On March 25, 70 high school students from across the country visited the University of Florida campus in Gainesville, Florida, to learn more about academic and career opportunities in agriculture, natural resources and life sciences. The trip was part of the national MANRRS conference in Jacksonville and co-sponsored by the UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) and the College of Agriculture and Food Sciences at Florida A&M University (FAMU).
MANRRS is a national organization that supports the academic and professional advancement of minorities in agriculture, natural resources and related sciences and includes high school (Junior MANRRS) and collegiate chapters.
“MANRRS is many things to me. It’s where I found my love for the agricultural sciences, how I got my first research job, why I’m proud to be in CALS and what inspires me to make UF a better place for those who come after me,” said Jieli Wegerif, president-elect of the UF MANRRS chapter.
“Most of all, MANRRS is family,” Wegerif said. “I was welcomed with open arms from the moment I walked in the door as a timid freshman, and that warm feeling of belonging has never wavered.”
Elaine Turner, CALS dean, hoped to extend the same warm welcome to the Junior MANRRS students visiting UF on Friday.
“Our college represents a broad range of disciplines in agriculture, natural resources and the life sciences,” Turner said. “Welcoming Junior MANRRS students to our campus was a chance for us to share that CALS has a place, and a major, for everyone.”
While in Gainesville, the students toured the UF campus with college ambassadors and UF MANRRS members, visited research and education facilities in the department of animal sciences, watched a Greek step show and learned about college majors offered at UF and FAMU. Students also competed in MANRRS national public speaking and impromptu speaking contests and met Scott Angle, UF senior vice president of agriculture and natural resources and leader of IFAS.
“I am grateful for the opportunity to meet and greet some of the nation’s most impressive young leaders who have an interest in agriculture and natural resources. When we talk about underrepresented groups, I think of all the talent we’re missing out on. MANRRS helps us identify and cultivate that talent,” Angle said. “Scientific progress depends on diversity of thought. A great way to generate that is through diversity of people.”
UF MANRRS president Tre McGee said the visit was a chance for students from all over the country to learn about the UF chapter and what a top five public institution like UF has to offer.
“I grew up in a rural area and knew I wanted a career in agriculture, but MANRRS showed me just how interdisciplinary the field is and how many opportunities there are to learn and make connections,” McGee said. “As I’ve been working to earn my Ph.D. in horticultural sciences at UF, MANRRS taught me leadership and helped sharpen my soft skills. MANRRS at UF has grown a lot over the last several years, and I’m looking forward to seeing our organization continue to grow.”