by Jenny Lavey, MSU News Service
BOZEMAN – The Montana State University College of Agriculture distributed more than $400,000 in scholarships to more than 200 agriculture students at its annual student scholarship banquet held earlier this month.
The banquet, held during the college’s annual Celebrate Agriculture event, attracted more than 300 Montana agricultural supporters and students.
College of Agriculture faculty and staff acknowledged agriculture students who received scholarships from a variety of donors during the 2016-2017 year, in addition to recognizing the college’s 2016 Outstanding Agricultural Leader, Jim Hagenbarth. The banquet dinner featured a Montana-made meal highlighting local and regional foods and their agricultural producers.
With more than 110 distinct, named scholarships housed in the College of Agriculture, Montana businesses, families and individuals contributed scholarship donations in every size and shape, from a “full ride” (tuition and fees) to a silver belt buckle, according to Nora Smith, assistant dean of the College of Agriculture and Montana Agricultural Experiment Station.
“We are so fortunate to have such outstanding support for our students and such a commitment from our scholarship donors,” Smith said. “Our donors understand the importance of keeping college accessible for Montana students, and they clearly see the value in investing in our agriculture future, which begins with our students.”
The more than 200 College of Agriculture students who received scholarships represented every option and curriculum in the college’s academic departments, with scholarships recipients averaging a 3.6 (out of 4.0) cumulative GPA, according to Smith. The college’s scholarship selection committee considered nearly 400 scholarship applications, Smith added, and noted that the committee consists of faculty from every department in the college. The committee is coordinated by Smith and Jessica Murdock, MSU College of Agriculture student services coordinator.
“These awards are not only going to students who are in financial need, but they are also awarded on merit and interests,” Smith said. “The scholarships are going to high-achieving, motivated students who are engaged on and off campus, who are excelling in a variety of classroom environments. A lot of these students are really involved in the college's clubs and organizations as well.”
The college hosts an online platform for scholarship applications for students, which streamlines the application process into a singular submission for the scholarship selection committee. That process gained particular notice in a national poll that ranked the College of Agriculture as the fourth best college of agriculture in the country, according to Campus Explorer.
Many of the scholarships provided to students come from current and historical Montana producers and generations of families who have long and storied connections to the college, according to Kevin Brown, senior development director for the College of Agriculture.
“What’s remarkable about scholarship giving, particularly in the College of Agriculture, is the commitment to supporting the next generation of agricultural leaders – from all walks of life and from every industry,” Brown said. “The agriculture community in Montana has a healthy and wonderful commitment to supporting current students who want to carry on MSU’s agricultural legacy.”
Some of the scholarship funds date as far back as the 1950s, and continue today bearing the name of a family member from a farm or ranch, or former MSU Cooperative Extension agents, or Montana Agricultural Experiment Station or college faculty, Brown said. Other scholarships are given from regional and local commercial agribusinesses, the Montana Wheat and Barley Committee, Montana FFA, Montana Cattlewomen’s Association, First Security Bank, Alpha Zeta Society, statewide crop and beef producers and a host of College of Agriculture alumni.
The College of Agriculture includes six academic departments and seven off-campus research stations through the Montana Agricultural Experiment Station. More than 1,200 students from 44 states and 15 countries are represented in the college’s student populace.
Caption: Charles Boyer, MSU vice president of agriculture, addresses more than 300 MSU College of Agriculture student scholarship winners and scholarship donors at the college’s annual scholarship award banquet, held during the college’s 2016 Celebrate Agriculture event. MSU photo by Jenny Lavey.