Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Events

CAFES organizes events throughout the year focused on diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. These events are designed to bring together people from across the college, campus and community to celebrate diversity and inclusion, learn from each other, and engage in meaningful dialogue.

Aspire to Grow 2024

Cultivating Tomorrow’s Leaders: Diversity and Innovation in Food and Agriculture 

The sixth-annual Aspire to Grow Conference explores innovation in the food, agriculture and natural resource sectors. The symposium focused on the role diversity of thought and experience plays in achieving this.

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

View conference recording here.

Student co-chairs:

  • Sofia Reyes Parra, agricultural business major   
  • Andrew Tinoco, plant sciences major 


Andrew J. ThulinMonica Chacòn-Baucke 

Senior Strategic Inclusion Manager, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion // Nutrien 

Monica Chacòn-Baucke joined Nutrien in 2023, bringing over two decades of experience in a variety of fields. In her role as a senior strategic inclusion manager, she works to champion and advance Nutrien’s impact on those aspiring to carve a niche in the dynamic agriculture industry. As the world’s largest provider of crop inputs and services, Nutrien is on a mission to sustain generations to come in alignment with the company’s Purpose – “Feeding the future.” The future of agriculture is multifaceted, offering diverse career paths. 

She has crafted a purpose-driven, human-centered, holistic approach based on her experience in communications, DEI, change management, relationship building, and human resources. Her unwavering commitment is centered on collaboratively creating inclusive environments that foster innovation and engagement, laying the groundwork for substantial growth and continuous innovation. 

Chacòn-Baucke’s career has been a tapestry woven from diverse experiences, all connected by a common thread of providing equity, resources and access to people. Her professional background includes work in the semiconductor industry, training and development, nonprofits, government, educational foundational boards and agriculture.  

Beyond her professional achievements, she brings her personal experience to her work. A Latina born in a small town in Arizona, she is the first female in her family to obtain a college education. Having lived abroad in Japan, raised two children - born with bilateral clubbed foot and dyslexia – and a breast cancer survivor, she values resilience in herself and others. Her advocacy extends to authentically showing up wherever she is invited, striving to make a positive impact on others.


Andrew J. ThulinGina Bella Colfer  

Sustainable Solutions Manager // Wilbur-Ellis  

Gina Bella Colfer grew up on a family farm and was very involved in 4-H, which taught her a myriad of skills to prepare her for a life in production agriculture, which were furthered at Cal Poly where she earned a bachelor’s degree in crop science. After college she went to work on the Central Coast of California as a Pest Control Advisor (PCA) and then a Certified Crop Advisor (CCA), consulting on pest control and fertility management on leafy greens and mixed vegetables. Her career has been shaped by the people she has worked with over the years and the boots on the ground experience she has gained by being involved in all aspects of vegetable farming, with a concentration in organic practices. She is now continuing her work as the sustainability solutions agronomist at Wilbur Ellis, which entails working with crop protection and fertilizer manufacturers and growers who are dedicated to sustainability and increasing biodiversity above and below ground by implementing a whole systems approach. She is dedicated to the continual improvement of organic, regenerative and sustainable agriculture and efficacies and efficiencies for crop inputs and technologies for a sustainable farming future.    


Andrew J. ThulinJonnalee Dunn  

Growth and Development Manager // Henderson Farms, Inc. 

Jonnalee Dunn is the growth and development Manager at Henderson Farms, Inc., where she helps equip employees to carry out the core values of the company and develop life-long skills for deeper engagement at work and in the community. She and her husband also own 120 acres of almonds in Colusa County. After graduating from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural business and a minor in agricultural communications, she worked for four years as a policy analyst at the California Department of Food and Agriculture. She is a graduate of the California Agricultural Leadership Program, the California Water Leaders Program and a past board member of the Colusa County Farm Bureau and the Dunnigan Water District.  


Andrew J. ThulinRob Goff 

Vice President, West Valley Farming and Research & Development // Wonderful Orchards 

Rob Goff has been involved with production agriculture for over 16 years and currently manages the farming operations on approximately 19,000 acres of almonds, pistachios and pomegranates. His areas of responsibility include oversight of the harvest of 42,000 acres of pistachios, as well as the research and development (R&D) department and field operations teams for Wonderful Orchards. Previously, he worked in the forestry and natural resources consulting industry for about six years before transitioning to crop production. He also stays involved with multiple industry and community related boards and committees and is a licensed pest control advisor (PCA), qualified applicator and certified crop advisor (CCA). Goff earned a degree in Forestry and Natural Resources Management from Cal Poly.  


Andrew J. ThulinJoelle Mosso 

Vice President, Science Programs // Western Growers Association 

Joelle Mosso is an entrepreneurial scientist with a passion for pathogenic food microbiology, risk assessment and working towards practical solutions for the food industry. She currently is the Western Growers Association’s vice president of Science Programs, working alongside growers to develop improved approaches to food safety and sustainability challenges. She has a background in quantitative microbial risk assessment (QMRA), building microbial testing laboratories, evaluating and designing microbial diagnostic tools/approaches, and firsthand produce experience, managing food safety for complex international supply chains. Before joining Western Growers, she was senior director of technical and regulatory affairs for the Organic Trade Association (OTA), chief scientific officer for Eurofins Produce, and held food safety and business leadership roles at Earthbound Farm and Olam Spice & Vegetable Ingredients. Mosso has served on numerous industry technical groups including the Center for Produce Safety Technical Committee, the International Fresh Produce Association (IFPA) Food Safety Council, USDA National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods (NACMCF), and the USDA National Organic Standards Board (NOSB).  She earned a bachelor’s degree in microbiology with honors in molecular biology from the University of Maryland and a master’s degree in food science focused on pathogenic food microbiology from the University of California, Davis. 


Andrew J. ThulinKatie Tougeron

Asia Regional Business Manager, Global Launch Manager // Valent BioSciences

Katie Tougeron is currently the Asia Regional Manager, Global Launch Manager for Valent BioSciences, the global biological HQ for Sumitomo Chemical, a global leader in the research, development, and commercialization of highly effective, low-risk, and environmentally compatible technologies and products for agriculture, public health, and forest health. Previously she held roles within the Sumitomo Chemical family of companies at Valent USA and Sumitomo Chemical Agrosolutions Division International -Tokyo, SePRO Corporation and Plant Protection Sciences. She earned a bachelor's degree in ornamental horticulture with a minor in land rehabilitation from Cal Poly.


Andrew J. ThulinBlong Xiong 

State Executive Director // U.S. Department of Agriculture, Farm Service Agency 

Blong Xiong was appointed by the Biden Administration to serve as the state executive director of the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) in California in January 2022. Prior to his appointment, Xiong served as the executive director for the Asian Business Institute and Resource Center (ABIRC), a nonprofit that provides technical assistance to and advocacy for over 250 small/micro, underserved agricultural producers in the Central Valley and northern California. During the Pandemic, ABIRC collaborated with other agencies to bring equitable services, philanthropic and American Rescue Plan Act funds from local, state and federal programs, and culturally competent technical assistance to address cultural, language and technological issues. Xiong served two terms as a council member for the Fresno City Council, where he was the first elected Hmong council member in the state and the first Asian council member in the city of Fresno. Xiong also served as the deputy director for The Fresno Center, formerly known as the Fresno Center for New Americans. He has served on several commissions and boards including the Asian Pacific Islander Commission, California Volunteer Commission, Insurance Diversity Board, and the Valley Small Business Development Corp. Xiong earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Marian College of Fond du Lac and a master’s degree in business administration from National University. He was born in Xieng Khouang, Laos and came to the U.S. in 1976 with Hmong refugees impacted by the Vietnam War (Secret War).  




Click here to learn about prior Aspire to Grow conferences.

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