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City slickers get agricultural experience

October 19, 2006

A new program has begun at UW-River Falls that is designed to spark interest in the agricultural science field among inner-city students.

This year, the University awarded four inner-city students $6,000 each per year for a four-year period to study agricultural science. Five students and two alternates were initially selected for the program, however one of the students withdrew from the program at the start of the academic school year.

The USDA Multicultural Scholars Committee sent a packet explaining the scholarship program, and applications were originally sent out to inner-city high schools, with Vincent High School in Milwaukee being the focal point. Committee members visited the schools and spoke with groups of students who expressed interest in the agricultural science field. Three of the four scholarship recipients came from Vincent High School.

Students had to submit an admissions application, an application for the program detailing their interest in the agricultural field, and a letter of recommendation.

Professor of soil science Don Taylor and the scholarship committee were unsure of how many applicants there would be because there is not a lot of diversity in the agricultural science program. There were nine applicants total, and Taylor was pleased with the turnout.

“We had no idea how many would express interest,” Taylor said. “We were happy with the nine applicants.”

Freshman Lakiesha Townsell from Milwaukee attended Vincent High School. Townsell, who heard about the program from a teacher, would like to pursue a career in business.

“Agricultural business is a great way for me to differentiate myself and to have an emphasis in a specific field,” Townsell said.

Although the subject is foreign to her, she is excited for the challenge and finds it enjoyable.

Howard Anderson is also a freshman from Milwaukee who attended Vincent High School. He was chosen to take a week-long trip to the UW-RF campus, and from there slid into the program. Anderson said he enjoys working outside and in the future would like to pursue a career in marketing communications.

“I hope someday I will be a play-by-play announcer for the Milwaukee Admirals,” Anderson said.

Freshman Sarah Nielsen from Maplewood, Minn., heard about the program through her high school advisor while searching for scholarships. She said she enjoys the agriculture field because it is “different and interesting,” she said. She would like to pursue career in biotechnology.

The final recipient, freshman Ted Cannady from Milwaukee, attended Vincent High School and enrolled in the scholarship program during his second semester at UW-RF. He heard about the program from geology professor Bob Baker, who encouraged him to major in agricultural business. Cannady has been interested in environmental science since his freshman year in high school and would like to manage an agricultural business someday.

“I am pleased with the program,” Cannady said. “My professors and my advisor are treating me pretty well.”

The four students will visit their high schools once a year to tell other students about the UW scholarship program in hopes of recruiting them.

“I hope that this great program will become an on-going program for the University,” Taylor said.

The University also plans to work with the students to get them involved in agriculture internships that offer hands-on experience.