Family Farming Heritage Inspires Student’s Passion for Agriculture

Alyssa Arias
Alyssa Arias

With a deep-rooted interest in farming, first-generation college student Alyssa Arias is determined to make a meaningful impact in the agriculture industry and empower rural communities around the globe. This fall, Arias began her second year at UC Davis majoring in international agricultural development.

Growing up in Julian, a small town in San Diego County, Arias participated in Future Farmers of America (FFA) while in high school and enjoyed spending time outdoors. She also learned about farming from her family, as her grandmother operates a coffee farm in Mexico and her grandfather grows several crops, including watermelon, cucumbers, squash and corn, on a farm in California. Her ties to agriculture inspired her academic journey at UC Davis.

“Being surrounded by all of that made me really interested in UC Davis,” Arias said. “I’m really interested in plant science, but I’m also interested in how plant science and agriculture effect rural communities and people around them.”

Arias is the recipient of the “William and Charlotte Lider” scholarship, awarded to an undergraduate in one of the majors in the Department of Plant Sciences, and the “2nd Lieutenant Warren R. Salz Memorial Scholarship,” awarded to a student pursuing an agricultural major. For Arias, these scholarships meant she could make her dream of going to college a reality.

“Those scholarships have really helped me; without that financial aid, I don’t think I would be here,” she said. “It’s so important.”

One of her favorite activities at UC Davis is being a member of Aggie Ambassadors, a group of student leaders who join events and workshops and help promote the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CA&ES). Arias said it’s been a fun experience, especially when she helped coordinate an event for the annual Field Day, hosted by CA&ES, where FFA and 4-H students come to campus and compete in agriculturally based contests.

She also enjoyed volunteering at the UC Davis Student Farm as part of a course she took on organic crop production and practices.

“I loved it,” she exclaimed. “That was one of my favorite classes here at Davis so far, and I plan to volunteer again this fall. The farm is such a welcoming place, and I really like it.”

Alyssa Arias and Dean Helene Dillard
Alyssa Arias and Dean Helene Dillard


Arias recalled a memorable experience that has helped guide her as she prepares for her future career. A shared moment while shadowing CA&ES Dean Helene Dillard taught her that is it okay to not be perfect and that even deans struggled with challenging courses.

“Dean Dillard really motivated me, she said, ‘It’s ok, it’s all worth it in the end,’” Arias explained. “She made me feel better about not being perfect in a class, but learning what you can and doing your best. And I’m trying to do my best.”