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​​Multicultural Students Find Personal Support, Professional Development in MANRRS

By Nancy Alexander

"I feel like our club brings a different face to agriculture," says senior Moriah Hurt, president of the student organization Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences. And that face could be any gender, color or ethnicity. Since 1993 Purdue's chapter of MANRRS has focused on the professional development and leadership skills of all its diverse members through campus involvement and community building.

Many MANRRS members enter the College of Agriculture not fully aware of the range of careers that are available, Hurt points out. She herself is an example: A lifelong animal lover from Indianapolis, she chose Purdue for pre-veterinary science. She has since become more interested in the diseases behind veterinary care and hopes one day to work in animal diagnostics or vaccine research.

One of Hurt's priorities as president is to perpetuate what she calls MANRRS's "friendly, family-like atmosphere," which she says can make students feel more at home both in and out of the classroom. "Most of these students who are in agriculture in underrepresented groups don't come from a farming background," she explains. "You might be the only person in class who looks like you. MANRRS lets people know, ‘You're not in it alone.'"

The organization's presentations—professional etiquette is a recent example— guest speakers, internships and networks appeal to students across all agricultural disciplines, Hurt says. "We have so many opportunities to grow in leadership skills and prepare for the workforce, not just a job."

Members take advantage of networking opportunities, not only with the guest speakers and high-level professionals MANRRS brings to campus, but also with the leaders of other chapters nationwide. This year Multicultural Scholar and MANRRS member Chloe Jefferson attended a regional conference in Champaign-Urbana, Ill., and the national conference in California, which included a large career fair. "We had to do a lot of fundraising to be able to participate, and it was a great experience," she says. "MANRRS definitely opens doors."

Agriculture graduate Myron McClure, program manager for the Office of Multicultural Programs in the College of Agriculture, says his past leadership in MANRRS taught him the value of networking: "I still use this skill set, as I call connections and colleagues all over the country."

Jefferson calls listening to "real professionals in the agricultural field" one of the highlights of membership: "Professional development is one of the strong features of MANRRS. I feel more prepared for a career in agriculture—like I have a very good head start."

As part of its expanding community outreach efforts, MANRRS organizes an annual clothing drive. Members also are working to increase the number of undergraduates from underrepresented groups who choose study in agriculture. Through its involvement with Destination Purdue, members show prospective students around campus. For example, Hurt recently took four high school seniors interested in pre-veterinary science to an organic chemistry class with her, reassuring them that classes are demanding but manageable with hard work.