Alumni Highlights

Couples Edition - Travis and Helen Vazquez '18

Travis and Helen met their freshman year in their dorm, Fremont, which at the time was the agricultural dorm. They soon realized that they had a lot in common and that they were studying in the same department - BRAE, where Travis was majoring in BRAE, and Helen in ASM. Travis and Helen started dating their freshman year and were both involved in the Ag Engineering Society together during their time at Cal Poly. Their senior year, Travis and Helen got to work on the same senior capstone project together, designing and building a mechanical olive harvester. Travis and Helen got married in June 2019 and they were both fortunate to get jobs on the Central Coast and currently reside in Grover Beach.

Travis Vazquez

What Travis is Doing Now:

Engineer for the Cal Poly Irrigation Training and Research Center (ITRC).

As an engineer for the Cal Poly ITRC, Travis has been involved primarily in developing modernization plans for irrigation districts throughout the western United States. Two of his recent projects have been for the Colorado River Indian Irrigation Project in Arizona and the Crow Indian Irrigation Project in Montana. Developing the modernization plans involves land surveying, various design work, and communication with district staff to identify problems and create long term solutions.

Why Travis Recommends BRAE:

The BRAE program was a fantastic experience for me. The hands-on experience that is gained through the labs and projects develops a better understanding for what is taught in the classroom. The tight-knit community between the students, faculty, and staff creates a more enjoyable experience and fosters an environment where students push each other to be the best they can be. Now that I work for the Cal Poly ITRC and am involved with contracts for irrigation districts throughout the West, I understand how well-respected the irrigation faculty and program are in the industry. Many of the leaders in the water industry are BRAE graduates themselves. The water classes are tailored to solve practical, real world design problems and teach concepts that most civil engineering programs do not. Overall, BRAE produces well-rounded students as proven by the variety of industries that BRAE graduates are working in.

Helen Barnes Vazquez

What Helen is Doing Now:

Packaging Manager for Gold Coast Packing

In 2018, Helen graduated with a BS in Agricultural Systems Management and a minor in Agribusiness. In the BRAE Department, she was involved in the Ag Engineering Society and served as President her senior year. In 2020, she completed her MBA from Cal Poly in the Orfalea College of Business.  Helen feels fortunate to have gotten a job through Ag Showcase and is very thankful to live on the Central Coast.

Helen is the Packaging Manager at Gold Coast Packing, a value-added vegetable grower, shipper, and packer located in Santa Maria. In this role, she procures packaging materials and supplies for Gold Coast’s produce as well as manages packaging inventory levels. Helen negotiates pricing from over 25 suppliers of corrugate, plastic film, pre-made bags, labels, and salad components. Another large aspect of her job is that she serves as a core member of the Product Development and Innovations Team, where products are brought from ideation to commercialization in sectors ranging from foodservice to retail to industrial food processors. The team works on everything from generating ideas, cooking and sampling recipes, seeking potential customers for new products, developing packaging, conducting shelf life studies through modified atmosphere, and marketing these new items. Helen assisted in the development and currently manages the internal database of all product information – over 350 unique SKUs and their relevant information pertaining to sales, quality assurance, packaging, and production. Her favorite part of her job is that every day is different and unique. Being that Gold Coast Packing is vertically integrated, she gets to be involved with so many aspects of this fresh cut, value added veggie company!

Why Helen Recommends BRAE:

I chose to study Ag Systems Management because I had a love for the ag industry, liked math, and liked business. It was also the same major that my father studied when he attended Cal Poly. I recommend the department because of the unique experience that you will gain there. The BRAE department teaches its students a wide variety of skills and knowledge, applicable to many fields. Your classes will range in topics from mechanical engineering to electrical to civil to renewable energy to project management to irrigation and more. The clubs, faculty, and other students that you encounter within your time at BRAE will also instill values that go beyond the classroom to prepare you for your future career.

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