Eleven graduate students in the College of Agriculture at Auburn University attended the Annual Training Conference and Career Expo from the National Society of Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences, or MANRRS, March 23-26 in Jacksonville, Florida.
MANRRS is a nonprofit changing the face of agriculture, natural resources and related sciences by supplying the industry with a diverse pool of talented leaders. The organization combines a passion for improving quality of life with new ideas and perspectives to enhance the world.
Of the 11 Auburn students at the conference, two attended on full scholarship — Ekene Aguegboh and Akua Adu-Gyamfi, recipients of the Cargill Thrive Scholarships — and the other nine had their application fees, lodging and some travel covered by the College of Agriculture or their respective departments.
It was Ghana-native Adu-Gyamfi’s first in-person MANRRS conference, and the doctoral student in agricultural education said she did not know what to expect.
“I can confidently say attending the meeting has been eye-opening for me,” she said. “I got the opportunity to meet and interact with people from diverse backgrounds. I connected with professionals from the agriculture industry and other organizations who shared their experiences on diversity. I also met with students from different schools who shared their experiences with MANRRS and interacted with organizations at the career fair.”
Adu-Gyamfi said the career fair also gave her first-hand interview experience, which bolstered her confidence as she prepares to enter the job market.
Veronica Alston, co-president of the Auburn MANNRS chapter and doctoral student in the School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences, was named the 2022-2023 National Graduate Student Vice President of Region 3 at the graduate business meeting held during the conference.
“I have been a member of MANRRS since I first started college in undergrad in 2010,” Alston said. “It is an honor that throughout my undergraduate career, my master’s and now my Ph.D. I can still be a part of this amazing organization and take up a leadership role such as this.
“MANRRS offers students amazing opportunities to improve leadership skills, organizational skills and public speaking skills,” Alston continued. “We also are provided with opportunities to speak to sponsors and leaders within the organization and nationally within the government and private sectors.”
The theme of this year’s conference was “Broadening Horizons and Changing the Narrative” and it included a diversity summit, which brought in speakers who spoke extensively on diversity and inclusion.
Adu-Gyamfi said she was deeply motivated by a specific message from the conference.
“Agriculture is only as strong as the diverse voices leading it,” she recalled. “I now understand that I must first be the change I want to see in order to lead.”
Auburn has a Junior MANRRS Chapter for middle and high school students to broaden their horizons through exposure to agriculture, natural resources and the related sciences, according to Alston.
After a call for theme suggestions, the theme of this year’s conference was created by a member of Auburn’s junior chapter.
Alston said the theme reminded her that broadening horizons is more than expanding knowledge as individuals already in the industry.
“It’s also sharing that knowledge with our communities and opening the door to those who wish to work in agriculture but may be on another path that is less traveled or well known to others,” she said. “I believe that everyone has a connection to agriculture.”
The agriculture students in attendance at this year’s MANRRS conference were:
• Eugene Adjei, agricultural economics and rural sociology
• Derick Taylor Adu, agricultural economics and rural sociology
• Ekene Aguegboh, agricultural economics and rural sociology
• Veronica Alston, Auburn MANRRS co-president, fisheries
• Brian Cornish, Auburn MANRRS co-president, agricultural economics and rural sociology
• Ron Davis, ag education
• Akua Adu Gyamfi, ag education
• Tracy James, ag education
• Amani Lilton, ag education
• Makeda Nurradin, ag education
• Oluchi Linda Otubo, ag education