Published on 05/10/18

UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences selects Ratcliffe Scholars

By Sage Barnard

Four University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) students will expand their education beyond the university’s Athens campus thanks to the legacy of one pioneering agricultural scientist, Thomas Jackson “Jack” Ratcliffe Jr.

In its inaugural year, the college’s Ratcliffe Scholars Program will give four CAES students $5,000 each to participate in immersive, hands-on educational experiences outside the bounds of a traditional classroom.

The students can use the funds for internships, study abroad programs, research opportunities and other worthy experiential learning activities.

The Ratcliffe family established the new scholarship in honor of their father and early 20th-century CAES graduate, Thomas Jackson Ratcliffe Jr.

Ratcliffe, who was born in 1916, served as a UGA Cooperative Extension agent in Lanier County, Georgia, following his graduation from UGA. He moved to Tifton, Georgia, in 1945 with his wife, Mary Frances Moore. There, he went to work for the Georgia Department of Entomology, which has since merged with the Georgia Department of Agriculture.

Through annual funding, the Ratcliffe Scholars Program will grant exceptional CAES students the ability to gain experiential learning in their fields that will impact their future careers.

This year’s Ratcliffe Scholars are Grant Dawson, Lindsey Fenster, Savannah Finley and Jacqueline Kessler.

Dawson is a third-year student who’s majoring in biological science with an emphasis in avian biology. On campus, he participates in the CAES students’ Mentoring Among Peers Program and the UGA Pre-Dental Society. He also took part in the CAES Spring Break Georgia Agriculture Tour and learned about farms and other agriculture-related businesses across the state.

Dawson intends to use this scholarship funding to study the gardens of Europe this summer. He will use any funds left after the trip as a resource for his research with Assistant Professor Woo Kim in the poultry science department, studying the differentiation of chicken stem cells.

Fenster is a third-year animal science major. A Department of Animal and Dairy Science teaching assistant and a small-animal internal medicine orderly at the UGA veterinary medicine hospital, Fenster also works with first-year students as a mentor in the UGA Honors Program’s Peer Assisted Leadership program.

Fenster intends to use her Ratcliffe Scholar funds to support her summer internship in hog production with Smithfield Foods. This internship will expose her to new areas of swine production and veterinary medicine, adding dimension to her understanding of large-scale food organizations.

Finley is a third-year student majoring in biological science and minoring in public health. On campus, she serves as a resident assistant at Busbee Hall and as an officer in the Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences organization and One Health Club.

Finley plans to use her scholarship to study abroad in Cortona, Italy, where she will learn about the health implications of wine consumption and the economic impact of the wine industry.

Kessler is a third-year student majoring in environmental economics and management and minoring in Spanish. On campus, she is the president of the Agricultural and Environmental Economics Club; a board member for Bag the Bag UGA, an environmental activism organization; and the treasurer of the Georgia Chapter of the Society for Conservation Biology.

Kessler plans to use her scholarship toward her stay in Washington, D.C., this summer, where she will intern with an environmental organization that focuses on environmental justice, climate change and renewable energy. She considers environmental service extremely important, and this internship is instrumental in meeting her long-term goal of a career in environmental policy.

For more information about the Ratcliffe Scholars Program and experiential learning activities available to CAES students, visit

Sage Barnard is a student writer for the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and UGA Cooperative Extension.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.
Download Image