Kelli Williamson’s road to becoming a Fresno State dean’s medalist all started with her first crush.
Not the romantic kind; but rather, the harvest of wine grapes.
Williamson, a Clovis East graduate, was honored at Saturday’s commencement ceremony for maintaining a 3.82 GPA while double majoring in enology and food and nutritional science. She also earned a minor in chemistry.
The Dean’s Undergraduate Medalist for Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology said she developed a love for agriculture in high school, where she participated in Clovis FFA.
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“My experience in the Clovis FFA Chapter help to shape me into the success that I am today through the leadership opportunities, public speaking events, supervised agriculture experiences and judging teams,” she said.
Williamson said she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do in life until Clovis East ag teacher Ken Dias taught her a passion for agriculture. She was part of his national champion meats evaluation team.
Her AP Chemistry teacher, Enyonam Akondo, was also a big influence on Williamson.
“AP Chemistry was one of the most challenging classes I had in high school,” she said. “I learned so much from Mrs. Akondo. The enology major requires so many chemistry classes. Actually, that’s why I got my chemistry major; after all of those required ones I only had to take one more to get my minor. What I learned in Mrs. Akondo’s class definitely helped with those college chemistry courses to not seem so scary.”
WIth enology, Williamson was able to combine her loves of agriculture and chemistry. She was able to intern with The Wine Group while attending college.
“I learned so much more about winemaking through the hands on experience of the internship,” she said.
One of her favorite classes was a wine production class at Fresno State, where she learned to process different types of wine grapes, work on a sorting table and learn the ins and outs of wine tanks. The end products are Fresno State wines, including its TailGate Red, cabernet sauvignon and sauvignon blanc.
“You definitely get to experience the entire winemaking process through that class,” she said.
When asked to name her favorite varietal, Williamson gushed, “That’s the hardest question for an enologist to answer! We love them all!”
Her taste fluctuates. For now, she is enjoying sauvignon blanc. “When it’s hot out, it’s perfect for that,” she said.
Williamson was president of the Viticulture Club this year and was also an active member of the Enology Society, which hosted weekly wine tastings. She was a member of the Food Science Club, Alpha Zeta (a fraternity for men and women aspiring to enter the field of agriculture) and the honor society, Phi Kappa Phi.
Williamson plans to pursue her master’s degree in food science with an emphasis in food safety at Fresno State. She was one of two students to win a Jordan Harvey Graduate Award at Fresno State, which will provide $18,500 in scholarships over two years to pay for the master’s program.
She is excited to research food safety.
“Everyone needs to be able to eat safe and wholesome food,” Williamson said. “There is plenty of research that needs to be done in food microbiology to ensure a safe and wholesome food supply.”
After earning her master’s degree, Williamson plans to go into the food or wine industry for a few years, but ultimately return to college for a doctorate degree.
“I hope to eventually teach enology or food science at the college level,” she said.
Williamson comes from a family of teachers. Her mother is a biology and anatomy teacher at Duncan Polytechnical High School in Fresno. Her father is an animal sciences and ag education professor at Fresno State. Her sister is a GIS in Clovis Unified and her brother-in-law is a fourth grade teacher in the district as well.