Society promotes minority involvement in agricultural sciences

Samantha Shirk
November 05, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences Society in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences fosters and promotes the agricultural sciences and related fields in a positive manner among multicultural groups.

Also known as MANRRS, members of the society participate in activities and programs that will ensure ethnic minority involvement in agricultural sciences and careers.

Part of a national organization that was founded in 1985, the Penn State MANRRS chapter includes about 20 members who represent different majors and minors in the college.

“MANRRS provides an opportunity for students to see themselves represented in all agricultural fields,” said club co-adviser Derek James, coordinator of multicultural programs for the college. “I stay connected to our students with their passion for science through discovery majors such as pharmacology and toxicology, immunology and infectious disease, and wildlife and fisheries science.”

President LeeLa Robinson, senior animal science major from San Diego, California, found her home within the society because she felt more represented with her peers. “It is a place where I was surrounded by educated minorities within agriculture like me,” she said. “I appreciated that, especially because I was not seeing myself represented in my classes.”

The society supports its members through guest speakers, alumni panels, partnerships with Penn State minority organizations, and company engagements. In addition, the organization holds regional and national conferences for students in chapters across the country to connect with one another. Workshops and competitions help to prepare students for their careers in the professional world.

“I learn a lot about professional development at the conferences, and it helps me get out of my comfort zone,” said junior Jasmine Morgan, of Alexandria, Virginia, a senior veterinary and biomedical sciences major. Morgan also serves as the organization’s secretary and aspires to pursue a career in veterinary pharmacology. MANRRS has provided her with networking opportunities such as partnerships with Cargill and Merck Animal Health.

Due to coronavirus restrictions, the regional conference was hosted virtually this year. Morgan won the impromptu speech competition, and Capricia Williams, junior in animal science, won the elevator speech competition.

“Although the conference was virtual, we could still connect with other MANRRS students and attend panelist presentations to learn about opportunities for students of color like me,” said Williams.

Williams, who serves as the treasurer, came from a suburban environment in Long Island, New York. She originally was pursuing a degree in veterinary and biomedical sciences.

“Growing up, there was not a lot of agriculture around me, but I loved to go to the Bronx Zoo or the Atlantis Aquarium,” she said. “Sometime during my sophomore year though, I realized I love wildlife, but I was not a fan of veterinary medicine.”

She said she wants to work in conservation of wildlife species in national parks, so her minor in wildlife and fisheries science is providing her with the knowledge of habitats and endangered species. “Being involved with MANRRS connected me with the right people to help change my major to better fit my career aspirations,” she said.

State College native and senior plant sciences major Graziella Pilato joined because the society helped her feel less like an outsider in the community. She said, “MANRRS created a platform for me to see others who looked like me in agriculture.”

Pilato, who aspires to fight hunger in Latin America, chose Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences because of her interest in plants, ecosystems and sustainable agriculture.

“When people think of agriculture, they think of farming,” she said. “I don’t want to be a farmer. I want to promote the misconceptions about how food is grown and encourage curiosity of the farm-to-table process.”

At bimonthly Monday meetings, MANRRS connects its members with other minority organizations at Penn State to promote agricultural opportunities.

“We want to educate others about agriculture,” said Robinson. “We have partnered with the National Society of Black Engineers and the Black Graduate Student Association for joint meetings and activities, too.”

James said, “Our students are the cream of the crop. We are well over a 95% graduation rate because our students come in knowing what they want, and we continue to support them.”

Patreese Ingram, the college's assistant dean for multicultural affairs, serves as co-adviser for the organization and focuses on recruitment efforts. “For some students, the society has been the thing that has kept them engaged at Penn State,” she said. “MANRRS has given them a place where they feel connected to others and encourages them to continue working toward their degrees.”

To get involved, students can contact James at daj17@psu.edu or Robinson at ldr16@psu.edu.  More about the society also can be found at https://agsci.psu.edu/students/clubs/list/other/manra and on social media.

 

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated November 05, 2020