Recent Updates

San Luis Obispo Among Most Beautiful College Towns

Posted on February 17, 2017 by

Due to its proximity to the Pacific Ocean, San Luis Obispo enjoys a Mediterranean climate and pleasant temperatures year round.

San Luis Obispo, home to Cal Poly, has been named one of the Five Most Beautiful College Towns in America by the website Travelers Today.

The ranking, which was published last week, reminds readers that studying at a fantastic university set in a friendly and accommodating college town can tip the scales in favor of an unforgettable college experience.

“Choosing where to go to college is a major step,” says writer Sheobi Anne Ramos. “The options are diverse in the US. But when considering the university you’ll spend the next four years in, you should also take into account the town it inhabits.”

Downtown San Luis Obispo is home to numerous restaurants and one of the country’s best farmers markets.

Ramos highlighted San Luis Obispo’s relative spaciousness and access to outdoor recreation. “Home to California Polytechnic State University, this California college town is sure to make any student’s life easier,” says Ramos. “It isn’t as crowded as the main cities in Cali, and the amount of activities and excursions in the area are enough to make any student stay after college.”

San Luis Obispo is well known as an adventurist’s paradise. Recreators seek out the area for mountain biking, hiking, and surfing — all just a few minutes from town. Wildlife enthusiasts enjoy whale watching and mingling with sea lions and birds along the nearby Central Coast. Cycling through the area’s wine country adds yet another dimension, as San Luis Obispo County is home to more than 300 wineries.

Picturesque Vineyards line the valleys surrounding the City of San Luis Obispo.

The town of San Luis Obispo is also a big draw, for locals and visitors alike. Named one of the country’s friendliest towns by USA Today and “The Happiest Place In America” by Oprah Winfrey and National Geographic, San Luis Obispo is a picturesque college town packed with restaurants, breweries, shopping, and entertainment.

Rounding out the top five Most Beautiful College Towns are:

  • Corvallis, Oregon, home to Oregon State University
  • Boulder, Colorado, home to University of Colorado
  • Ames, Iowa, home to Iowa State University
  • Bloomington, Indiana, home to Indiana University

The complete rankings can be found at The Five Most Beautiful College Towns In America.

For more information about Cal Poly’s MPS in Dairy Products Technology program, visit or contact:

Tom Photo 2015

Tom Johnson, Program Manager
MPS in Dairy Products Technology
(970) 215-3459 cell


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Time to get started on your application!

Posted on January 26, 2017 by

If you intend to apply to Cal Poly’s MPS in Dairy Products Technology program for Fall 2017, it’s time to make plans and get started.

  • You can begin the process by sending your resume to me at
  • Online applications are due in two months. Applicants who meet the April 1 submission deadline will have another 30 days to submit supplementary materials, including letters of recommendation, GRE scores, and transcripts from all colleges and universities attended.
  • You will also need to set up an Interfolio account and upload unofficial copies of your transcripts and scores. Your references will upload their letters of recommendation directly to Interfolio.

While the majority of your application can be completed in an afternoon, don’t wait too long to get started on GRE preparations.  Most applicants benefit from a formal or informal test prep course and 30 to 60 days of review. Keep in mind that GRE scores must be submitted no later than May 1. (visit here for GRE study tips)

For complete application instructions, visit

We’re excited to see your application!

Question? Visit http://mpsdairy.calpoly.eduor contact:Tom Photo 2015
Tom Johnson, Program Manager
MPS in Dairy Products Technology
(970) 215-3459 cell

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What is “leadership” anyway?

Posted on December 14, 2016 by

fishThe MPS in Dairy Products Technology program makes a big deal out of leadership. This is no accident. Our industry partners tell us leaders are needed in their workplaces, and they encourage us to recruit leaders into the program. They direct us to seek out applicants who have demonstrated leadership through involvement in student government, athletics, clubs and organizations, charity work, employment, lab positions, and other endeavors.

We ask that our applicants show evidence of leadership experience in their applications. Once in the program, our students take a leadership class all three quarters they are on campus. They also particpate in regular group activities intended to foster leadership development. So with all of this focus on leadership, it’s surprising that there is little consensus on what leadership actually is.

A while back, I came across a piece that New York Times best-selling author Kevin Kruse wrote for Forbes, in which he deconstructed some of the prevailing definitions of leadership. Afterward, he offered his own definition, which hits as close to the mark as any I’ve seen. In the article, Kruse posits that:

  • Leadership has nothing to do with seniority or one’s position in the hierarchy of a company
  • Leadership has nothing to do with titles
  • Leadership has nothing to do with personal attributes
  • Leadership isn’t management

So what is Kruse’s definition of leadership?

“Leadership is a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal.”

Notice key elements of this definition:

  • Leadership stems from social influence, not authority or power
  • Leadership requires others, and that implies they don’t need to be “direct reports”
  • Thereis no mention of personality traits, attributes, or even a title; there are many styles, many paths, to effective leadership
  • Leadership includes a goal, not merely “influence” with no intended outcome

If I could offer one piece of advice to prospective applicants to the MPS program, it would be to seek out opporunties to develop your own natural leadership potential — opportunities that allow you to accept responsibility for guiding and motivating others toward achievement of a goal. Learn how to empower and influence those around you. Read about leadership and write down your own leadership goals.

While rereading the Kruse’s Forbes piece, I encountered a few famous quotes about leadership that I found inspiring. This led me to assemble a list of my favorite leadership quotes. You’ll find them below. You might be able to picture yourself embracing some of these axioms. Perhaps they will help you better understand the type of leadership that would come naturally to you. I hope you find these quotes as inspiring as I do. Enjoy! (You can find Kruse’s complete Forbes article here)

“The most powerful leadership tool you have is your own personal example.” – John Wooden, 10-time national champion basketball

“Leaders become great not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others.” – John Maxwell, best-selling author

“Leadership is the art of giving people a platform for spreading ideas that work.” – Seth Godin, best-selling author

“Every time you have to speak, you are auditioning for leadership.” – James Humes, presidential speech writer 

“A good leader leads the people from above them. A great leader leads the people from within them.”– M. D. Arnold, American author

“The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.” – Ronald Reagan, former president

“A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit.” – Arnold Glasow, American businessman

“The quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they set for themselves.” – Ray Kroc, built McDonalds into most successful fast food chain

“Leadership is not about titles, positions, or flowcharts.
It is about one life influencing another.” –John C. Maxwell


“When people talk, listen completely.” – Ernest Hemingway, American author

“One of the tests of leadership is the ability to recognize a problem before it becomes an emergency.” – Arnold Glasow, American businessman

“Control is not leadership; management is not leadership; leadership is leadership. If you seek to lead, invest at least 50 percent of your time in leading yourself–your own purpose, ethics, principles, motivation, conduct. Invest at least 20 percent leading those with authority over you and 15 percent leading your peers.” – Dee Hock, founder and former CEO of the Visa credit card

“Leaders don’t inflict pain, they share pain.” – Max Depree, American businessman

leadership-woman“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” – Warren G. Bennis, organizational consultant

“Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results, not attributes.” – Peter F. Drucker, management consultant

“A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.” – Rosalynn Carter, former First Lady

“The art of leadership is saying no, not saying yes. It is very easy to say yes.” – Tony Blair, former prime minister of the U.K.

“You manage things; you lead people.” – Grace Murray Hopper, American computer pioneer

“Leadership is not about titles, positions, or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another.” – John C. Maxwell, best-selling author

“People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision.” – John C. Maxwell

“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” – Jack Welch, fomer CEO of General Electric

“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” – Edith Wharton, author

“Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.”– Vince Lombardi, football coach

“Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate, and doubt to offer a solution everybody can understand.” – Colin Powell, former Secretary of State

“A leader is not an administrator who loves to run others, but someone who carries water for his people so that they can get on with their jobs.” – Robert Townsend

“Leadership cannot really be taught. It can only be learned.” – Harold Geneen, American businessman

“Leadership is unlocking people’s potential to become better.” – Bill Bradley, former NBA player and U.S. Senator

“Earn your leadership every day.” – Michael Jordan, former NBA player

“As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.” – Bill Gates, founder and former CEO of Microsoft

If you have questions about your qualifications or would like to discuss applying to the MPS program, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I look forward to seing your application!

For more information about the MPS program, visit or contact:Tom Photo 2015
Tom Johnson, Program Manager
MPS in Dairy Products Technology
(970) 215-3459 cell

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GRE Prep Strategies

Posted on November 30, 2016 by


A number of phone apps are available to help students prepare for the GRE.

Each year at this time, I receive numerous questions from potential applicants about the GRE. No other part of the MPS application process produces so much anxiety. This is understandable, since most applicants to the program haven’t taken a standardized test since their senior year of high school.

While the GRE score is not the deciding factor in the MPS application review process, it is an important component and one that should be taken seriously. We’re looking for students to score at or above the 50th percentile. This may sound low, but it translates to this: of all college graduates who want to pursue advanced degrees, we’re looking for those in the top half. That’s a fairly select group.

The GRE is not an exam most would want to take without some preparation. The Quantitative Reasoning section resembles the corresponding sections on the ACT and SAT and leans hard on algebra and geometry concepts you learned in high school. A review of these concepts will bring them back into focus and boost your chances of attaining a satisfactory score.

The Verbal Reasoning section, on the other hand, is considered more challenging than those on the college entrance exams and requires new learning for many. Some describe the section as “vocabulary on steroids.” Fortunately, boosting vocabulary is something most of us can achieve, as long as we allow enough time for study.

Experts suggest beginning preparation one to three months before the exam. This will allow you time to master the material, but not so much time that you forget what you’ve learned. But how to prepare? That’s the question.

My first suggestion is to take a practice test. If you fare well, you might not need much preparation at all. Lucky you. But if your scores are underwhelming, the practice test will help you identify areas of weakness. This information is valuable, since you can use it to direct your attention to the concepts most likely to boost your scores.

One of the best ways to prepare for the exam is to enroll in a formal GRE prep course; however, these courses can be expensive, and fitting a couple of additional classes into your weekly schedule can be tricky. For those with the resources, Kaplan and Princeton Review offer well-reviewed courses.

Numerous study prep books are also available, as are online prep courses. McGoosh comes highly recommended.

ETS’s Powerprep Software is available on the official GRE Web site. The software is free and is presumed to be effective, since it is produced by the company that develops the GRE. One limitation is that the software only includes two practice exams.

My new favorite prep tool? The phone app. Your phone is always handy and can be accessed whenever you have a few minutes — riding on the bus, waiting to check out of the grocery store, watching the clothes go ’round at the laundromat.

This morning, I played around with an app released by Varsity Tutors, called GRE Prep: Practice Tests and Flashcards. Available in iTunes, the app features numerous online practice tests and study modules. You get immediate feedback on your performance and can quickly identify areas of weakness. Best of all, it’s free (…and no, I’m not going to share my scores, but suffice it to say that I have new respect for all of you who take the real exam!)

The Varsity Tutors app is but one of many GRE prep apps available. A review of several test prep apps, including their pros, cons, target audience, and cost can be found here.

If you’re short on prep time, you might want to read a post I wrote last year offering last minute GRE study tips. The article, which includes a more comprehensive discussion of the exam format, preparation strategies, and planning techniques, can be found here.

A couple of final notes:

  • The 50th percentile we seek translates to numerical scores of approximately Q151/V151/W 3.5.
  • Leave enough time to repeat the exam. If you don’t like your score, you can always take the exam again and submit only your best score.
  • Prepare sufficiently before your first exam so you don’t have to spend another $205 to repeat it!

Good luck on the exam!

For more information about the MPS program, visit or contact:Tom Photo 2015
Tom Johnson, Program Manager
MPS in Dairy Products Technology
(970) 215-3459 cell

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MPS Applicants: Here’s what we’re looking for

Posted on November 22, 2016 by

application“How important is the GRE in the application review process?” an applicant to the MPS program recently asked me.

“If I take a dairy science course before I graduate, will that help my chances of getting admitted?” another asked.

These are great questions, so I thought it would be worth spending some time discussing what it is we’re actually looking for in a candidate — and what you can do to improve your chances of gaining admission.

The MPS program is a bit of an odd duck among Cal Poly’s grad programs. We’re not a traditional research-based masters program; rather, we are in the business of training students for leadership roles in a manufacturing environment. The industry we serve sometimes rewards different skill sets, and as such, our admissions criteria can differ as well.

As an undergraduate institution, Cal Poly has become quite competitive. Last year, the university received close to 50,000 applications for around 5,000 spots. With so many applications, Cal Poly Admissions uses a numerical admissions system that factors grades, test scores, and AP or IB classes to come up with a Multi-Criteria Admission (MCA) score. Applicants who score above a certain number are offered admission, while those below are not.

The MPS program’s application review process is more wholistic. We truly look at the whole applicant to get a sense not only of whether she has the potential to do well academically, but whether her career goals are well thought out; whether she has the communication skills that go hand in hand with good management; and whether she has an aptitude for leadership.

“The successful manager in dairy production is a
dynamic combination of leader, problem solver, teacher,
and technician who draws from his or her collective skill set
to mobilize the production process.”


A while back, we asked our MPS advisory council to help define the type of student we should admit to the MPS program. Council members (senior-level managers with major dairy foods companies) felt it was necessary first to describe what makes a successful manager in a dairy processing facility. After all, our goal is to produce graduates who can step into leadership roles at these facilities. Here’s what they came up with:

“The successful manager in dairy production is a dynamic combination of leader, problem solver, teacher, and technician who draws from his or her collective skill set to mobilize the production process.”

So what is this collective skill set they refer to? What types of traits should we look for in an MPS student? Accoring to our industry advisors, we should focus on the following:

  • The MPS student should have a unique set of skills, personality traits, and background.
  • Grades, while important, will be less essential to the success of an applicant than other traits that are possessed by successful dairy manufacturing operations leaders.
  • Candidates for the MPS in Dairy Products Technology program should be multitaskers who can quickly process several pieces of information efficiently to formulate solutions.
  • Candidates should be able to take input from those around them and synthesize alternatives.
  • In addition to the ability to think analytically and critically in a fast-paced environment, the ideal candidate should be operationally- and manufacturing-driven.
  • He/she will embrace the opportunities and challenges of the large-scale industrial dairy foods manufacturing environment.
  • Ideal candidates for the program will have held leadership roles in organizations such as college clubs, academic governance, athletics, social groups, volunteer organizations and others.
  • To be successful as leaders in operational roles, candidates will have self-awareness. They will know where their strengths lie and which characteristics and knowledge they need to develop.
  • Candidates will exhibit a strong work ethic with a desire to teach and inspire others.
  • Candidates will demonstrate the ability to be empathetic to the needs of those around them and will respect the value of diverse opinions.

But what about grades? Yes, they’re important. We do ask that applicants achive a minimum GPA of 2.75 over their last two years of study. But for the right candidate, we might bend that requirement a bit lower. The truth is that sometimes, an applicant with a 2.75 GPA, who understands something about agriculture, has fantastic communication skills, is an inspiration to those around her, and was president of her university’s Animal Science club may make a better operations manager than a chemistry major with a 3.8 GPA but who hasn’t taken the time to develop skills outside of his academic domain.

Moreover, an applicant with little knowledge of agriculture, dairy, or chemistry may have the right intellectual traits and personality type to succeed and only needs exposure to the science and technology. We can help this student gain the industry-specific knowledge and experience he needs to be successful. And no, taking a dairy science class before graduating won’t necessarily help him gain admittance to the program — but it might make his path easier once he’s in.

And what about test scores? We use GRE scores as an indication that the applicant is capable of doing graduate school work. We’re looking for students to score at or above the 50th percentile on the verbal, quantitative reasoning, and writing sectionsof the GRE (subject tests are not required). Setting a record on the exam won’t necessarily improve your chances of getting into the program, since high GRE score aren’t necessarily the best predictors of success as a manager in the dairy foods industry. That’s largely because it takes the whole package — academic strength, communication skills, decision-making abilities, leadership aptitude, street smarts, empathy, and humility — to be successful as a manager in the dairy manufacturing arena.

So what can you do to improve your chances of gaining admission?

  • Join a club and take on a leadership position
  • Seek out leadership opportunities, however small, in your part-time or summer jobs
  • Volunteer for an organization that you believe in
  • Do well in any chemistry and biology courses that you take
  • Take a GRE practice test, identify your weaknesses, and then work on them
  • Intern at a manufacturing company
  • Develop a clear sense of purpose: why do you want to enter the dairy foods industry?
  • Meet with your references and help them understand your goals before they write your letters of recommendation
  • Take the time to write a good statement of purpose. Make sure that it is well organized and gramatically correct

If you have questions about your qualifications or would like to discuss your application, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I look forward to seing your application!

For more information about the MPS program, visit or contact:Tom Photo 2015
Tom Johnson, Program Manager
MPS in Dairy Products Technology
(970) 215-3459 cell

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