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Chico State

Animal Science Major Embraces Role of Lead Shepherd in Sheep Unit

Manny Lopez stands in a field of sheep with a feed bucket.
Jason Halley / University Photographer

Emmanuel Lopez is a sophomore majoring in Animal Science, pre-vet, who has been working at the sheep unit at the Paul L. Byrne Memorial University Farm on Tuesday, June 15, 2021 in Chico, Calif. (Jason Halley/University Photographer/CSU, Chico)

Story by Michelle Borges

Growing up around agriculture through his father’s career, Manny Lopez became passionate about veterinary science.

His dad worked as a farm hand for a cattle operation and as a mechanic for a farm in his area. Raised in the small town of Smith Valley, Nevada, Lopez also worked at this farm during his summer and winter breaks in high school, ranging from landscape work to giving vaccinations.

Lopez became an active member of his high school FFA chapter, which also led him into the career interest that he has today. He held leadership positions as well as competed in horse judging and vet science career development events. With the vet science team, Lopez was able to compete at the national level.

“I have always been interested in animal husbandry. It has always been one of my passions of working with animals as well as helping other people,” Lopez said.

Lopez’s sophomore year of high school was his first time touring Chico State. He enjoyed the campus, community, and the University Farm. When touring the farm, Lopez met Professor Celina Phillips, advisor of the sheep unit, who offered him a job and played an integral role in his transition from high school to college. Lopez has been working at the sheep unit since his freshman year of college.

“He is currently serving as our lead shepherd at the sheep unit and was a steadfast student leader through the past year of the pandemic. During our time of virtual learning, Emmanuel supported the faculty whenever there was filming or pictures needed. His commitment to the sheep unit and his education is exemplary,” Phillips said. 

This summer, Lopez interned at a local vet clinic to gain hands-on veterinary experience. He job-shadowed the employees and learned more about livestock handling. He resumed working at the sheep unit again at the start of fall semester.

“Working at the sheep unit has been a fun and educational experience,” Lopez said. “The group is so tight-knit, and I enjoy working with all of the other students.”

All of his classes have helped solidified his passion for veterinary science. One of Lopez’s favorite classes was “Veterinary Practices” (ANSC 160) with Josh Brownfield. This class confirmed his passion for wanting to become a veterinarian.

“I would like to attend vet school at UC Davis or possibly Texas A&M in hopes to become a large animal science veterinarian back in my hometown,” said Lopez.

Professors Phillips, Kasey DeAtley, and Kate Moore have all been strong figures in Lopez’s college career. He said he can count on them for providing advice and knows they are always looking out for his success.

Lopez’s high school agriculture teacher, Charmayne Mitchell, also remains an influential person in his life. She helped spark his interest in the agriculture field and supported his dream of becoming a large animal veterinarian.

One of Lopez’s favorite College of Agriculture experiences is helping with the FFA Field Day. He enjoys working with the high school students who are interested in learning more about the agriculture industry and seeing their aspirations grow.

Lopez is involved in the Rangeland Management Club, Chico Sheep Association, and the Pre-Vet Club. In his free time, he enjoys playing the guitar and piano as well as learning new languages. He is currently studying French and American Sign Language.

Lopez said the College of Agriculture faculty transformed his experience at Chico State, and he is looking forward to the rest of his undergraduate career. This spring, he was honored with a Lieutenant Robert Merton Rawlins Merit Award—one of the largest and most prestigious at Chico State—which celebrates scholarship, extracurricular activities and outstanding academic, and professional accomplishments.

“Take advantage of every single opportunity that comes your way and do not be afraid to go outside of your comfort zone,” Lopez advises incoming students. “Your fear is temporary, and you never know if you will find something you enjoy if you do not take risks.”