Skip to main content

1890s National Scholar Finds Purpose Through Science

Posted by MD Sharman, Public Affairs Specialist, USDA Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement in Equity Initiatives
Jun 18, 2024
Jordan McMahon

Four years ago, Jordan McMahon wasn’t sure if he would go to college. Today, he is a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) 1890 National Scholar and published researcher. He recently graduated from Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio and will be pursuing a master’s degree, eventual Ph.D., and a career in agriculture.

What changed his trajectory can be attributed to the USDA 1890 National Scholars Program, coupled with his ambition, attitude and a passion for agriculture that stems from his family’s challenges with nutrition. “The 1890 Scholars program carried my whole college experience and provided me with opportunities I would have never encountered otherwise,” he said.

The USDA 1890 National Scholars Program seeks to encourage students at historically Black 1890s institutions to pursue food and agriculture career paths. Scholarship recipients get full tuition, fees, books and room and board, along with the option of work experience at USDA through summer internships.

McMahon’s family began having health problems, which were later revealed to be reactions to allergens in foods. This spawned his interest in understanding ingredient breakdown, nutrition, and the availability of alternative options. The desire to understand more about supply chains is why McMahon chose to pursue his degree in sustainable agriculture.

His interests and talents were revealed during his internships with the USDA Agricultural Research Service in Fort Collins, Colorado. “It was an amazing environment to grow up in,” he said. “Dr. Sean Gleason was my first supervisor and mentor. The team guided me. They taught me what it meant to be a scientist with the USDA.”

The time in Colorado proved instrumental in fueling his drive for continuing education. “The team inspired me to carry on my education and continue working for the government,” he said. In 2023, McMahon had his name included with the team on a research publication.

He was just hired for a permanent position as a natural resource specialist with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. He encourages those unsure about what they want to do to start early and broaden their horizons. “I had so much discovery and exploration in college,” he said. “But it was something I could have started earlier and been further along with a more open mind.”

Category/Topic: Equity Initiatives