Student "Plant Seeds" for Future Ag Success at MANRRS National Conference

Posted: April 15, 2012

March 29-April 1, 2012, Penn State students headed to Atlanta, GA for the 27th Annual Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS) Career and Training Conference. There students competed in a number of competitions, attended career fairs and interacted with professionals, faculty and students from across the country.

“MANRRS conferences never get old. Going each year, there’s always that chance you find a new company or new contact that can help you, your chapter or the college in ways that you don’t realize” said Patrick Thomas (sophomore – Ag Sciences) “I look forward to going every year because you grow as a student and future professional that much more each time. It’s like Disney World, but for academic and professional development.”

At the conference Patrick Thomas, the chapter’s treasurer, won third place in the research discussion contest, which challenges students to conduct an interview with a faculty member on their research then discuss said research and other relevant studies in an open panel discussion. His interview was conducted with Dr. Fern Willits and how her study on quality of instruction at Penn State has allowed student-instructor relations to grow.

Thomas wasn’t the only student to place in a sponsored competition. Itha Cao (senior – agribusiness management) won the annual talent show and also competed in the research poster competition. She commented that, “the Atlanta, GA venue was my first MANRRS conference, and I must say I was blown away by the event…what I saw went far beyond my expectations, as the people I met were extremely successful professionals who were more than willing to speak with me about their experiences. This was also my first time presenting a research poster, so I felt like that was invaluable to my future, where I hope to present more research in graduate school.  In addition to the career fair, the workshops that I attended were both informative and fascinating, as I gleaned information on how to behave at an interview and also where to look for sustainable agriculture careers.”

Two of the chapter’s newest members, Chanell Dunham (sophomore – Animal Sciences) and Denzel Middleton (sophomore – Biobehavioral Health) spoke greatly of their first time at the conference. Dunham said “I must say that I really enjoyed myself at the conference and will be in attendance next year, without any hesitation” and “I learned a great amount of information that can be utilized and applied to other situations that I may be engaged in.” When asked about the conference Middleton stated, “this conference helped me to gain confidence in myself with being a minority and trying to further my education.  I can honestly say that because of this conference I have gained a good deal of fruitful knowledge in the area of professional development and I look forward to using what I have learned in the near future.”

The chapter’s president and one of it’s co-advisors have been on a number of trips to this conference before, but still continued to be in amazement over the trip and holds out excitement about the next one. Tahirah Cook (junior – Agricultural and Extension Education) said that though this was her fifth conference “the career and graduate school fair seems to grow larger every year keeping new and fresh faces at the conference. The workshops also prove to aid in professional development and continue to sharpen my networking skills. As always I look forward to attending future conferences.”

Talia Carroll, Graduate Advisor and doctoral student in Higher Education believes that “attendance at the MANRRS Conference was a great opportunity for the students to network with those in industry, connect with potential graduate schools, and meet other student attendees. As a co-advisor, it was a pleasure to support the students as they participated in their respective contests. Additionally, my own workshop on sharing advising experiences produced really fruitful conversation about how to best challenge and support MANRRS students. Overall, this conference is a great stepping-stone for the students and I hope to see even more students participate next year. It will be a great time in California!”