Fifty students in the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences are participating in the inaugural Cargill University THRIVE program, a partnership that encourages academic success and career readiness for a more diverse workforce.
The program provides scholarships and professional and academic development for successful careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, STEM, as well as business and agricultural fields.
Providing student development as well as financial support
In developing the program, Cargill focused on institutions with diverse student bodies that would benefit from high-impact education opportunities for women and underrepresented students. Each university selects the scholars, and Cargill provides the development and scholarship components.
“The heart of the THRIVE program is providing equitable, inclusive access to students from diverse backgrounds,” said Lauren Schroeder, university diversity programs and partnerships lead at Cargill. “Any student could be a Cargill scholar. The program is slightly different at each partner school, based on the student population and how the school chooses to design the program.”
In this inaugural year, the $6 million program is being offered to 250 students at six universities and two national minority organizations: Alcorn State University; Tuskegee University; Texas A&M University; Iowa State University; Kansas State University; the University of Minnesota; Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences; and the Association of Latino Professionals for America.
In addition to financial support through scholarships, students benefit from development programming and mentoring.
“Cargill wants to walk alongside the students throughout their academic careers to provide that extra boost and tools they may need to equip them to be future leaders,” said Schroeder.
Expanding academic and leadership success into career-ready talent
At Texas A&M, the THRIVE program supports 50 undergraduate students, with the majority being freshmen and 80% being women and/or minorities. In addition, students must be involved in student and professional organizations and have demonstrated leadership abilities. Scholarships for students include $2,500 stipends for 30 freshmen and $4,000 for 20 upperclassmen.
Cargill also provides a stipend for a graduate student to manage and direct all aspects of the program, with oversight by a full-time faculty member in the College.
Jerome Linyear, a graduate student studying ruminant nutrition in the Department of Animal Science, is the THRIVE program graduate student director. At the program’s kick-off meeting, Linyear described to the Cargill scholars some of the opportunities they can expect.
“We’ve chosen you because you’re the best of the best,” said Linyear. “During the time you’re here, we will help you develop professional and networking skills, participate in mentoring programs, attend seminars, go to career fairs, take field trips to production facilities and agriculture operations, learn about Cargill job opportunities, take part in community service projects and just enjoy fun and camaraderie.”
Chris Skaggs, Ph.D., associate vice chancellor for producer relations and associate dean for student development for the College, will lead and oversee the program. Jennifer Ann Scasta, Ph.D., director of corporate relations with the Texas A&M Foundation, worked with Cargill to plan the program and secure the gift.
Students for the first cohort were selected from candidates in the general scholarship application process. After each academic year, students must reapply and be selected again.
At the program’s kick-off meeting, Skaggs explained to the Cargill scholars how this program aims to develop them not only as students but as professionals.
“Cargill emphasizes developing students for the future,” said Skaggs. “What does the future look like? It reflects the people in this room and on this campus. Our job is to provide opportunities to help you reach your potential to be leaders while you are here and as you enter your careers.”
Cargill, a long-standing partner with the College, has been one of the top employers of graduates for the last 10 years.
“Cargill is known for their focus on agriculture,” said Scasta. “With this program, they are investing in the next generation of industry leaders by exposing students to different areas of agriculture, particularly related to food and animals. By increasing this awareness, students realize a career in agriculture is possible for anyone passionate about it and prepared for success with knowledge and skills the industry needs. The leadership and career opportunities for these scholars will be second to none.”