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Institute for Food and Agriculture

Meet the team

Katy Tarrant Photo

Dr. Katy Tarrant 

COOP Director


Dr. Katy Tarrant joined the Fresno State Animal Sciences and Agricultural Education faculty at California State University, Fresno in August of 2016. She holds a Ph.D. degree in Cell and Molecular Biology from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Arkansas. In addition to directing COOP, Dr. Tarrant advises students and teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in poultry production, animal genetics, and welfare and handling. 


Laura Huisinga Photo

Dr. Laura Huisinga 

COOP UX and UI Design


Dr. Laura Huisinga is an Associate Professor in the Department of Art, Design, and Art History (graphic design area; Interactive Multimedia BFA track) in the College of Arts and Humanities at California State University - Fresno. She has her Ph.D. in Human-Computer Interaction from Iowa State University and her MFA in Graphic Design from the College of Art and Design at Iowa State University. Her interest focuses on user experience (UX) design, usability testing methods, universal design, game theory for education, immersive design for extended reality (XR), including augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), and designing for new technologies. Dr. Huisinga’s research focuses on using augmented and virtual reality for education.


Photo of Jesse

Jesse Bower

Content Manager and Curriculum Specialist 


Mrs. Jesse Bower has an extensive background in agriculture and a passion for teaching. Growing up on a ranch in Le Grand, CA, she gained hands-on experience in raising various animals, from sheep and goats to cattle, rabbits, chickens, and horses. Actively involved in 4-H and FFA during her youth, Mrs. Bower developed a strong interest in agriculture, which motivated her to pursue a career as an Agriculture Teacher. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Education-Teacher Preparation from Fresno State, followed by completing the credential program at the same institution. Her teaching journey began in Nebraska, where she taught for five years while simultaneously pursuing a Master's degree. In 2019, she returned to California and joined Fresno State as a lecturer, focusing on imparting her knowledge and experience to aspiring agricultural educators. In addition to her lecturing role, she serves as a "University Coach," overseeing and mentoring Agricultural Education student teachers as they conclude their credentialing program.

Outside of her professional life, Mrs. Bower enjoys a bustling household with her husband, Chad, and their two children, Paisley and Lane. They reside locally and share their home with an array of animals, including three dogs, two water turtles, chickens, a horse, a mini-horse, and two goats. Her personal and professional experiences uniquely position her to share a wealth of knowledge and practical insights in agricultural education.


Photo of Cynthia

Cynthia Lopez

Content Manager and Curriculum Specialist 


Cynthia Lopez is a Lecture for the Animal Science Agriculture Education Department, and also is Enterprise Manager of the Poultry Facility on the farm. Her education background includes an undergraduate degree in Animal Science as well as a Masters of Science in Agriculture studies both obtained at California State University, Fresno. Cynthia is serving as Content Manager for the Center of the optimization of poultry (COOP). 


Headshot of Cirenio Hisasaga

Cirenio Hisasaga

Content Manager and Curriculum Specialist 


Cirenio Hisasaga is a PhD Candidate at the University of California, Davis studying poultry welfare. His research focuses on the impacts of broiler management on the development of muscular diseases. Cirenio obtained a Bachelor of Science in Animal Science and a Master of Science in Agricultural Science from California State University, Fresno. Additionally, Cirenio’s passion for student education has led him to develop poultry outreach programs aimed at recruiting and retaining students from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds. 



a photo of Asmaa Althami

Asmaa Althami

Student Research Assistant (UX/UI Designer)


As a senior Integrated Design student at Fresno State with an associate's degree in Art New Media, Asmaa brings diverse experience in Graphic Design, Web Design, Marketing, and Design Studies to her academic background. Currently serving as a Research Student Assistant for COOP, she contributes to UX/UI and Graphic Design aspects while eagerly exploring the cross-disciplinary opportunity titled "Interdisciplinary COOP: Empowering Art and Animal Science Students for Impactful Career Training."

Photo of Nick Wolfenden

Nick Wolfenden

Sustainable Animal Welfare Director, Global for Cargill

Nick Wolfenden leads Global Animal Welfare at Cargill. Nick is responsible for driving
commitment to Animal Welfare across the organization through continual improvement. He
leads the development and implementation of the company’s overarching animal welfare
strategy, communicates work with external stakeholders, leads collaboration for a team of
welfare and sustainability professionals, and serves as the face of Cargill to customers and
governments and non-governmental organizations.
Nick serves on a variety of industry organization boards and committees such as Animal Ag
Alliance (AAA), Merck Animal Health, International Poultry Welfare Alliance (IPWA),
International Poultry Council (IPC), National Chicken Council (NCC), and the North American
Meat Institute (NAMI). He is a PAACO and PHT Certified Poultry Welfare Auditor and Trainer
and PAACO Certified Red Meat, Beef Feedlot, and Dairy Auditor.

Photo of Dr Janet Helms

Janet Helms

Senior Manager in Global Sustainable Sourcing, Animal Health and Welfare

Dr. Janet Helms is a veterinarian with extensive experience across the food
chain. Janet’s current title is Senior Manager, Global Sustainable Sourcing,
Animal Health and Welfare. Her responsibilities include chicken, antibiotics,
animal feed, and fish. She has been with McDonald’s for over one year.
Prior to joining McDonald’s, Dr. Helms owned and managed a large animal
veterinary practice in Southern California, providing preventative health services
to dairy and beef clients. She was the first practitioner to offer ultrasound and
dairy records analysis in the area. Following her career in veterinary practice,
Janet worked in multiple roles at Pfizer/Zoetis including regulatory compliance,
organizational development, and technical sales. Dr. Helms was the National
Director of a third-party animal welfare certification, working across species with
auditors, developing audits, and driving program growth. More recently, Janet
was a Global Sustainability Developer at Inter IKEA Group responsible for
sourcing animal and plant based foods in North and South America. In addition
to finding sustainable and high welfare chicken, pig, beef, dairy, and eggs, she
developed strategic approaches to sustainably source leather, down, hides, and
biofuels. Outside of work, Janet enjoys cooking for friends and family, gardening, hiking,
swimming, and paints in several mediums. A fan of travel and art history, she
loves to visit museums on her international travels.


photo of Eden Arreguin

Eden Arreguin

Superintendent Foster Farms South Grow-Out

Eden graduated from Fresno State in the Spring of 2017 with a BS in Criminology-Law Enforcement. He started his career with Foster in 2011 as a brood crew team member placing chicks. Since then, he's had the privilege of holding various positions in both farm level and management level roles. He began as Brood Crew Supervisor, was promoted to Field Supervisor, Department Supervisor, and most recently, a South Grow-out Superintendent. In addition to his roles in the field, he also works alongside Dr. Tarrant to support students at his Alma Mater in becoming future leaders at Foster Farms.


photo of Rafael Rivera

Rafael Rivera1

Director of Food Safety and Production Programs for USPOULTRY 

 After finishing a bachelor’s degree in animal science from the University of Puerto Rico in 2001, he attended North Carolina State University to complete a Master’s degree in Poultry Science in 2004. While at NC State and a short period after, he worked in research facilities including the former Embrex, Inc. He worked at Perdue Farms on the Delmarva Peninsula for several years in a variety of roles including Flock Supervisor, HACCP Coordinator, Quality Assurance Supervisor and SAP Material Master Data Analyst before joining USPOULTRY. His responsibilities include the development of educational programs and tools in food safety, product development, and live production for the poultry and egg industries. These products are designed to improve performance within the poultry and egg industry’s in areas like food safety, animal welfare, and biosecurity. Since 2019, he has been working on his PhD. evaluating the broiler and turkey industry’s Campylobacter performance standards and developing recommendations on how to optimize pathogen reduction interventions.


Contact Information

Center for the Optimization Of Poultry
2415 E. San Ramon, MS AS75 Fresno, CA 93740