The path for each alumnus of the Department of Agricultural Education and Communication (AEC) is unique. For some, it travels straight into a job within the agriculture and natural resources industry, others funnel into the classroom, and there are still some students that continue their education by pursuing a graduate or professional degree. Chris Vitelli found his path as an AEC alumnus roaming across the country, consistently tied with higher education.
As a first-generation college student, AEC served as Vitelli’s introduction to his academic career.
“The communication skills I learned are, of course, invaluable,” he said, “but [AEC] really connected me to the world of higher education.”
Vitelli credits AEC faculty with fostering a feeling of support as a first-generation student and giving him the confidence to do anything with his degree.
While he felt that all of the faculty invested in him, Vitelli said Dr. Ed Osborne really made him feel at home.
“He is an amazing faculty member,” Vitelli said about Osborne. “I always felt that he was truly invested in me as a person and as a student.”
Once Vitelli received his bachelor’s degree, he headed to Harvard University for his Master of Education degree in administration, planning and social policy. It wasn’t long, however, before he found himself back at the University of Florida (UF), working as the Director of Student Services for the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.
Vitelli said his time working in student affairs allowed him to use the technical skills in AEC and helped him find his passion. Since then, he has served in a variety of capacities within higher education. In 2016, Vitelli became the new Merced College President in California. Merced College is part of the largest educational system in the world.
Last month, Vitelli made another trip back to Gainesville, when he was awarded the UF Alumni Association’s Outstanding Young Alumni Award. This award is given annually to a select group of alumni under the age of 40 “whose achievements positively reflect the Gator Nation."
“We are so pleased to have Mr. Vitelli recognized for his accomplishments,” said Dr. Brian Myers, professor and chair of AEC. “Our department continues to watch our alumni reach new successes and positively impact the world, and I am proud that Mr. Vitelli has received the Outstanding Young Alumni award for his achievements in higher education.”