Graduate Alumni Spotlight | Travis May, MBA'20
"One of the key things that I learned from Hood College, as a person not coming in from finance or banking, is that you can go in not knowing anything and still succeed if you study, work hard and immerse yourself in business administration. I really liked numbers and the finance side of things, and they taught me a lot about how business decisions affect both sides of the industry."
- Business Administration (MBA)
- The George B. Delaplaine Jr. School of Business
Travis May, MBA’20, graduated from the Hood College Master of Business Administration program in 2020. May currently works at the Freshwater Institute and has previously worked at Bell Aquaculture and the Department of Natural Resources. He holds a B.S. in natural science and natural resource management from Shepherd University. We spoke with May about his time in the MBA program at Hood College and how his experiences have helped him go further in his career.
Can you briefly describe your career and educational background?
I got my undergraduate degree at Shepherd University, focusing on natural science and natural resource management. Several years after that, I got an MBA at Hood College.
I interned at the Freshwater Institute while I was at Shepherd. It opened my eyes to an industry I hadn’t known much about. I love the outdoors and agriculture, so it was a great fit. I got hired by the Department of Natural Resources after the internship ended—I was a part of the basic fish culture staff. I stocked local streams with rainbow trout.
Eventually, I got a job at Bell Aquaculture as an aquaculture manager, working my way up. We raised yellow perch in Indiana, which culminated in me raising more than two million yellow perch for consumption per year. I later returned to the east coast. I’ve been at the Freshwater Institute for the past 10+ years.
When you think about fish, you don’t give them a ton of thought. I’ve been to all these beautiful and remote places for my work, traveling for the career, which has led me to work in Nova Scotia and Europe.
What drew you to study at Hood College for an MBA?
Several factors. I work in Shepherdstown, so it’s close by. Family members were also a big push. My sister-in-law had an amazing experience at the College, so I wanted to try it out. They have a great MBA program as well, so I thought that Hood College would have everything I need. Looking back on it, I’m happy with how it went.
How did you start work at the Freshwater Institute?
I started as an intern and worked my way up. The internship is a very powerful thing—everyone should do one. You learn valuable skills and, if you work as hard as you can, you make a name for yourself. I made a name for myself and got hired because of it. You need to do anything and learn as much as possible.
What does your research into food sustainability entail?
We’re part of a large nonprofit called the Conservation Fund. We work with land-based, sustainable systems. We do research for the USDA Agricultural Research Programs. We create five-year plans that provide solutions to stakeholders like sustainability.
For fish farming, we are looking into solutions that would use sustainable proteins and ingredients, so the fish-in, fish-out ratio can be reduced to zero. We are also looking into using an optimal amount of water for the fish farms. There is a lot of science and planning behind everything.
We also work with private companies to help them be more environmentally friendly and sustainable. We have a whole branch looking into feces created by fish and how the waste could be used as another product for the farm. We are looking into parts not used on the fish carcass and how they could be utilized.
What have you found out so far?
A lot of what we’re doing right now is focused on growing salmon and obtaining performance metrics on the fish. This would allow the geneticists to find the ideal environment for raising salmon. We’ve done a lot of work with Atlantic Salmon—finding genetics, growing fish out, capturing data on the performance of fish and seeing how to utilize that data. We are focusing on the feed ingredients, how the fish performs with that kind of fee, and what sort of waste is produced with that fish.
Not many people think about the waste aspect of fish farming, and it is a challenge for this industry. We need to record what waste is produced, so we can work with the companies to note issues like excessive phosphorus in waste. We publish our data in papers on a routine basis, so it’s hard to list specific discoveries.
Do you have any goals for your research?
It’s crazy how much seafood is imported, particularly salmon. We want to create an industry in the U.S. that would take pressure off the imports and strengthen the supply chain. At the same time, we want to ensure that this respects the animals and maintains sustainability. Economic development for the farms is also important.
We’re at the point of developing the next five-year plan. We will have some kind of roadmap that will be catered to what farmers— and the industry as a whole—need.
How did your education at Hood help prepare you for your work?
Before Hood College, I focused primarily on the biology and engineering side. In Indiana, I saw the business side of this field for the first time and how it affects the output of the farm. I was really intrigued to learn more about the business side of the farm, and Hood gave me the tools I needed to gain a solid understanding of it.
One of the key things that I learned from Hood College, as a person not coming in from finance or banking, is that you can go in not knowing anything and still succeed if you study, work hard and immerse yourself in business administration. I really liked numbers and the finance side of things, and they taught me a lot about how business decisions affect both sides of the industry.
Do you have any fun facts or trivia about yourself that you would like to share?
I was born and raised in Maryland, and I love the outdoors. I enjoy being in my garden and growing things. I think it’s amazing to grow your own food and to be able to share that. I just find animals and plants fascinating!