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Student Diversity Program Winners are Honored Guests at this Year’s Ag Outlook Forum

Posted by Susan Carter, Chief Communications Officer, Office of the Chief Economist and Agricultural Outlook Forum Manager in Initiatives
Feb 13, 2018
USDA Student Diversity Program winners from the class of 2016
USDA Student Diversity Program winners from the class of 2016. USDA photo by Lance Cheung.

The next generation of agricultural leaders get to rub elbows with today’s ag decisionmakers at the 2018 Agricultural Outlook Forum (AOF) later this month. Twenty undergraduate juniors and seniors and 10 graduate students have been selected as winners of the 2018 Student Diversity Program. These students receive invaluable, hands-on experience through a weeklong trip to Washington, D.C., capped off with the 94th annual Agricultural Outlook Forum (AOF), USDA’s largest annual meeting, held Feb. 22-23 at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel in Arlington, Virginia.

The Student Diversity Program winners hail from land-grant universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, and non-land-grant colleges of agriculture. In addition to attending the AOF, students will take part in a USDA briefing and discussion of career opportunities with agriculture leaders in academia, government, and industry, as well as tour the nation’s capital.

“USDA’s Outlook Forum provides an environment where the students can hear leaders describe their vision for the direction of agriculture’s future,” said Chief Economist Robert Johansson. “USDA in turn welcomes the next generation to learn so they might reach even greater heights in their careers.”

Student Diversity Program winners major in agriculture-related studies, including business, economics, communications, nutrition, food science, and veterinary education. “The Diversity Program is designed to expose students to contemporary agribusiness, future trends, scientific research, and agricultural policy in today’s real-world environment,” said Seth Meyer, Chair of the World Agricultural Outlook Board and The Agricultural Outlook Forum. “These students are the future leaders of agriculture.”

Among the winners, Justin Keay, an environmental sciences graduate student at Lincoln University, wrote on the topic ‘The greatest challenge facing agriculture over the next five years.’ “Researchers, extension professionals, educators, NGOs, policymakers and government officials across the globe must embrace the need to educate producers at every scale of production, in order to begin a global and comprehensive transition to climate-smart farming.” Emma Jobson, a Ph.D. student studying plant genetics at Montana State University, sees “depleted resources and feeding over 10 billion people” as significant challenges. Esha Tariq is an agricultural and resource economics major at the University of Maryland. In her essay on ‘Agriculture as a career,’ she envisioned helping “find new markets for our agriculture commodities.”

Undergraduate Winners

Name University University Type
Stephanie Alvarado California State University, Chico HSI
Cameron Bradshaw Kansas State University 1862
Brittany Carter Auburn University


Ciara Cox Cornell University 1862
Alexis Doon University of Maryland Eastern Shore 1890
Victoria Gastelum California State Polytechnic University, Pomona HSI
Keia Jones

Virginia State University

Keyla Lara-Leiguarda University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez HSI
Caitlinn Lineback Purdue University 1862
Jaime Luke University of Missouri 1862
Tobechukwu Opara University of Maryland Eastern Shore 1890
Javier Medina Sanchez University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez HSI
Esha Tariq University of Maryland College Park 1862
Raymond Thomas Prairie View A&M University 1890
Jasmine Thompson Alcorn State University 1890
Kyleigh Tyler Utah State University 1862
Jabril Wright North Carolina A&T State University 1890
Wesley Yu Oregon State University 1862
Ramiro Zavala California State University-Stanislaus HSI
Haylee Zwick Ohio State University 1862

Graduate Winners

Name University University Type

Maria Cuellar

New Mexico State University


Dillon Davidson

Oklahoma State University


Allen Deutz

South Dakota State University


Catherine Dobbins

University of Arkansas


Kanita Hutchinson

Tennessee State University


Emma Jobson

Montana State University


Justin Keay

Lincoln University


Daniel Munoz

New Mexico State University


Kenton Sena

University of Kentucky


Sara Webb

Clemson University


The Student Diversity Program was launched in 2007 by USDA’s Office of the Chief Economist and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The program is currently supported by academic and government institutions and corporations dedicated to promoting the education of the next generation of agriculturalists. This year’s sponsoring organizations include the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, and Farm Credit. USDA sponsors include the Agricultural Research Service; Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service; Economic Research Service; National Agricultural Statistics Service; Natural Resources Conservation Service; Office of Advocacy and Outreach; and the Office of the Chief Economist.

USDA Student Diversity Program details can be found at the USDA AOF Student Diversity Program webpage.

Learn more about the Ag Outlook Forum program and sessions (PDF, 34 KB); plenary speeches will be webcast on Feb. 22 after 6:00 p.m. EST. Register at USDA 2018 Agricultural Outlook Forum.

Category/Topic: Initiatives