Posted: March 2, 2020

Students learn about career pathways and receive advice from alumni at open forum.

Alumni who engaged with faculty, students, and staff during a November visit were, from left, Manoelle DaSilva, Shakira Nelson, Tina Terrell, and Ian Stringer.

Alumni who engaged with faculty, students, and staff during a November visit were, from left, Manoelle DaSilva, Shakira Nelson, Tina Terrell, and Ian Stringer.

Four notable alumni from the College of Agricultural Sciences returned to campus in November to share their experiences at Penn State, the trajectories of their careers since graduation, and the values of diversity in the workforce as guest speakers of a Minority Alumni Panel, hosted by the Office of Multicultural Affairs.

Faculty, students, and staff were invited to attend the open forum that featured Tina Terrell, Shakira Nelson, Ian Stringer, and Manoelle DaSilva.

"These outstanding alumni are role models for minority students as they have been in their shoes and have negotiated the challenges that students today may be experiencing," said Patreese Ingram, assistant dean for multicultural affairs. "My hope is that the panelists' stories gave our students a vision of how successful they can be."

Terrell, who graduated in 1987 with a bachelor's degree in forest science, is the associate deputy chief for the National Forest Service. She manages a team that develops and executes rules and regulations pertaining to clearing vegetation under utility lines, managing locatable minerals, and implementing revised systems for cellular services across various national forests.

Terrell has worked in four regions, three deputy chief areas, and the chief's office. She has served in senior executive positions in Washington, D.C., including serving as acting associate deputy chief for business operations for two years.

She is an honorary Fellow of the Society of American Foresters; a Legend awardee of the National Society for Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences; and a recipient of the 2019 Outstanding Alumni Award given by the college's Department of Ecosystem Science and Management.

Nelson received her doctoral degree in 2013, focusing on immunology and infectious diseases. During this time, she mentored undergraduate students from underrepresented minority backgrounds, exposing them to bench science, hypothesis development, and different scientific techniques. Today, all her mentees have gone on to graduate programs across the U.S.

Nelson transitioned from academia to government, accepting a postdoctoral fellowship in cancer prevention and etiology at the National Cancer Institute. During her fellowship, she earned a master's degree in public health in epidemiology, with an emphasis on health disparities.

She is now the senior scientific program administrator at the American Association for Cancer Research, a nonprofit organization in Philadelphia.

Stringer graduated in 2012 with a bachelor's degree in turfgrass science. He is the sports turf manager for the City of Miami, where he is responsible for the overall care and maintenance of the athletic fields and city-operated parks.

Prior to his current position, Stringer completed an internship at Georgia State University and worked for the Penn State Golf Courses; Camelback Ranch in Phoenix, Arizona; Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds, Maryland; Columbia University in New York City; Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida; and the City of Fort Lauderdale.

DaSilva is a 2018 graduate who double majored in biology and agribusiness management. As an area manager at Amazon, she oversees day-to-day operations for the company's Inbound department.

During her time at Penn State, DaSilva was a member of various clubs and organizations, such as MANRRS (Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences) and the National Agri-Marketing Association. She worked in the laboratory of Peter Hudson, Willaman Professor of Biology, conducting research on the spread of diseases through wild animal populations and the consequences of infection on the host population.

In addition to serving as panelists, the alumni met with members of the Diversity Coordinating Council, faculty members, department heads and administrators, and members of the Penn State chapter of MANRRS.

"I really appreciated meeting the alumni; they all spoke with a deep conviction that we all would be successful in our fields as long as we continued to push, not forget who we are, and use the knowledge and skills we've gained from our institution," said MANRRS President Arianna Ferguson, who is majoring in veterinary and biomedical sciences.

"They gave me more confidence to become the first to do something as a minority in my field and to not feel discouraged just because I do not see someone like myself yet. What I learned most from them is to not doubt myself; there's always going to be someone trying to knock you down, but if you are sure of yourself, no one can do that."

--Amy Duke