Photo of Curtis NelsonName: Curtis Nelson
Major: Food Science and Technology with a Fermentation Science option
Year: Senior

Curtis Nelson served in the Air Force for eight years before he received a Mr. Beer home brew kit in the mail. He immediately fell in love with how much there is to learn about brewing. Curtis was looking for a new career path and when he googled “fermentation science major” Oregon State was the first link to pop up. 
Once he arrived on campus, Curtis quickly found the Food and Fermentation Science Club which introduced him to other students in the program. His previous experiences helped him secure a lab position on campus and last year was voted in as Brewmaster of the club. As Brewmaster, one of Curtis’ main goals was to get more people involved in the brewing process and focus on the learning aspect of it as well as to create a sense of community for students. He wants students to get hands-on experience and have the opportunity to see what they have learned in the classroom in action. Curtis says the Food and Fermentation Science Club is “more than just brewing”. Events include bar trivia, a chili cook-off and club brews (open to the public) where participants take home Wort, the liquid used as a starter for beer, before fermentation.

The Food Science and Technology Department is inviting and supportive to potential leaders from different backgrounds. Curtis remarked on the diverse backgrounds and ages of students in the program. “There are people who have spent a lot of time in the military, [like me] and young people.” The department gives people with different experiences and backgrounds the opportunity lead projects. 

According to Curtis, the biggest challenge facing student leaders today is finding balance. Achieving the balance of doing enough to keep people’s attention and maintain their motivation while understanding students are busy with class and jobs. You can’t do the same thing over and over and expect them to keep showing up. It is also important to recognize the balance between being a leader and a friend. Especially in a lab setting as Brewmaster, it is essential that Curtis is a central point of contact for clarification for his peers so they know what they are doing in the lab. You must learn the balance of friendship and gaining respect from your peers because you want them to trust that you know what you are doing and talking about while still being approachable.

Curtis’ biggest advice to new leaders is to be confident in yourself; and have a voice. Also, get organized right away. Keep track of names, lists and dates. Curtis also stresses the importance of being comfortable speaking in front of people. Get practice doing this in creative ways, for example, singing karaoke. Being involved on campus “let me see where [people of different backgrounds are coming from], everyone learns a different way. It has also kept me involved in the department, seeing people come in and out is fun. It [is sad to see friends go, but you] gain friendships and stay in touch with them after they graduate. I feel like I am a part of this place, not just someone who has gone through the program.” Curtis advises students to seek out opportunities because they make your college experience so much fuller. Don’t just take classes, but get the whole experience your department has to offer.
Curtis encourages students to come to Club Brews, which are open to anyone who is interested regardless of major and happen three times a term.
Here is the link to get on the Food and Fermentation Science Club email list: http://lists.oregonstate.edu/mailman/listinfo/osufoodandferment