The Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology
Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Steven Rocca
(By Edith Guijon, AGED166, Agricultural Publication Production class - 2022)
Dr. Steven Rocca began his education at Fresno State as an agricultural business major in hopes of eventually taking over his dad’s farm someday. Within the next few years, he found what he was truly meant to be, an educator.
The twisting road that Rocca took to find his true talent was exciting and adventurous, leading to an extremely rewarding experience.
Rocca is a professor that animal sciences and agricultural education students go to for academic, career, and personal life advice, and also one its faculty equally depend on as a department chair.
He shared similar values in 1996 when he started as an agricultural education teacher at Washington Union High School, where he was also once a student. He expressed that there were never any competitive teams offered there, so he made it a primary goal to grow its FFA program and share the experiences that made him fall in love with the organization while serving as a regional officer.
His first year he only had 50 students in seven classes. By the time he left, there was 85 freshmen alone with two additional teachers.
In 2001, Dr. Art Parham, who began teaching at Fresno State in 1982, recruited Rocca to be a lecturer at the university, which later led Rocca to earn his Ph.D from the University of Florida.
Since returning to Fresno State, Rocca has taught agricultural education courses, advised the FFA Field Day Committee as well as the Ag Ambassadors program and worked closely with graduate students.
Among his many other successes have been with the Young Farmers and Ranchers. When he first got involved with the team he was only a lecturer on campus. “I only signed the papers and drove the van,” said Rocca.
Since then, he has coached three national individual champions, 10 state championship teams and eight individual state champions. Other colleges that compete in the discussion meet offer the team as a class, while Rocca meets with the team according to their availability and talks with them about topics. When asked why he’s been so successful he replied, “Good students - you get the right kids, and it makes it easy. Partly it’s about recruiting, the other part is just giving them the right information.”
Lindsey Swall was one of the students who participated in the state discussion event with Dr. Rocca in 2021 and placed first runner-up.
“He took time to meet with us every day prior to the competition and was available to help us with topics and answer questions if we needed it,” said Swall. “He even spent his 50th birthday with us all day at the conference, which was really kind of him to do. It shows the dedication and commitment he has to Fresno State and the students he works with.”
As the department chair, Rocca sees the position as one of a servant leader. He stays humble, engaging, and devoted throughout his successes. He expresses that he is extremely busy so sometimes he worries about not doing enough for faculty, but peers like agricultural education faculty Dr. Rosco Vaughn, are very encouraging.
When I first got here, Dr. Rocca was very helpful in teaching me about the California FFA and agricultural education programs in general,” Vaughn said. “That was a very valuable thing for me, and his FFA honorary degree was well overdue. He should have gotten that a long time ago. I am truly happy (that he’s become an administrator), and I am beyond confident that he will be very good at it,” said Vaughn.
On June 27, 2023, the Jordan College announced that Rocca will become its next associate dean for the fall semester and starts in that capacity on August 15.