Picture someone working in agriculture or the natural resource sciences. Chances are the picture in your head may be a little outdated.
Today, more than 60 percent of the students of the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) are female and about 20 percent identify as racial minorities.
The college’s Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS) student group brings awareness to the modern face of the agricultural and natural resource sciences. The UGA MANRRS chapter celebrated its 20th anniversary this year. This is a milestone for a group, which began when minority students made up only about 10 percent of the UGA student body.
MANRRS is a student, professional and business organization that represents students and professionals from diverse backgrounds. This club empowers its members by providing continuing education, peer and professional mentoring networks and professional development support.
Students at Michigan State and Pennsylvania State universities started MANRRS in 1986 to build a community of support among minority agriculture and natural resources students and professionals.
In 1997, UGA students chartered a chapter. This group has been helping students build professional networks and support for the last 20 years.
“MANRRS is about networking and professional development while creating a community within the college for underrepresented students to feel at home," said Alexis Barnes, a senior in food industry marketing and administration and the current MANRRS president.
In addition to biweekly meetings, the student group hosts professional development and networking events and attends regional and national conferences to connect with students, faculty and professionals from across the country.
“MANRRS Club is a unique learning environment for underrepresented students in agriculture and related fields at the University of Georgia,” said Victoria David, director of diversity affairs for CAES. “The UGA MANRRS Club is responsible for helping students find their way among the wide spectrum of agricultural careers. With advances in science and technology and the need for new and innovative approaches to the science of agriculture, UGA MANRRS Club is finding and developing new agricultural leaders.”
To accomplish this, seasoned MANRRS members mentor undergraduate and graduate students who join the club. Mentors and their proteges share a major. Members also participate in professional and career development opportunities.
“Students rarely join the club with an understanding of the depth and breadth of agriculture,” David said. “We work to introduce students to agriculture industry leaders from all fields and help students see the full spectrum of employment and research opportunities out there.”
For many students, their time in MANRRS has defined their time at CAES, helping them to choose majors and foster connections that help them land their first internships and jobs.
“The leadership positions I’ve held have augmented my professional growth in ways I wouldn't have otherwise experienced, and I’ve seen it do the same for others,” Barnes said. “My college experience has been a success largely because of being a MANRRS member and I could not more enthusiastically encourage others to get involved.”
There are currently 26 student members of MANRRS at UGA. David is the director, Associate Professor Shavannor Smith serves as faculty adviser, and Narke Norton, program coordinator for the CAES Office of Diversity Affairs, serves as the staff adviser.
To learn more about MANRRS at UGA, visit www.caes.uga.edu/academics/diversity-affairs/MANRRS.html.