Get answers to your questions from industry insiders

qmDo you have questions about Cal Poly’s MPS in Dairy Products Technology program? Do you wonder where it might lead you? If so, you’re not alone.

Choosing the right graduate program is an important decision that can help set the trajectory of your career and the course of your life.

Our program benefits from the guidance of high-level executives from the dairy processing industry’s leading companies. Our industry advisors have offered to speak with you by phone and answer all of your questions about the the program and the industry. They can also help you understand the shape your career might take should you choose this path.

Interested? Please send me a note and ask to be connected with an industry expert.  I can also connect you with current students.

I can be reached anytime at or (970) 215-3459.

I’m looking forward to seeing your application!

– Tom Johnson, MPS Program Manager

San Luis Obispo in Pictures

farmers market
The downtown farmers market takes place every Thursday in San Luis Obispo.

My blog posts generally talk about the MPS program, the dairy industry, leadership concepts, and occasionally ice cream. I’ve largely ignored one of the best reasons to join us at Cal Poly – the setting.

Our university resides in San Luis Obispo, a picturesque town located halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles. We’re five miles inland along the Central Coast – arguably one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in North America.

Montana de Oro State Park

Visitors are often surprised that a town like San Luis Obispo exists in California. They think of the state’s coasts as being lined with large cities and crowded beaches.

There are no crowds here. We’re a small but bustling town of 50,000 residents tucked a few miles inland and surrounded by agricultural land. Much of that land is planted with grapes. In fact, San Luis Obispo County is home to nearly 300 wineries, including some of the nation’s best.

Cropland fills the valleys, while the hills are dotted with California’s uniquely spaced coast live oak woodlands. The forests are home to deer, bears, mountain lions, wild turkeys, and other wildlife.

Nearby Morro Bay at sunset. The bay is home to large numbers of sea lions and otters.

So here are a few photos of the area, recently snapped on my iphone. And believe me: the phone pictures don’t do justice to the scenery!

San Luis Obispo County is home to nearly 300 wineries.

I’ll share some photos of the campus soon.




Seven Traits Frequently Exhibited by Leaders

Seven traits frequently exhibited by leaders (from

  • Empathy: Creating a legitimate rapport with your staff makes it less likely that personal issues and resentment can creep in and derail the group. When your team knows that you are empathetic to their concerns, they will be more likely to work with you and share in your vision, rather than foster negative feelings.
  • Consistency: Being a consistent leader will gain you respect and credibility, which is essential to getting buy-in from the group. By setting an example of fairness and credibility, the team will want to act the same way.
  • Honesty: Another characteristic of leadership that lends itself to credibility. Those who are honest, especially about concerns, make it far more likely that obstacles will be addressed rather than avoided. Honesty also allows for better assessment and growth.
  • Direction: Having the vision to break out of the norm and aim for great things –then the wherewithal to set the steps necessary to get there– is an essential characteristic of good leadership. By seeing what can be and managing the goals on how to get there, a good leader can create impressive change.
  • Communication: Effective communication helps keep the team working on the right projects with the right attitude. If you communicate effectively about expectations, issues and advice, your staff will be more likely to react and meet your goals.
  • Flexibility: Not every problem demands the same solution. By being flexible to new ideas and open-minded enough to consider them, you increase the likelihood that you will find the best possible answer. You will set a good example for your team and reward good ideas.
  • Conviction: A strong vision and the willingness to see it through is one of the most important characterizes of leadership. The leader who believes in the mission and works toward it will be an inspiration and a resource to their followers.

Ice Cream at Every Stop!

wisc ice cream
Frozen treats from Babcock Hall Dairy Store at University of Wisconsin

One of the unique perks of my job is getting to stop by the ice cream shop at nearly every campus I visit.

Just this past week, I visited the Aggie Ice Cream Shop at Utah State University; Babcock Hall Dairy Store at University of Wisconsin; the Clemson University Store; and the Dairy Store at Michigan State.

msu ice cream
Kicking back at the Michigan State University Dairy Store

Each store has its own identity. MSU features flavors representing the school colors of every school in the Big Ten Conference (which contains 14 schools – go figure). There’s Berry Badger Cheesecake, Buckeye Blitz, Gopher Smore, etc. Professor Partridge, the advisor to the MSU Dairy Foods Complex, was kind enough to treat me to two scoops.

Utah State is all about the Aggie Blue Mint – a mint flavored ice cream lightly tinted blue with cookie pieces and white chocolate chunks. Director Don McMahon treated me to a gargantuan cone before I hit the road.

Clemson’s Johnny McGregor tells me the Clemson store is run entirely by students. They create the budget, make make the ice cream, perform daily functions, and run the entire operation as a sustainable business.

The question everyone keeps asking: which university has the best ice cream?

I’ll never tell. You’l have to find out for yourself!


How to present the story behind your story

As I tour the country promoting the MPS program, I am continually amazed by the backgrounds, experiences, and challenges faced by the students I meet.

Some students work multiple jobs throughout their college years out of financial necessity. Some overcome family hardships. Others wrack up large amounts of student debt. These realities can affect a student’s academic performance.

This raises the question: how do we compare students when evaluating them for admission to the MPS program? Who is the better candidate: the student with a 2.8 GPA who worked 20 hours a week and led a work group in her lab? Or the student with a 3.8 GPA who has less practical experience or adversity?

In the MPS program, we value academic excellence. We also place value on student experiences that show personal responsibility, motivation, and leadership.

If you’re  struggling with how to communicate the story behind your story, feel free to contact me. I may be able to help you formulate the compelling narrative that ensures your application gets the look it deserves.

Call me at (970) 215-3459 to discuss!

– Tom Johnson, MPS Program Manager