Growing up on a farm in Southwest Michigan, Alumna Tonya Vasquez is no stranger to food safety. Throughout her professional career, she has utilized her knowledge of food which she gathered from cultivating, growing, and canning her own food on the family farm. Tonya left Michigan to receive a Biology of Arts Degree from Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. She returned to Michigan and established a successful career working at corporations like Difco and Pfizer. Then she found Neogen Corporation in Lansing, Michigan. Neogen is a leading global food and animal safety corporation that markets innovative diagnostic products that can be applied from farm to fork.
At Neogen, she has enjoyed working in multiple roles in food safety including the areas of Microbiology, Research and Development, and most recently sales as a Territory Manager.
Hearing about the Online Master of Science in Food Safety program from a colleague, Tonya entered the program Spring Semester 2014 and quickly graduated Fall Semester 2015. “I was considered somewhat of a shy, introverted person, but believe it or not, I thoroughly enjoyed interacting with my fellow classmates via discussion boards. This segment of the program definitely enhanced my confidence and leadership skills,” she said.
With this newfound confidence, she learned a lot about what food safety entails. “Prior to starting the program, I had no idea that there were so many disciplines that fell under the food safety umbrella, such as food security, food scarcity, agricultural sustainability, healthy food access, regulatory conformance, toxicology, etc. It opened my mind to so many different topics that I just want to use and share what I have learned,” Tonya explained.
“Exploring the Linkage Between Cantaloupes as Food Vehicles and Foodborne Pathogens,” was Tonya’s applied project which has given her an advantage, “as research is [her] first love”. She plans to use her degree to raise awareness for world hunger and to help make healthy eating accessible to everybody. “I am excited to further my career and to become more involved in volunteering my food safety services to inner city gardens and to promote healthy eating by focusing on growing your own staples in your own back yard.”
Tonya has a strong role model in giving back. Her father travels twice yearly to Ghana to assist locals with food production, increasing food sources and market potential, and ultimately creating more jobs.
In her new role as Territory Manager, she says she will be able to prevent foodborne disease within the field. “I have the ability to market products that fit nicely within the food security, food scarcity and agricultural sustainability disciplines. I am in sales to help the food industry abide by government rules and regulations, but the mission is still the same - food safety and food security”.