Ioannis Toutountzis, MS in Plant Science
What has been your Fresno State Experience?
As both undergraduate and graduate student, it has been a wonderful experience so far. In addition to expanding my horizons and gaining valuable in depth knowledge in the classroom, I had the opportunity to work with experts in the field of Plant Science/Viticulture and make friends for life not only from the university, but also from the Fresno/Clovis community.
Why did you choose Fresno State?
I came to Fresno State in 2003 as a transfer international student from Greece. At that time I chose the specific university mainly because of the affordable tuition and fees, the solid viticulture program and the opportunity I had to work in parallel with my classes as a student assistant in the field of interest. Lets don't forget also that California's Central Valley is known worldwide for the research and innovation in agriculture and Fresno State plays a major role on that. After the three years as an undergraduate student, Fresno State became a home away from home for me and thus the decision to pursue an advanced degree at the same institution was not a difficult to take.
What is the benefit of attending Fresno State?
There are many benefits of attending Fresno State in general and the College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology in particular. First of all, our College is one of the leaders in agricultural education, research and innovation in California and thus there are always career positions for the graduates in a competitive job market. In addition, even at a graduate level, students have the opportunity to gain 'hands on' experience through applied research that aims to improve production agriculture. Finally, Fresno is an ideal city to be a student as it is affordable to live, the community is friendly, and you can find pretty much everything from shopping to entertainment. I even like that it is flat, so I can easily ride my bike.
How are you funding your graduate program?
For tuition purposes I am still considered an international student, which means significantly more expensive cost of education. However, I have financial support from the Department of Plant Science in the form of scholarships. In addition, I was honored to receive prestigious awards from the Division of Graduate Studies such as the President's Graduate Fellowship and the Provost's Graduate Scholarship for two consecutive years, as well as the Research Merit Award. I should mention here the importance of the nomination for there awards from my Thesis Committee Members, especially Dr. Sharon Benes who serves as the Committee Chair and has been very supportive every step of the way.
What tips do you have for prospective students?
It is imperative that prospective graduate students join the program with as clear as possible research interests and the desire to investigate in detail the topic they choose. They should not forget that their research project mainly will keep them busy for the next two years, so it will be much better if they like it. In addition, prospective graduate students should anticipate a more interactive, one-to-one learning process in which their contribution is equally important. Moreover, graduate students although they work close with their advisor(s), they are primarily responsible for the execution of their research, the collection of the data and the interpretation of the results. This involves an increased individual workload for which the students should be prepared. A good understanding of the tasks to be completed is helpful here, as well as a clearly defined plan of action and timetable. Above all, it is important to know that once in the program the student needs to stay focused, follow deadlines and seek frequently for feedback from the faculty involved. In that way delays and unnecessary work can be avoided. And please do not forget the numerous seminars and workshops that are very helpful, the almost brand new library (I will miss that!), the state of the art recreation center (because graduate studies is not just studying) and the wealth of events/extracurricular activities for personal development. I guess what I am trying to say is that please, please take advantage of all the tools are given to you from our university. It is indeed an exciting time to be a graduate student at Fresno State.