Impactful Leadership for Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology

By: Sharon Freeman, Dr. Rosco Vaughn, Dr. Steven Rocca, Dr. Art Parham and Dr. Avery Culbertso

Dr. Dennis Nef recently returned to the Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology (JCAST) at California State University, Fresno. Dr. Nef began serving as Dean of the Jordan College in July of 2019 and has already positively impacted our students, faculty and staff.  He has spent over 35 years on the Fresno State campus and has held multiple leadership positions including vice provost, associate vice president, dean of undergraduate studies, associate dean of the college of agriculture and as a faculty member and chair of the Agricultural Business Department. We are extremely fortunate to have his leadership once again within JCAST.  

Dr. Dennis Nef began his education at Brigham Young University, earning a B.S. Degree in Business Administration in 1975. He completed his M.S. in Agricultural Economics at Utah State University in 1979 and his Ph.D in Agricultural Economics at Iowa State University in 1983. His educational background and years of leadership experience have prepared him to achieve his current goals of reducing the number of students who fail to finish, improving graduation rates and broadening the impact of the Jordan College on the community, region and country. An additional goal that Dean Nef has for JCAST is to implement a long-term plan to improve the sustainability of the University Agricultural Laboratory (UAL) enterprises on our school farm. As part of this plan, the University Foundation provided a grant to plant 36 acres of almonds, which is the first of four plantings that will provide additional resources to invest in and strengthen the UAL in the future. Dr. Nef hopes that as these plantings bear fruit, the Jordan College will be in a stronger position to educate the rising generation and positively impact the food and agricultural sector. As Dean Nef stated in his article printed in the Fresno State News, “the University Agricultural Laboratory is one of our jewels.” He, along with many community members, recognized Fowler Packing and the Parnagian family for raising over a million dollars that will be used to create an endowment for the UAL. His efforts to maintain our teaching laboratories on the school farm are very much appreciated.

Within our Animal Sciences and Agricultural Education Department, Dean Nef has been supportive of our efforts to serve increasing numbers of students. He is a very compassionate leader, a great communicator, and genuinely cares for the well-being of our programs. We are on track to have 30 plus student teachers next year to complete the credentialing program. In addition, we will be implementing a new leadership program in the fall of 2020 to provide valuable leadership training and international experiences for selected undergraduate students.  Recently, Dean Nef provided a welcome for FFA members attending the State Finals Citrus and Vine Pruning Contests held on campus. As he was speaking, Jennifer Downs, an agriculture teacher at Bakersfield Foothill stated, “he is the reason that I finished my degree in Agricultural Business!” She continued to explain that Dr. Nef was one of her agriculture economics professors and that he had taken time to encourage her to hang in there and complete her B.S. Degree.

We believe that Dean Nef is “a major reason” that the Jordan College will continue to grow and prosper. We are extremely appreciative to have his leadership, support, and guidance as we strive to prepare the agriculture leaders of the future.

For more information about the California Agricultural Teachers’ Association, visit

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