Texas Tech University

Mortensen Taking Family Tradition, Agricultural Knowledge into Dietary World

George Watson

June 29, 2020

The senior in the Department of Animal & Food Science has plans to become a registered dietician to connect food producers and consumers.

In February, Texas Tech University and the Texas Tech Parents Association announced the 2020 Student Academic Leadership Award recipients to honor outstanding students who excel both in and out of the classroom. We are highlighting the Texas Tech University students who were recognized.

If there's one thing Emma Mortensen knows about, it's agriculture.

For five generations, her family has farmed land in northeastern Colorado. And through four years of education at Texas Tech University, she has become acquainted with just about every aspect of meat science. Her spot on the national championship Meat Judging Team in the College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources has opened numerous doors that will serve her well upon graduation.

She also has worked on the production and sales teams for Raider Red Meats, working with customers and restaurants to fill orders. Mortensen had a chance two summers ago to take her knowledge overseas, performing beef cattle research in Australia where she conducted a five-week yield test for primal and sub-primal cuts of meat of grass-fed cattle. This will help create an algorithm which will make cattle grading and pricing more accurate and efficient.

But while she has the knowledge of meat and meat science, she has plans to take it further. Her goal is to have a say in what happens to the meat once it hits the dinner plate, which is why she's working toward becoming a registered dietician.

For the moment, she is serving as a research assistant in the Department of Animal & Food Sciences and, in June, will start a dual master's degree path in Meat Science and Nutritional Sciences.

For her efforts, Mortensen recently received one of the university's Student Academic Leadership Awards.

How are you a leader in the classroom?
I believe I am a leader in the classroom through my actions. I have always been an active and involved student, seeking opportunities to gain the best experience and education. I strive to make my education a priority, while also taking full advantage of out-of-classroom experiences. Meeting my professors face-to-face is important to me, and I often use office hours to introduce myself or discuss the course. Some of my most valuable learning experiences have come from reaching out to my teachers or getting involved in activities outside the classroom.

How are you a leader outside the classroom?
I have shown leadership through being a hardworking, well-rounded student. My education is very important to me, but I have worked to be involved in several other areas that will shape my overall education and set me up for success in my future career. In addition to taking a wide variety of courses here at Texas Tech, I work a part-time job and am very involved in research in the Department of Animal & Food Sciences. Furthermore, over my four years at Texas Tech, I have led and been part of several extracurricular activities, such as President's Select and the Student Agriculture Council. Leading by example is very important to me, and I love being able to do that through my involvement in so many aspects while going to school.

Why did you select your major?
I was born and raised on a fifth-generation family farm in northeastern Colorado. My roots in agriculture run deep and there was no doubt in my mind that I was choosing the correct major and career path. I am so passionate about sustainability and communication in the agriculture industry, especially in animal production and meat science. I chose to study animal science and meat science at Texas Tech to gain an excellent education, to complement my background knowledge and experience. Texas Tech has one of the best meat science programs in the nation, and I knew I would get hands-on experience and valuable connections through the program here in Lubbock.

How do you intend to use your education in the future?
I plan to obtain a master's degree in meat science and nutritional sciences and work toward becoming a registered dietician. I look forward to working as a registered dietician in the agriculture industry to combine my passions for agriculture, education and connecting producers and consumers. In today's market, there are so many food choices. I would like to bridge that gap, allowing consumers to make educated and trustworthy decisions when they choose to put various agriculture products on their family's plates. I intend to use my education to promote agricultural products and to educate consumers on the sustainability and integrity of animal proteins and other food products.

How has Texas Tech helped you along the path to those goals?
Over the past four years, I have traveled the state and nation with the Texas Tech Meat Judging Team. Through this experience, I was able to visit some amazing companies and network with industry professionals. In addition, I got the opportunity to complete an internship working on beef cattle research with the second-largest protein company in Australia. The internship was one of the most valuable learning experiences I have ever had. Texas Tech has undoubtedly provided me with the education, connections and experiences to obtain each and every one of my goals.

Who has had the biggest impact on you, and why?
It is hard for me to pick a single person because it has truly been the entire faculty in the meat science department who had the biggest impact on my life. I came to Texas Tech from Colorado not knowing a single student or professor. The advisors took me in and guided me down the right path. As I began to get involved, the professors, such as Mark Miller and Dale Woerner, saw my potential and reached out to get me further involved in meat judging and meat science research. Texas Tech has truly become my second home, and I feel overwhelmingly blessed when I look back on every experience and opportunity I have received through the meat science department.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?
I feel extremely honored to receive this award and to represent the College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources. I am so thankful for my time at Texas Tech, and it is such a privilege to be recognized among a group of high-achieving students from across campus. I came to Texas Tech on a leap of faith, and it is so awesome to see all that I have done come to fruition!