Alumni Society Sponsors help programs and students excel
Several years ago, hosting a kick-off event for nearly 200 mentors and mentees at the beginning of the school year seemed like an impossible financial obstacle for the CFANS Alumni Society and its annual Mentor Program. Because of the 15 or so organizations and companies that participate in Alumni Society Sponsorship, not only has the Mentor Program expanded, but sponsorships have also increased the funds available for undergraduate and graduate scholarships.
Each year, the CFANS Alumni Society is fortunate to partner with organizations who understand the importance of student, alumni, and professional engagement. Programs like the Norman Borlaug Science Achievement Award, Mentor Program, Alumni Ambassadors, and the Policy Engagement Program continue to encourage and grow the number of students considering careers in agriculture, food, and natural resources. In 2017, these organizations include:
- Ag Star Financial Services
- CoBank and Farm Credit Leasing
- Grain Millers
- Land O' Lakes, Inc.
- Midwest Dairy Association
- BMO Harris Bank
- Christensen Farms
- Caves of Faribault
- Minnesota Corn Growers
- Minnesota Turkey Council
- Minnesota Farmer's Union
A portion of sponsorship donations are directed to scholarship funds that support undergraduate and graduate students, which are awarded on the basis of motivation, persistence, and character. Several years ago, the CFANS Alumni Society Board of Directors established a Graduate Studies Professional Development Award for graduate students, recognizing that travel grants and professional development funding can oftentimes be limited.
Brittany Shonka-Martin, a Ph.D. student in the Animal Sciences, was one of the 2016 recipients of this award: “As a graduate student, there are many opportunities for conference travel both throughout the United States and internationally. Receiving travel or professional development scholarships eliminates financial pressure not only for myself, but also for my advisor, who often helps cover the costs of conference travel. I applied for a CFANS Alumni Society Graduate Studies Professional Development Award to help cover expenses related to a unique conference that took place in Sweden in November 2016. Conferences are essential for graduate students to receive feedback on their research and network with potential employers and collaborators. The conference I attended in Sweden was beneficial in expanding my knowledge of dairy cattle genetics research, and I am grateful that I was able to attend with the help of scholarships and grants.”
Undergraduate alum Bryan Wendt ‘15 graduated with his Bachelors in Biosystems and Bioproducts Engineering. Now an Associate Project Engineer with CHS, he shared that while at CFANS, “Scholarships allowed me to focus on my courses and extracurricular activities while being a student leader on campus. I was able to serve various student organizations in leadership roles without the full burden of the high cost of tuition. In serving, I gained valuable experience to take into my career, that has helped me to be successful.”
CFANS Alumni Society Programs
Because of sponsor funding, the CFANS Alumni Society has been able to expand many of its signature programs:
- The CFANS Mentor Program has grown from 80 matches in 2012 to consistently matching 150-200 students with mentors. Thanks to sponsorship, the program now hosts bi-annual Mentoring Socials, welcomes nearly 200 attendees to the annual Kick-Off event, and can support complimentary attendance to the annual Mentor Appreciation Dinner.
- In 2016, the Norman Borlaug Science Achievement Award was presented by CFANS alumni and friends to 44 high school juniors, recognizing their achievements in science, scholarship and service. In the fall of 2016, seven of last year's recipients enrolled at CFANS and received a $1,000 NBSAA scholarship!