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Online Graduate Certificate Leads Student Closer to Her Master in Poultry Science

Ashley Gernat at the posed in front of a tree and water.
Ashley Gernat at the NC State Talley Turkey Educational Farm where she works.

As a current graduate student in the Prestage Department of Poultry Science, Ashley Gernat receives her Feed Science Graduate Certificate in May. This is only one of several certificates Gernat aims to earn during her master’s work. 

She has so many interests and is passionate about agriculture since earning her bachelor’s degree from Zamorano Pan-American Agricultural School in her home country of Honduras. 

“My thought has always been, ‘you can’t sell something, without knowing what you are selling.’ Or in other words, where did my food come from?”

Required to complete an internship abroad to earn her degree, she landed one in 2016 at NC State with Dr. Jesse Grimes where she assisted with research at the Talley Turkey Education Unit. She describes it as “a very eye-opening experience that really got me thinking of what I wanted to do in life and the goals I wanted to achieve,” she says.

Grimes says, “Ashley earned her way into the M.S. Poultry Science program through completing coursework in Feed Science Certificate. She was able to take online classes first without having to move to the area.”

We caught up with Gernat to learn more about her experience in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences program and congratulate our #NCStateOnline spring 2020 graduates!

Why did you pursue the Feed Science Certificate from NC State Online? 

I’ve always liked marketing and the idea of the food chain production process. That means from farm to fork. With that being said, I enrolled in the Feed Science Certificate in fall 2017. I’ve always had a close connection with NC State and poultry science; it runs in the family. 

The program offers courses where you learn about feed quality assurance, feed manufacturing, feed mill operations and leadership as well as a required 100 hours practice/internship at a feed mill in order to complete the certificate.

Describe your experience in the certificate program? 

A lot of things were new to me, including technical words with Spanish being my first language, but with time I got used to it and eventually stopped googling them! There is no doubt that online classes require more time and self-discipline, which we might all get to experience now with the current situation. Getting to know the basics of feed and how the process works is a key element in animal production. All the classes in the program give you a broad spectrum of feed science along with feed mill management, with details that in the end make a big difference. I am currently close to completing my PSM (Professional Science Master) in Poultry Science. 

How do you see your certificate helping you in your current career? 

I’ve always liked learning a little bit from everything and I honestly wish my brain could absorb more information sometimes. In my program, I wanted to have a mix of food science, business/marketing and feed science. I’ve decided to go a few different ways actually. I am currently taking three courses in three completely different areas: Media Production, Food Packaging and Business Management. 

Media Production because I would like to create media or some form of communication to fill in the gaps between poultry producers and consumers. Food Packaging because more than half of the people in a grocery store do not know how to properly read or interpret labels on food packaging and this all together leads to misinformation in society. Business management because, at some point in life, we all need to manage something or someone. Hence my educational route, “farm to fork”. 

Did you have any faculty members who were particularly inspiring or stood out to you?

Dr. Grimes’ constant support and passion for work and teaching others has always been inspiring to not just me but others in our department and industry as well.  

In the Prestage Department of Poultry Science, I hold a number of people close to my heart. That includes staff, faculty members, farm crew and other students that have somehow inspired me or helped me along the way. Their patience and willingness to teach with the utmost passion of what they do is something I will forever cherish and take with me. It’s the people that we meet along the way that help us appreciate the journey. 

What is your advice for other working professionals who are thinking about continuing their education or are currently enrolled in a master’s program? 

Aim as high as you can, the sky is the limit. Don’t ever let anyone tell you aren’t smart enough, good enough or capable of accomplishing your dreams. Take advantage of every opportunity that is given to you and learn as much as you can. Be grateful, be humble, be kind and help others, it goes a long way. People think that with an online program you don’t learn as much as you would in person, but it all depends on how much effort and time you put into it. I would recommend this program for sure as well as any other NC State program. 

I think in the current situation we are living, everyone has adjusted to online courses and has learned how to keep a schedule or a disciplined routine with keeping up with homework. Amidst the chaos and stress, we should take advantage of the situation and learn as much as we can!

Congratulations to Ashley and the rest of the online College of Agriculture and Life Sciences spring 2020 graduating class! 

Are you interested in advancing your career with a graduate certificate? Visit the Feed Science Graduate Certificate page or for a full list of degree and certificate programs.