Published on 01/24/19

Ratcliffe Scholars program provides CAES students opportunities of a lifetime

By Sadie Lackey

Whether it’s seeing a historical garden firsthand, taking an internship out of state or making your first trip to a professional conference, experiences outside the classroom help students make the most of their time at college.

While it can hard to put a value on these types of life experiences, they do come with a price tag.

In 2017, the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences launched the Ratcliffe Scholars Program to help students pay for experiential learning opportunities ranging from exchange programs to internships.

In its inaugural year, the award helped one student see the landmark gardens of Europe and another pay for living expenses during her internship on a pig farm. These are just the kind of experiences THAT the program was meant to encourage, said Amanda Newquist, director of experiential learning for CAES.

Through annual funding, the Ratcliffe Scholars Program grants exceptional CAES students the ability to gain experiential learning in their fields that will impact their future careers. The competitive program encourages students to participate in out-of-classroom experiences that will train them to be forward-thinking and learn through hands-on activities. Below are three individuals who have benefited from the Ratcliffe family’s generosity.

Broadening horizons

In its first year the program enabled Grant Dawson, a fourth-year biological sciences major from Eastanollee, Georgia, to participate in the CAES study abroad program Europe: The Grand Tour – Art and Gardens. Dawson’s cohort visited five locations throughout Western Europe, studying modern and ancient gardens and the factors that influenced garden design while experiencing different cultures and ways of life.

“When I applied for the Ratcliffe scholarship, everything fell into place,” Dawson said. “I want to thank CAES and all of the donors for such great opportunities.”

Preparing for the future

Fourth-year animal science major Lindsey Fenster used her Ratcliffe Scholarship to help defray living expenses during an internship with Smithfield in North Carolina.

During her time with Smithfield, she worked with pigs from farrow to finish, did lab work and was able to look inside the business world of Smithfield.

“It was a much broader educational experience than I imagined,” Fenster said, crediting her internship for much more than gaining skills in a pig barn. During her work with Smithfield, colleagues from different cultures and backgrounds came together to work toward a common goal, and Fenster gained a new appreciation for teamwork. The internship also showed her how she can use her passion for veterinary medicine to help secure a safe food supply.

“It was really interesting to see the hard work people put in to the bacon we see in the store,” Fenster said. “It was powerful to see how collaborative we can be despite our differences.”

Fenster is thankful for the opportunity the Ratcliffe Scholars Program provided and looks forward to applying what she has learned to her future career.

Building global networks

The Ratcliffe Scholars Program allowed Jacqueline Kessler, a fourth-year environmental economics and management major, to take an internship with the Environmental Law Institute remotely while participating in an exchange program in Pamplona, Spain.

“These are two of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” Kessler said. “Thanks to this scholarship, I’ve had the opportunity to do something meaningful.”

Both activities have provided her with experiences that have made her a stronger student and advocate for environmental change. She has had the opportunity to work with people who have inspired her to stretch herself past her comfort zone. With the help of the Ratcliffe family, Kessler has the opportunity to live out her passion.

“It’s interesting seeing people experiencing environmental policy firsthand and it not bothering them at all. It solidified my decision to study environmental policy,” Kessler said. “I feel like I’ve had an ‘aha’ moment. I’m just really thankful for this scholarship.”

To be considered for the scholarship, CAES students should apply online on at Students must submit a resume, budget and statement of purpose detailing their intended experiential learning programs. The next application cycle will open in August.

For information about the Ratcliffe Scholars Program and other scholarship opportunities at CAES, visit

Sadie Lackey is a student writer for the CAES Office of Communications and Creative Services.

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