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Congrats to the Student Diversity Program Winners, See You at the 2016 Agricultural Outlook Forum

Posted by Susan Carter, Public Affairs Staff, Office of the Chief Economist in Initiatives
Feb 08, 2016

A group of 30 university students, announced by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, will get a head start to a career in agriculture as winners of USDA’s Agricultural Outlook Forum Student Diversity Program.  Twenty university juniors and seniors were chosen based their essays on “Agriculture as a Career.”  Additionally, 10 graduate students were chosen in response to “The Greatest Challenge Facing Agriculture over the Next Five Years.”

Undergraduate student winners are: Thaddeus Chatman, Prairie View A&M University; Julie Colvin, Oregon State University; Rhyne Cureton, North Carolina A&T State University; Kristianne Dowd, Rutgers University; Jelisa Fields, Texas A&M University – College Station; Cara Goch, Michigan State University; Morgan Goche, South Dakota State University; Raquel Gomez, California State University – Stanislaus; Phillip Harris, Prairie View A&M University; Doris Ihejirika, University of Maryland College Park; Taschua Jeboda, University of Delaware; Jenna Lansing, Iowa State University; Cara McDermott, University of Florida; Jamal Palmer, University of Maryland Eastern Shore; Juan Rios California, State University – Stanislaus; Ashley Romero, San Diego State University – Imperial Valley; Moises Umanzor, University of Maryland College Park; Gabriel Varon, University of Puerto Rico – Mayaguez; Benjamin Webster, University of Maryland Eastern Shore; Hang Zhong, North Carolina State University

Graduate student winners are: Folagbayi Arowolo, University of Wisconsin – Madison; Arquette Grant, University of Maryland Eastern Shore; Kelly Gravuer, University of California – Davis; Brittany Hoover, North Carolina A&T State University; Sofia Macchiavelli Girón, University of Wisconsin – Madison; Brandi Murley, Oklahoma State University; Katherine Murphy, University of California – Davis; Elizabeth Walsh, Texas A&M University – College Station; Gracie Valdez, St. Mary’s University; Madiha Zaffou, University of Connecticut.

The winners will attend USDA’s 2016 Agricultural Outlook Forum on February 25-26, 2015, at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel in Arlington, Va.  USDA’s Agricultural Outlook Forum Student Diversity Program is designed to introduce students to contemporary agribusiness, future trends, scientific research, and agricultural policy in today’s real world environment.  The students are from land-grant, Hispanic-serving, and Non-Land-Grant Agricultural and Renewable Resources Universities.

Since the Program’s inception in 2007, annual sponsorship has been provided by CHS, Inc. and Farm Credit.  USDA’s Economic Research Service, Agricultural Research Service, and Natural Resource Conservation Service, Office of Advocacy and Outreach and Office the Chief Economist also provide support.  The University of Maryland Eastern Shore partners with USDA to make the program possible.

One of this year’s Student Diversity Program winners, Cara McDermott from the University of Florida is in the pre-veterinary program.  She credits an encounter on a warm September afternoon, when a dark red grasshopper caught her, as the impetus for wanting to pursue a career in agriculture.  “Agriculture is a way of viewing the world and how organisms interact.  Most people would look at this grasshopper and see a bug with strange legs; however, I saw a pest to crops, food to animals, and a fertilizer to the soil.  It is in this observation that I realized agriculture is so much more than meets the eye.”  A chance meeting with the grasshopper gave McDermott a new perspective about the agriculture.  “I no longer look at a cornfield and see plants; instead, I see the biologists feverishly working to increase crop yields.  I no longer look at cattle and see a steak dinner; I see an animal that requires proper nutrition and medical care. And I no longer look at a grasshopper and see an insect; rather, I see the opportunity to change and improve the world I live in,” said McDermott.

Another Student Diversity winner, Cara Goch is studying Agribusiness Management at Michigan State University.  Agriculture winds its way through our lives in more ways than people think said Goch.  “It’s more than just farms with red barns, trucks, tractors, and rolling hills covered in corn.  Instead, it’s a growing industry full of scientists, marketers, researchers, families, and policy makers.  It involves trial and error, uncertainty, dedication, fearlessness, and most importantly: education.  It is education about our planet, our future, and ourselves.  Agriculture careers are innovative by discovering new ways to feed a growing population with the same amount of arable land and diminishing natural resources.  For these reasons, a career in agriculture is one of the most dynamic, and perhaps the most consequential, industries that can a young person can enter.”

McDermott and Goch, along with the other 28 Student Diversity Program winners will meet with Secretary Vilsack and attend sessions on agriculture’s transformation.  For details on the 2016 Agricultural Outlook Forum and registration go to

Information on the Student Diversity Program can be found on the USDA website.

Category/Topic: Initiatives