A unique scholarship program in the Prestage Department of Poultry Science provides educational and experiential opportunities for outstanding students from groups that are traditionally underrepresented in the food and agricultural sciences.
Five poultry science students – Nayeem Hossain, Kelly Grace Keen, Selena McKoy, Aaron Oxendine and Sara Tong – are participating in the Higher Education Multicultural Scholars Program (MSP), sponsored by the United States Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA).
“We have a lot of serious challenges in the world today, and many of those challenges are or will be related to agriculture,” said Matt Koci, MSP director and associate professor. “The Multicultural Scholars Program is important because it helps us attract students who will likely bring different ways of looking at problems and collectively help ensure we are able to meet the coming challenges.”
MSP scholars are selected upon admission to the Prestage Department of Poultry Science, after successful completion of the ASPIRE program and the Poultry Science Summer Institute. They each receive scholarship support of $6,500 a year, as well as $2,500 a year to cover costs associated with program activities.
The Multicultural Scholars Program also offers several experiential learning opportunities, including undergraduate research, industry internships and study abroad. A service-learning component encourages engagement with K-12 students, and professional development activities focus on participation in relevant student organizations, conferences and career fairs.
Kelly Grace Keen was one of three MSP scholars who traveled to Adelaide, South Australia, as part of the program. They spent three weeks in the summer of 2016 learning about history, culture, market forces and educational systems in Australia that shape and support food animal production there.
Keen describes the Multicultural Scholars Program in one word: invaluable.
“It is because of MSP that I was able to explore the country of Australia, gaining irreplaceable experiences and knowledge regarding the poultry industry,” she said. “I have also been able to connect with the other scholars, all who share my passion for poultry.”
The program has had unique impact on each student, Koci said.
“If I had to distill it down to one thing that all of the students gain, I would say confidence,” he said. “Confidence in who they are, confidence in what they want in a career, and confidence in their understanding of what it will take to continue to grow into the people they want to be.”
The Multicultural Scholars Program at NC State is made possible by support from USDA-NIFA, under grant number NIFA 2012-38413-19408.