Endless opportunities await CPP graduates

By Lann Nguyen, May 14, 2024

Tania Roa, a CPP class of 2018 graduate, studied psychology with a minor in animal science. She is now working as the communication and outreach coordinator for Sustainable Harvest International, a nonprofit organization that supports family farmers in Central America transitioning to regenerative agriculture. 

Throughout her time at CPP, Roa took several different classes and applied for scholarships. She eventually was accepted into the McNair Scholars Program, which helped her develop the skills necessary for graduate school. 

During the program, she was mentored by Aubrey Fine, a professor of education and integrative studies as well as Winny Dong, a chemical and materials engineering professor.

“International policies are hurting these people in Central America, and that’s why they’re migrating to the U.S.,” said Roa. “So, if we just support their communities then in turn, we are supporting America.” 

Currently Roa’s position at SHI include communication outreach and coordinating events and creating opportunities to spread the message of the importance of sustainable agriculture on social media and blogs. 

One goal that she strives to achieve everyday at her job is how to get people to care about regenerative farming which she does through sharing success stories of the farmers who have gone through the program with SHI. 

These farmers who transitioned from using chemicals to spray their farms and destructive practices to a new regenerative approach that’s good for environment are the success stories. 

Roa made strides working with dogs and children for a project surrounding children reading to dogs in an after-school program in order to ease children’s anxiety with reading. This experience shed light on the human and animal relationship for Roa, which eventually led her to see the connection between humans, animals and the land. Starting with the process of growing food — which everyone needs to survive — is where her focus is now.

“The values I learned at CPP come up every day in the most unexpected ways,” said Roa. 

Tania Roa in the Japanese Garden posing for photos as a graduate in 2018 | Photos courtesy of Erica Roa

Although she did not study agriculture during her undergraduate years, seeing the cows, horses and features of farmland around campus stuck with Roa and piqued her interest in agriculture. This yearning for knowledge led to a career path where her expertise in psychology and animal science connected to the agricultural industry. People are reliant on similar entities like food, nourishment and human connection, so Roa made the decision to apply her passion to helping farmers grow sustainable crops. 

Roa realized the hands-on learning she experienced at CPP set her up for success after graduation in many ways, including being open to continually learning for life. Her career path has transitioned to different roles throughout the years, and she credits this to her openness to trying new things, which she exhibited at CPP.

“She was a student that thrived and had a vision,” said Fine. “Roa’s very curious about humans and animals, in this case how nature connects so she learned a little bit about biophilia in one of our classes as an innate interest by humans to be connected to the natural environment. So that’s sort of a precursor to what she’s doing today. She’s very committed to human-animal bonds and very concerned about our relationships, not only with animals but also the environment.” 

Looking back to when Roa was a student at CPP, Fine remembers her as a hardworking student who always asked questions and wanted to learn more. The extra effort she put into her assignments, projects and genuine curiosity opened many doors.

Roa inquired about taking an upper-level class that was advanced for her as a freshman and her devotion to being an advocate for herself convinced Fine to add her to his animal-human bonding class in the College of Education and Integrative Studies. She excelled and continued to work closely with Fine on projects, including a baby shower for a foal born at CPP named CP Metropolitan.

“Roa always giggled and said, ‘who would have thought how neat it was to be in a class where she had that very unique experience of making a cake for a horse and planning games for the baby shower,’” said Fine. 

School is a place to learn from mistakes, make connections and gain lifelong mentors, which is exactly what Roa did. She keeps in touch with Fine every year to update him as her career progresses.

Roa attended Tufts University in Massachusetts to pursue her degree in animals and public policy after taking a gap year to further explore her options. 

“I want students to recognize what they have just accomplished is a milestone and it’s not only important to them, but also to their families, to others that they may influence down the road,” said Fine. “It’s the beginning or for some it might be the next step. It is something that we put together and it’s nice that Tania seems to be doing quite well in her work, taking on missions that she wants to talk about things and for people to know that this is important and to me that’s just wonderful.” 

Dong was the director of the McNair Scholars Program in 2017 when Roa worked closely with the other McNair scholars.

“Cal Poly gave me the space to explore what I wanted rather than what people told me I should want my entire life,” said Roa. “Ever since, I have paved my own path and I’ve found my niche in the agricultural space utilizing my passion for humans and animals in connection with the environment.” 

Going forward to the next chapter in life after college, it’s important to remember that students know more than they think, according to Dong. 

“In college, if all you do is go to classes, it’s like looking only at the entree section of the menu, then you’re missing out on all the desserts and drinks and appetizers just like if you don’t participate in extracurricular activities,” said Dong. 

Roa is pursuing her passion by helping farmers learn more sustainable methods of growing crops that will benefit the land instead of destroying it.

Her career is on a steady path to fulfilling her passions and helping others. 

CPP helped Roa grow and build the knowledge she needed to get where she is now and she is constantly learning, crediting her strong foundation in CPP’s “learn by doing” approach. 

“It’s important to remember to make a life, not a living,” said Fine.

Feature Image courtesy of Tania Roa 

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