Sciences graduate Abbi Prins continues her career in the dairy industry after college, an internship, and work experience.

Graduating this fall, Abbi Prins will build an already-launched career in the dairy industry after making a big impact at WSU as an Animal Sciences major and CAHNRS Ambassador.

Hailing from Tulare, Calif., Prins is passionate about dairy science and about helping fellow Cougs.

“Growing up, I always wanted to go to college and gain a higher education,” Prins said. “My passion has always been with dairy cattle, and I wanted to build upon the foundation that I had created through 4-H, FFA, and the State and National Holstein Associations.”

WSU Animal Sciences gave her opportunities to get involved in research, work a job, and gain hands-on experience with dairy, beef, sheep, and deer, diversifying her animal knowledge.

“The community aspect of college, especially at WSU and in CAHNRS, really drew me into the Animal Sciences program, and I knew I was going to be successful in my endeavors,” Prins said.

The highlight of her college experience was her role as a CAHNRS Ambassador. These students help peers and prospective Cougs learn about and maximize their college experience, and Prins served throughout her time at WSU, holding the president’s position for a year.

“The best moments were always meeting with prospective students, sharing my story and experiences in and outside of the classroom, then seeing them on campus as a WSU student a year later after their visit,” Prins said. “To have that level of impact on someone’s life is monumental, and to give back to new students was such a gift that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

After completing a dairy industry internship in 2020, she was hired and began her career for a year before returning to finish her final semester this past fall. That experience helped her focus her long-term career plans. Her goal is to gain real-world, production experience before pursuing an advanced degree; she plans to pursue a career in the dairy industry, working with calves in the Midwest.

“I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to network with faculty and peers in this area,” she said. “It’s not always what you know, but who you know; and I know that the relationships I have built at WSU will last a lifetime.

“It was worth the investment to learn in and beyond the classroom, and to push yourself to new limits,

Prins added. “I would have never imagined the opportunities that would be provided because I searched for them, and they opened doors I didn’t even know existed.”

Her awards in CAHNRS include Emerging Undergraduate Leader in Agricultural Sciences in 2020 and nomination for Outstanding Junior in Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences in 2021.

“Always have at least one back-up plan,” Prins advises fellow students. “You have time! There is time to find a job, a career path, and to network with those around you: you are not behind.”

CAHNRS alumna awarded for creating agriculture opportunities for students

CAHNRS alumna Jenica Nickels was awarded the Bridge Builder Award through Agriculture Future of America (AFA), a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing professional development, scholarships, and experiential opportunities to future leaders in the agriculture industry.

Nickels was initially selected as one of four finalists, then Bridge Builder Award at the AFA National Conference in November. She was recognized for her service in giving back to the organization and “building bridges” for students and community members throughout the northwest.

A group of people hold up a crimson WSU glad
CAHNRS Cougs Celebrating Jenica’s Win at the AFA Conference in November, 2021.

“I was very fortunate to be involved in this organization as a student, and now I have the opportunity to attend as an industry partner, AFA Alliance member, and AFA alumni member. It is an honor to be able to give back,” she said.

Nickels assists with application reviews for AFA Leader Conferences, serves as a guest speaker at AFA events, and partners with students to connect them to opportunities in the agriculture industry like career advice and mentoring.

“Our office nominated Jenica for this award because she has always been a person who builds bridges for our students to be connected to agriculture and AFA,” said Herbert William Lengel III, student services coordinator and advisor for CAHNRS Academic Programs.

Nickels and her husband, CAHNRS alumnus Brandon Nickels, created the Student Legacy Agriculture Future of America (AFA) Scholarship, which they continue to support each year.

“It is a goal of mine to try to give back to all of the organizations and individuals who invested in me as a student, and pay it forward to future leaders in the agricultural industry,” she said.



Latest Extension guides help drive irrigation, tree fruit decisions

Irrigation photoLeading WSU’s land-grant mission, scientists at Washington State University Extension share knowledge through online guides.

Aimed at Northwest agricultural producers, their latest publications include how-to guides on nutrient sprays for apples and cherries, a cost guide for pear growers, overviews on irrigation in several Washington counties as well as equipment to improve data-driven decisions, and more.

Overview of Irrigated Agriculture in Ferry County (TB78E)

Ferry County in northeastern Washington faces natural and socioeconomic challenges to agriculture and efficient irrigation. Data-driven irrigation management can improve irrigation efficiency and profit local agriculture. Intended for producers, agencies, and stakeholders, this overview is part of a series exploring irrigation system efficiency across five counties. Authors include Skagit County Extension faculty and scientists Don McMoran, Abdelmoneim Mohamed, Kate Seymour, and Sylvi Thorstenson; and Trevor Lane, Ferry County Extension Director.

Overview of Irrigated Agriculture in Lewis County (TB79E)

Part of a series exploring irrigation across several counties. Irrigation is an essential practice for profitable farm production in western Washington, given summer drought. Efficient irrigation system management can result in water and energy savings and increase profitability while minimizing environmental impacts. Authors are Don McMoran, Abdelmoneim Mohamed, Kate Seymour, Sylvi Thorstenson; and Gary Fredricks, director, Cowlitz County Extension.

Fall Nutrient Sprays in Tree Fruit (FS365E)

Carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen are the most important nutrients for tree fruit growth and development. Initial spring growth and early fruit development rely on reserves accumulated the previous season; fall nutrient management strategies help build those reserves in apples and cherries. This publication lays out considerations and how-to’s. Written by Bernardita Sallato, assistant professor and Tree Fruit Extension Specialist.

Using an Atmometer for Irrigation Scheduling in Eastern Washington (FS361E)

Good irrigation water management improves grower profitability and environmental water quality. Simple to use and relatively inexpensive, the atmometer captures local data and can help irrigators get the most out of their water. Written by R. Troy Peters, professor and Extension Irrigation Engineer, and Romulus Okwany, Soil and Water Engineering lecturer, Egerton University, Kenya.

Bacterial Canker in Washington Sweet Cherries (FS366E)

Bacterial canker in sweet cherries is caused by the bacterium Pseudomonas syringae, and is commonly associated with production areas that have wet, cold weather. Canker is a real problem for sweet cherry growers, who can learn to prevent and manage this disease by following these guidelines. Authors include Bernardita Sallato, assistant professor, Tree Fruit Extension, and Gary Grove, professor and Extension Plant Pathologist.

2020 Cost Estimates of Producing Bartlett Pears for Canning in Washington State (TB80E)

This general guide helps owners estimate costs of equipment, materials, supplies, and labor, as well as the ranges of price and yields at which canning pear production becomes a profitable enterprise. Authors include R. Karina Gallardo, professor and Extension Specialist, School of Economic Sciences, and Suzette Galinato, assistant director of the IMPACT Center.

See all recent WSU Extension Publications here.