A select group of undergraduate agriculture students at California State University, Fresno is getting exposure to lessons in leadership and advocacy through participation in the Bill Jones Leadership Development Program in the College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology.

The program, which began in January 2007, brings 19 students together for training as future leaders in the agricultural industry.

“Comprehensive leadership skills are needed now more than ever and the need will continue to increase,” said Dr. Michael Thomas, faculty adviser for the program. “An important component of this program is the leadership training and having an understanding of global issues.”

Students meet weekly to hear directly from local and state leaders about their experiences on leadership within the agricultural industry. Jones, a Fresno State alumnus with a degree in agricultural business, will speak to the group on Tuesday, Sept. 18.

Last semester, the inaugural class of 12 students primarily centered their discussions on global leadership, while gaining an insight to compromise and the decision-making process. Seven of those students also had the opportunity to attend a week-long international study program, which was a part of the Salzburg Global Seminar in Salzburg, Austria.

Designed for American undergraduates and faculty, the seminar provided an intensive international experience for students to explore issues of worldwide concern and to view them from a perspective both literally and figuratively outside the borders of the United States. Students also developed the tools to be more discerning in their assessment of information pertaining to world affairs and to understand what it means to be a “global citizen.”

“As our workforce changes, so does the need of interaction between global partners. This increases the need for global awareness, which will also increase the complexity of leadership skills required today,” said Thomas. “Our goal with the program is to implement and establish a strong foundation to help agricultural leaders grow so they can effectively advocate on behalf of the agriculture industry.”

The Ag One Foundation and the College of Agricultural and Sciences and Technology honored Jones, a former Secretary of State, in 2003 for his 20 years of service to California. Money raised from the gala tribute established the program’s endowment with the intention of providing educational opportunities for the development of future leaders.

Jones, who grew up in a farm family in Mendota, began his elected career by serving in the State Assembly for 12 years. He was later elected to serve as Secretary of State in 1994 and was re-elected in 1998. However, his political experience began long before his time up in Sacramento. While pursuing a degree in agricultural business at Fresno State, Jones served as student body president in 1970-71.

A generous gift from the late Merced farmer Elmo Giampaoli, who received his B.A. in business administration from Fresno State in 1958, provides additional support for the leadership program through the Ag One – Elmo Giampaoli Visiting Scholar program.

For more information about the Jones leadership program, contact Dr. Sandra Witte at 559.278.2061.

The 2007-08 leadership students are:

Elisa Andrade of Fresno, Kristen Avinelis of Kerman, Caili Beebe of Hollister, Beatriz Campuzano and Natalie Ryan of Bakersfield, Estefania Fernandez of Riverdale, Gloria Frazier of Makaha, Hiwaii; Jessica Gomez of Woodland, Amanda Grumbles of Kingsburg, Laura Henson of Sanger, Megan Jacobsen of Easton, Aimee Meidinger of Lockeford, Jackie Mundt of Pittsville, Wisc.; Jimmy Pierce of Orcutt, Nichole Richardson of Glennville, Jaclyn Rogina of Merced, Joel Saldaňa of Firebaugh, Jessica Sweeten of Hilmar, and Anthony Thomas of Topeka, Kan.

(Copy by University Communications student-intern Megan Jacobsen.)