I had the pleasure of attending the Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences 30th Annual Career Fair and Training Conference in Houston, Texas, on March 26 – 28. The Department of Agricultural, Leadership, and Community Education and the Multicultural Academic Opportunities Program at Virginia Tech were kind enough to provide me with funding for travel and conference registration. While I have been a member of MANRRS for 10 years, this was the first time that I had an opportunity to attend a conference in quite a while. While I was at the conference, I was able to make meaningful connections with other underrepresented students in the field of agriculture. I had an opportunity to present in an oral research competition and I found a renewed commitment for the organization.
MANRRS is a great opportunity to meet people that have interests that are both similar to yours and drastically different. Over the years that I have attended this conference, I have had the opportunity to meet a variety of professionals in different careers. This has given me a new perspective on the field and the various disciplines included within. As I was assisting with recruiting at the career fair, I had the opportunity to speak with undergraduate students from a variety of fields about the possibilities that a graduate education at Virginia Tech can provide. It was a wonderful opportunity to both provide information and learn from the people I was talking to.
I also had the opportunity to participate in my first oral research competition. My topic was “Factors Contributing to the Lack of Underrepresented Students in Agriculture.” It was very exciting to be able to share the research that I’ve been working on at Virginia Tech with students and professionals from all over the country. I was also given a large amount of suggestions from professors in colleges of agriculture regarding things that I can include in the study. I ended up winning third place out of 10 participants. While I am very happy with my accomplishment, this opportunity let me know about various areas of improvement as it pertains to my research.
While attending the conference, Tommy Amal, one of the Virginia Tech MANRRS chapter advisors, recommended that I looked into positions on the national board of the organization. After learning that the Region II graduate vice president position was open, I spoke with the leadership within the organization about becoming involved. I am very pleased to say that I was appointed the vacant position by the president-elect. As the Region II vice president, my responsibilities include recruiting new student officers, representing the national organization, and planning this region’s cluster meeting, which takes place in Atlanta, Georgia, during the fall semester. I am looking forward to serving the organization in a leadership capacity and I look forward to using what I learn to help strengthen Virginia Tech’s MANRRS chapter.
MANRRS has been an invaluable part of my professional and educational growth and I am excited to still be involved with the organization after so many years. I hope to help the organization reach its goal of recruiting more underrepresented students into agricultural and STEM fields. Though MANRRS is an organization that focuses on recruiting minorities into agricultural fields, individuals from all backgrounds are welcome to join the organization. The organization pledges to work for the inclusion, achievement, and advancement of all people in the agricultural sciences. Through working with the local MANRRS chapter and national organization, I hope to advance the recruitment and retention of students in the agricultural sciences here at Virginia Tech.
— M. Antonio Silas