Annual Scholarship Gifts Cultivate Student Excellence

Crop and Soil Sciences Scholarships cultivate student excellence

The Gift of Focus

NC State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences awards 350 student scholarships totaling over $1mm each year.  Crop and Soil Sciences’ donors enable our department to award 45 of these directly to students in our degree programs. Some donations come in the form of endowments – an ongoing legacy of generosity benefiting students for years to come, for which we (and they) are grateful. But many gifts are smaller personal contributions expanding the financial assistance pool and providing welcomed aid. “Almost half of our department’s undergraduate scholarships come from annual contributions made by commodity groups, businesses, and individuals,” said David Crouse Department of Crop and Soil Sciences’ Director of Undergraduate Programs. “Their annual gifts complement larger endowments enabling us to award scholarships to more students in our department.” This financial assistance frees many students to focus their studies and to excel.  

NC State Wolfpack
Graduates throw up their Wolf hands at Commencement.

A Knowledge Investment

Annual gifts come to us from a variety of sources but share some common ground – a penchant for cultivating the next generation of ag professionals – those poised and trained to tackle the global challenges of food and environmental security.  Annual donations aren’t recurring commitments, although many donors give consistently. The contributions vary widely in frequency and amount, from 3 to 5-figure sums, and are a mainstay of support to students who gratefully apply these resources as a knowledge investment.

Annual giving allows donors the flexibility to choose their level of financial commitment and tailor scholarship criteria to reflect their passions and values.  Some stipulate that a student demonstrates a proven financial need, while others are merit-based; some are even both. Donors often specify a particular field of study or geographical requirement to reflect their history or career field.  While multiple filters can make it difficult to match-make a scholarship recipient, some required criteria assure donors that their investment is seeded in alignment with their interests.  Yogev Erez, student in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences at NC State

Not All Who Wander

Yogev Erez is a Crop and Soil Sciences’ senior and recipient of one such award. Yogev is a self-described ‘non-traditional student’ as a 36-year-old undergrad with a young daughter.  “I started college kind of late after working around the country in the dairy goat world for about 13 years. I began [my studies] at community college but quickly found that things just wouldn’t line up.  It was going to take me much longer to reach my goal,” Yogev said. His interest in soils came from a family history in agriculture. His father worked for the University of Maryland Extension in dairy research.

Yogev’s time at NC State has solidified a clear career path with the US Department of Agriculture.  His strong academic performance earned him a dream internship with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) writing ecological site descriptions, something new, challenging, and stable for his future.  “The scholarship assistance I’ve gotten takes the pressure off me to work constantly. I treat my studies as a job. Doing really well in class brings in the same financial benefit as part-time work and allows me to do better.  Those grades helped me get the internship that will translate into a full time job,” he said.

Giving Back HomeNC State Crop & Soil Sciences student Kaitlyn Howard

Eighteen-year-old Kaitlyn Howard, a traditional 4-year freshman, has a similar story with a different origin.  She grew up on a diversified family farm in rural Onslow County, NC, surrounded by neighboring hog farms. Ag-bound from the start, she learned from her parents and grandparents to mow hay and work turkeys on their family land.  She was active in high school FFA, sought out high school ag classes, and attended NC State’s Resource Conservation Workshop, which led to an internship with an NRCS Soil Conservationist. That experience piqued her interest in conservation.  

Kaitlyn hopes to take her college learning back to her community. “I want to do something related to agriculture and natural resources.  I like educating people about farming and dispelling myths. A lot of people don’t think hog farmers are concerned with environmental impacts.  But they are – it’s a top priority … It would be cool to help those farmers implement environmental protection practices,” she said with a smile.  

Kaitlyn was awarded funds from the Corn Grower’s Association of NC Scholarship.  Rhonda Garrison is the group’s Executive Director. “Our group was chartered in 1977 – our relationship with NC State goes back that far.  Most of our board members are ardent NC State supporters in thought, word, and deed,” Garrison noted.

We know the future of farming is in knowledge and the best place to get it is at NC State.

  There are many ways commodity groups, like the Corn Grower’s Association of NC, contribute to university research and advancement.  So why do they choose to support Crop & Soil Sciences scholarships? “The cost of higher education can be detrimental, especially for rural families … We know the future of farming is in knowledge and the best place to get it is at NC State.”  

Financial student aid was a game-changer for Kaitlyn.  “My parents are excited that I want to get educated in agriculture and work in this industry.  But [without aid] college would have been a big financial burden. I still work on the farm and do jobs in my hometown when I go back – right now about every two weeks.  My dad is a farmer and my mom is a school teacher. The scholarship money has made a big difference to me and my family,” she stated. Her agricultural heritage and dedication to scholastic achievement will continue opening doors for her.  

It Doesn’t Feel Like WorkCrop and Soil Sciences turfgrass student Marcus Davenport

Turfgrass major, Marcus Davenport already has one foot out the door.  As a December-graduating senior, he is flying high. An Eagle Scout from Alamance County, NC, Marcus loves the outdoors and became enamored with golf from frequent visits to his grandmother who lived on a course.  He worked at a local golf course throughout high school, enjoying the opportunity to be outside and learn the game. From age 16 he knew he wanted to pursue a turf career. “My mom encouraged me to choose a 4-year program. I don’t regret it.  I’ve gained a competitive edge on others wanting to get in the business,” Marcus said.

During his time at NC State Marcus has learned the power of the NC State brand and its deep industry connections.  Marcus shared a lesson he’s taken to heart from NC State Turf alumni Jimmy Simpson, Facilities Management Coordinator for the Town of Cary.  “He told [our class] ‘Remember, we’re in the memory-making business’,” which resonates with Marcus.  “I love the atmosphere of a golf course management team. We’re creating a backdrop for the sport I love and helping people enjoy themselves and make memories together,” he said.  

Marcus’s scholarship money was gifted by the Carolinas Golf Foundation, the non-profit educational foundation of the Carolinas Golf Association.  The financial aid has mitigated the stress of student debt. “It has freed me so I could work less and focus on my school work,” he said.  His hard work paid off through an internship with Old Chatham Golf Club last summer that will morph into a full-time position as an Assistant Superintendent when he graduates.  “I’ve always enjoyed the work – but when you enjoy it, it just doesn’t feel like work,” he said.

Jack Nance is the Executive Director of the Carolinas Golf Association (CGA).  “Our educational foundation was established in 1977.  The main impetus was to fund turfgrass research and scholarships.  Our goal is to support students we hope will end up managing turfgrass at golf courses across the Carolinas,” he said.  Their foundation focuses their research funding through Rounds 4 Research, a fundraising program of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America.

It’s great to see the kids benefiting from our program and know that they’ll be out on Carolina golf courses giving back to the game.

 “Getting to meet these [scholarship] students is really rewarding for us.  It’s great to see the kids benefiting from our program and know that they’ll be out on Carolina golf courses giving back to the game and to the CGA,” Nance commented.

Marcus’s internship with Old Chatham Golf club positioned him to make connections. “Once at a tournament event, I got a chance to meet Jack Nance. I got to shake his hand and thank him personally. It is amazing to meet these alumni who care about you. In our industry people love to give back. That’s what it’s all about … and [NC State] has the best program in the world,” he smiled. As a senior on the doorstep of graduation with a dream job in-hand, it would appear his work has paid off.

These students come to our department from different paths and with a host of aspirations.  But they are in agreement on the power of focus from scholarship generosity. Those gifts changed their college experience, one which they look forward to spreading throughout the landscape.

Considering a Financial Gift?

If you are interested in sharing a financial or in-kind gift with students in our department, please visit our department’s donor site or contact De Teague, CALS Executive Director, Major and Leadership Gifts at 919-513-2950.  Thank you for supporting our students and degree programs which are growing the future.  If you are a high schooler interested in studying agriculture or environmental science visit our student site for information on financial assistance.