MANRRS encourages diversity within agricultural community

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Kansas State's Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences is on a mission to promote diversity in the agricultural industry. (Jordan Koster | Collegian Media Group)

Kansas State’s Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences is on a mission to promote diversity in the agricultural industry.

The chapter, which received its charter in 2002, helps ethnically diverse K-State students through the academic rigors of college and emphasizes pre-professional networking among its students.

Even though MANRRS is agriculturally focused, Akayla Calhoun, chapter undergraduate vice president and senior in animal sciences, said the program’s advantages spread across many areas of study.

“We try to show people that we are more than just agriculture, that we also are about natural resources and related sciences,” Calhoun said. “Engineers, architects, other areas of study can find a place with us and can broaden peoples’ horizons of agriculture.”

Jordan Bailey, chapter president and junior in animal sciences, said the emphasis on diversity in MANRRS isn’t just about differences in identity but in ways of thought and fields of study.

“Say that there are 10 farmers in a county, and only one out of those 10 farms in a way that is different, they are the minority in that county,” Bailey said. “We have this idea that being a minority has to completely correlate with skin color or gender, but in reality everyone is a minority in their own sense depending on what they are doing differently than the people around them.”

Bailey said regular chapter meetings consist of discussion about diverse needs and necessities that challenge the future of the agricultural industry.

“By the year of 2050, it’s projected that farmers will have to feed over 9 billion people, and the only way to do that is to find new ideas, like new ways of harvesting or new ways of planting, and finding completely different ways of doing things,” he said. “So diversity isn’t necessarily something weird or something that stands out, but a way of doing something different.”

With 30 to 40 active members, MANRRS often collaborates with Agricultural Ambassadors and Agricultural Student Council for community service projects and corporate showcases to build a pre-professional student network. Raymond Thomas, chapter graduate student vice president who is seeking his masters in agricultural economics, said MANRRS’s most influential work for the College of Agriculture is with its junior program.

“Our chapter will create or adopt a group of high school students from any high school or several high schools and create a junior chapter,” Thomas said. “Through that, we are really able to continue to recruit for K-State and the College of Ag. Many of our past junior MANRRS participants go through the [Multicultural Academic Program Success] MAPS and project impact programs and go on to study with K-State,”

Along with its collaborations with the College of Agriculture, MANRRS works closely with the office of Diversity and Multicultural Student Affairs to expose students who don’t come from agricultural backgrounds to what K-State has to offer in agricultural fields of study, said Lonnie Hobbs, co-chapter adviser and graduate student in agriculture economics.

“We bring these high school students here to campus and have them do events with food science where they create something like ice cream, but also get exposed to agriculture by seeing where the milk comes from for Call Hall,” Hobbs said. “Through those type of events, we have been successful in influencing the decisions of high school students making their college decisions.”

The program’s mission is to meet the academic, pre-professional and social needs of ethnic minority students within the College of Agriculture as well as other colleges across the campus and welcomes students to become members without regard to race, sex, religion, national origin, handicap or age.

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