As part of Cal Poly Pomona in eastern Los Angeles County, Huntley attracts students from as far away as Ventura County – a two-hour one-way commute, according to adjunct faculty member Tracey Takeuchi. The college, located in an underserved area of Southern California, has more than 200 students in its undergraduate agriculture program, the majority of whom are Hispanic. The program also currently has more female students enrolled than males.
Takeuchi, who is a Certified Arborist and has served on the board of the Western Chapter of ISA, says she has a passion for her students and seeing them grow. She adds that the school has a nearly 100% placement of its students in employment after graduation. “But we can do even better for them if we have more modern, higher-quality equipment.”
According to Takeuchi, the Stihl equipment-purchasing process was stalled when the pandemic hit. “This COVID thing struck when we were hoping to gather all the faculty together for input,” she says. “I think we’re most interested in getting electric chain saws and pole saws. We have lots of female students, and it’s just easier for them, or any smaller-framed student, to operate an electric saw.”
Takeuchi notes that the coronavirus has left many of her students in a difficult situation, saying some don’t have the equipment they need to study at home, like computers. “Bandwidth is another issue since they might be sharing one computer for their family. Then there are students with limited transportation options. I also had one female student say she doesn’t feel safe leaving her apartment right now.”
To further the future of Huntley’s arboriculture student base, the school held its first-ever Student Summit last December, inviting high school and college students to attend in an effort to “encourage a broader understanding of arboriculture as a career.” The event was attended by about 125 students and 15 vendors, including Mauget, Davey Tree, Stihl, BrightView, Bartlett, and Disney. “We had quite a good response,” she says. “I had so many students come up to me afterward and say, ‘I had no idea this was a career path.’ We hope to do this (Summit) again, but everything for 2020 is up in the air right now.”
One project Takeuchi hopes will go forward this year is a dedicated horticultural research space at Spadra Park, located at Huntley’s teaching farm. “My hope is that this will become a permanent outdoor lab where students can practice pruning and the care of plant material, color and design, tree planting, and tree care maintenance.”