Graduate Student Spotlight: Aaron Fowler

Aaron Fowler is a Program Assistant for OSU Extension Greene County where he teaches SNAP-Ed

Aaron Fowler is a student in our online Master’s program and is also a Program Assistant for OSU Extension Greene County. A native of Greene County, Aaron grew up in Fairborn, Ohio where he was first introduced to 4-H when he was 16. Aaron joined 4-H in high school and credits the program for helping to “break him out of his shell.” Although Aaron participated in other activities such as ROTC and Marching Band, he feels that the 4-H is unique in its ability to provide each person with an individual voice and find that person’s unique talents. Aaron found that 4-H helped him to see leadership as something that can be grown and nurtured instead of a characteristic that some people are born with.  He says that 4-H gave him a sense of purpose and impact as well as an ability to see that what he had to offer was valuable and not just a repeat of what someone else had to offer. His positive experiences with 4-H have helped shaped his career decisions and are helping to direct Master’s project as well.

Aaron earned his undergraduate degree from Wright State University where he majored in Psychology.  After college, he went to work for a local mental health organization where he worked with clients in group home settings. While he enjoyed this experience, he found that he was limited in the ways in that he could help clients and so the impact was not always as good as it could have been.  One way Aaron saw that he made a difference was when clients came to Aaron to talk through their troubles. He could see that these mini- therapy sessions were beneficial and that many times his clients just needed someone to talk to.  While this was rewarding, he was sometimes frustrated with a system that he wished was “a little bit different.”  Aaron was still involved in 4-H as an advisor and found that he enjoyed this type of a role which led him to consider a career in Extension. Aaron’s first job made him an advocate for mental health, something he also hopes to incorporate in his Master’s project.

Aaron Fowler at the Greene County Fair

Aaron now works with SNAP-Ed where he enjoys the “immediate impact” he sees in his clients through education.  While Aaron teaches SNAP-Ed to a wide range of ages from preschool to senior citizens, he primarily works with students in alternative high schools. He uses the Extension program, “My Plate” to teach low-income families how to eat healthy on a limited budget. Eating healthy does not have to be something that breaks your budget.  Aaron is inspired by Roger Rennekamp’s description of the SNAP-Ed program:  if SNAP benefits are the fish, then SNAP-Ed is like teaching people how to fish.

Aaron distributing awards at the Greene County Fair

For his Master’s project, Aaron hopes to combine his passion for 4-H with his advocacy for those with mental illness. He would like to see 4-H become the activity that youth with disability and mental health disorders come to as their source for development outside of school.  For this, he draws inspiration from Temple Grandin who credits 4-H and having the ability to work with animals from a young age in helping inspire her in her work.  Aaron is just finishing his first semester in the program, so he is still not quite sure how he is going to combine these ideas in his project, but this is the direction he would like to take. In addition to his academics, Aaron serves as the online representative for the Graduate Student Association.  This role is still developing, but Aaron as an online student himself, Aaron would like to find ways to keep the students in the online program involved with the Graduate Student Association. This may be through Zoom lunches or other distance opportunities.  Watch for more information on this as the semester progresses.  The one constant is that he is looking to make sure that everyone feels like they are part of the group.  If you are an online student and have ideas for Aaron, please feel free to e-mail (fowler.440).  When not busy with his graduate studies, Aaron enjoys spending time with his family.  He is lucky that brother Ryan, sister Emma, and mom Karla are also located in Greene County and they are able to get together often.

Graduate Student Spotlight: Fally Masambuka

Fally with daughter Emma (left) and sister Linga (right).

Fally Masambuka is the social chair for the Graduate Student Association (GSA) so you may receive e-mails from her detailing various events and happenings that all ACEL graduate students are welcome to attend.  In an effort to get to know each other a bit more, Fally has offered to be the first student to be highlighted in this Graduate Student Spotlight.

Fally was born in Zomba, Malawi and raised in the capital city of Lilongwe where she completed her elementary and secondary education. Lilongwe is located in the central plains region of Malawi and features a humid subtropical climate. Lilongwe has a short wet season that runs from December to March and a dry season the rest of the year. Lilongwe has a population similar to that of Columbus at just over a million people.

Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi, has a subtropical climate and is known for tilapia chambo, a delicacy found only in Lake Malawi.

Fally completed her undergraduate degree at Bunda College of Agriculture which is now known as Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR).  After completing her undergraduate degree at Bunda, Fally traveled to the United States where she earned her Master’s degree in Agricultural Communication at Purdue University in 2013.  After earning her MS, Fally returned to Malawi where she worked for the Ministry of Agriculture in the Department of Extension Services as the chief Agricultural Communications officer.  In 2016, Fally joined the graduate program here at OSU where she is completing her PhD in International Development.  Fally is hoping to conduct her doctoral research in Malawi where she will look at how Agricultural Communication can be used promotes farmer’s participation in agricultural programs.  She is specifically interested in understanding which voices are being heard and which voices are not.

Fally is here in Columbus with her husband Emmanuel, and her four-year-old daughter Emma but still misses her family back in Malawi.  It is difficult to be so far away from family and Fally recently had to miss the wedding of one of her sisters.  She keeps in touch with the family through WhatsApp and her daughter especially misses playing with Fally’s youngest sister, Linga, who is seven years old.  Aside from family, Fally misses the access to local and indigenous foods in Malawi.  One specialty is dried pumpkin leaves. Malawi is also famous for a type of tilapia know as tilapia chambo which is only found in Malawi.

Fally with husband Emmanuel

Fally can be found in the Graduate Student office in 109 Agricultural Administration building and is the Social Chair of the Graduate Student Association.  She would like as many ACEL graduate students as possible to participate in GSA events and is open to any suggestions you might have.