Onward & Upward

Diana Esparza | Animal Sciences | Hermiston, OR | Senior

STEM Leaders Program Assistant, CAS Leadership Academy Fellow, EOP & CAMP Alumna, CAS Dean's List, and MANRRS Executive Member

First generation college student

A Whole New World

I grew up in Hermiston, Oregon and many people don’t know where that’s located until I mention the watermelons. Eastern Oregon is very dry and there isn’t much to do here. When I moved to Corvallis, I was presented with so many wonderful opportunities to go out and explore. I love visiting the ocean, hiking the mountains or just working out in my free time. An unusual thing about me is that I’m a big Disney fan so something I really enjoy doing every chance I get is visiting my favorite place on Earth: Disneyland. Some of the best memories I have with friends and family have been at Disneyland so, once this pandemic is over, I hope to be able to visit again soon.

True To Your Heart

I have always been a very compassionate and empathetic person, especially towards animals. I found myself with an instinct to look after and care for every animal my dad brought home. I was able to assist with nursing calves, vaccinating hens and roosters, and raising a number of animals such as geese, a pony, and my three dogs: Cinnamon, Snickers, and Beau. It occurred to me that perhaps I could do more than just care for the animals at home and pursue an Animal Sciences degree at Oregon State University. My freshman year I had plans of applying to vet school and pursuing a career in veterinary medicine, but now, as a fourth year, I’m looking at other options. I’m certain that working with animals, however that looks like in the future, is what I want to be doing. I hope to be an advocate for those who don’t have a voice by aiding and improving the lives of animals. I hope to contribute to society by educating communities on responsible pet ownership and ways they can decrease the number of stray animals.

Into The Unknown

Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, my BES internship at the Hermiston Agricultural Research and Extension Center (HAREC) was canceled this summer, which I was very sad about as I was really looking forward to taking part in the first internship of my undergraduate career. It involved looking at how various types of land management influenced native pollinator bees in Eastern Oregon and how we can maximize pollinator habitats to increase crop production. It was going to be a lot of hands-on work in both a field and laboratory setting.

Last spring, I was also accepted into the CAS exchange program with Wageningen University in the Netherlands for the first semester of the 2020-2021 school year. This was going to be the first year the CAS offered this exchange program with the Netherlands, so no one really knew what to expect. Because it was postponed this year, I’m hoping to study abroad next year during my fifth year and experience life abroad as a student. WU is big on agriculture, animal science, and research so it’s a great opportunity for me to take courses and potentially get involved in research.

Be Prepared

Being in CAMP (College Assistance Migrant Program) my freshman year opened up many opportunities for me such as learning about MANRRS (Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences). I was an officer my sophomore and junior year and, throughout my involvement with MANRRS, I created special bonds with the rest of the members, attended both regional and national conferences, and worked on developing myself both professionally and academically. Through MANRRS, I have found a family to lean on and an advisor that’s interested in helping me advance as a student.

The CAS Leadership Academy was another great opportunity I was a part of my junior year. In the academy we worked on personal and professional development with an emphasis on leadership. Working on my personal development plan throughout the year really showed me what areas I was lacking in and what could be done to change that. I worked closely with my mentor, Dr. Allison Davis-White Eyes, who remains a very dear friend to me, and she gave me insightful advice every time we met on what has worked for her and how she has dealt with her own adversities being a woman of color in academia. Through her connections, I was able to begin working with the OSU Stem Leaders Program as a program assistant, where I have been constantly learning from Stephanie Ramos, the program coordinator (who actually nominated me for Faces of AgSci!). To this day she continues to share her wisdom with me and has become someone I greatly admire and look up to.

How Far I'll Go 

Finding my confidence as a woman of color in STEM hasn’t always been easy. Like many, this has led to feelings of imposter syndrome that, to this day, I’m learning to overcome. Having a support system has been the best way I have learned to tackle this issue. Some useful resources I have turned to are getting advice from mentors, using CAPS (Counseling & Psychological Services), and getting involved with campus organizations. I look back at how far I have come and am reminded of how capable I am of achieving anything I set my mind to. Although this year was especially difficult with COVID-19 and having both my internship and study abroad canceled, I’m remaining positive and hopeful for next year.

Try Everything

My sophomore year I had the opportunity to work as a research assistant at the OSU Dairy Center. I assisted two graduate students by collecting milk, feces, and urine samples as well as observing cattle behavior. I had never worked so closely with cattle before, but I quickly learned how to handle and move a herd by myself. I learned a lot from the graduate students on animal nutrition, differentiating pastures, handling cattle, and teamwork. It was a great learning experience that I found through my academic advisor, Dodi Reesman. She’s been supportive and helpful throughout my entire college career and has always made sure I’m confident in myself and my abilities. Working as a research assistant gave me the confidence to get out of my comfort zone and try something I had never done before. Through this process I created meaningful connections and became more knowledgeable in an area I wasn’t very familiar with. I’m an introvert who is often hesitant to take risks, so when I was presented with opportunities like this in the past, I tended to walk away from them. I’ve since learned that, in order to grow as a professional, I have to break out of my shell and really explore what’s out there.

Go The Distance

I would advise incoming students to not sweat the small stuff. Life usually pans out the way you want it to in the end. Not every exam is meant to be passed or every paper you write is meant to be flawless. You learn along the way and it’s a continuous process of trial and error. You have to learn to not give up when things get tough and always know there are people out there ready to help you if you need it. Life isn’t over if you’re unsure of what career you want to pursue because you have your entire life to figure that out. Don't put so much pressure on yourself!