Patricia “Pat” Jepson’s history with UConn spans decades – from her time in high school to her retirement in 2017. Throughout her career, Jepson has worked to promote excellence and diversity in programs Connecticut Agricultural Education Center – a commitment she still maintains today.
As a student at Wilson High School (now Middletown High School), Jepson participated in his school’s agriculture program and earned UConn co-op credits. Jepson, a first-generation student, went on to study animal science at UConn.
Jepson was originally on the pre-vet track, but joined the agricultural education program after learning of the impact she could have.
“It’s a program that has a very holistic approach to education and personal growth,” says Jepson. “[The program] impacted me, and it was something I wanted to be involved in on the other side, impacting others and helping others in the same way.
Jepson received his bachelor’s degree in animal science in 1978 and his master’s degree in 1981 from the UConn School of Education, later renamed after Ray Neag to honor his $23 million gift to the school.
After completing the UConn Teacher Certification Program for College Graduates (TCPCG), Jepson taught in Connecticut before moving to Ohio to work for a veterinarian. But opportunities soon brought her back to Connecticut. In 1988, Jepson returned to UConn as director of the Center for Academic Counseling at the College of Agriculture, Health, and Natural Resources (CAHNR).
“It was like a way to combine the background and perspective I had with the content, my love of agriculture and all the great fields, and my connection to UConn,” says Jepson.
Advancing Agricultural Education
High school agricultural programs differ significantly from other subjects. Connecticut’s agricultural education programs have a three-pronged approach that involves experiential education, leadership development, and career preparation. The nature of these programs is also based on greater family and community involvement.
The interconnected areas within agriculture are also inherently applicable to day-to-day concerns about food, health and the environment.
“[Agriculture] is not isolated. It’s so interconnected with human concerns, as well as scientific concerns and political decisions — so many different things that are intertwined,” Jepson says.
While at UConn, Jepson played a major role in raising the profile of Connecticut’s agricultural education program. The program was less visible in Connecticut and nationally until Jepson began reaching out to high school teachers and students in agricultural programs across the state and getting involved in national organizations.
Jepson was recently honored for her dedication to the field with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Association for Agricultural Education. Recipients support the organization’s mission to “foster excellence in the discovery and exchange of evidence-based solutions to social science challenges in agriculture and related sciences.”
“Getting the award was kind of a recognition of the program at UConn even more than me, but certainly knowing that I had a big impact on that,” Jepson said.
A lifelong commitment to diversity
Jepson is driven by a commitment to creating meaningful human connections and helping others. Part of that commitment has involved Jepson’s advocacy of the importance of diversity throughout his career.
During his master’s program, Jepson taught at public schools in Hartford, exposing him to students from diverse backgrounds.
“It was really so meaningful to me, that I felt this realization and this desire to impact a wider audience, and to know that education is so important to people’s lives long term. term,” says Jepson. “The impact of the Hartford experience has stayed with me throughout my career.”
Through her position at CAHNR, Jepson worked with students in the two-year Associate of Applied Science program at the Ratcliffe Hicks School of Agriculture. Working with more non-traditional students underscored the importance of looking beyond a high school transcript for Jepson.
“What you see on paper is only part of who someone is,” says Jepson. “Seeing this growth in students that other people may not have seen the potential of and knowing they had opportunities was very meaningful.”
Jepson attended meetings at the African American Cultural Center and listened to sharings from black students, intentionally exposing herself to a culture she was not a part of.
“Taking advantage of these opportunities to learn has, I hope, made me more valuable and a resource for others.”
Jepson received her PhD from the Neag School of Education in 2006. For her dissertation, Jepson worked with Deaf students to investigate the impact of having Deaf role models on their self-efficacy in career planning and working in Sciences.
Jepson consistently provides philanthropic support to causes across the University. Previously, she established a fund for UConn Ag Ed students.
She also created a memorial scholarship in honor of her parents for high school students graduating from the Middletown Regional Agricultural Science and Technology Program, where Jepson was a student and teacher.
Jepson also supports scholarships and funds in the CAHNR, the Neag School, and university-wide diversity initiatives. Jepson still holds an Associate Professor-in-Residence position at the Neag School.
“So many other people have helped me through my years of advancing both in education and career that I truly feel like I’m giving back and helping other people have opportunities that I feel like other people have helped me get,” Jepson says.
The difference advice can make
As a counselor, Jepson, who could never have predicted the turns her own career would take, helped students avoid feeling locked into the first path they had chosen.
“I look at things from a multi-dimensional perspective and that helps students think differently because very often, especially at a young age, you get locked into a blueprint and you think that’s the only way to go” , said Jepson. “And sometimes a discussion with someone helps you see different paths that will work.”
Jepson encouraged students to come to their own conclusions about their academic and career goals.
“I try a lot more to help students see some of the things that are working well for them rather than telling them what to do,” says Jepson.
Jepson says students regularly tell her that she has made a difference in their choices, their careers and their approach to the world.
“Knowing that I’ve had a positive impact on others is the most rewarding part,” says Jepson.
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