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Ag Sciences Students Place in Diversity Essay Contest
Pennsylvania Ag Connection - 05/13/2019

Three students in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences have been recognized for their commitment to diversity as winners of the inaugural Undergraduate Diversity Essay Contest, sponsored by the college's Diversity Coordinating Council.

The contest was intended to increase awareness and promote an understanding and valuing of diversity among the college's students, according to Patreese Ingram, assistant dean for multicultural affairs. Students were asked to write on the topic, "Why is it important to understand, appreciate and value diversity in your professional field?"

"The undergraduate students of today will be our future employees and leaders of tomorrow," said Ingram. "Cultural competence and the ability to interact effectively with people from a variety of backgrounds is quickly becoming an employment skill and expectation."

She added that the council was overwhelmed by the quality of the submissions, making it hard to choose the winners.

"The essays and student writers were amazing," she said.

Skylure Templeton, a forest ecosystems management major in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, took first place -- and a $200 prize -- for his essay titled "The Value of Diversity in Forestry," which explored the challenges faced by the forestry community in advancing polices on diversity and inclusion.

Discussing diversity statements created by sectors of the forestry industry, Templeton wrote, "Creating vague, play-nice policies contributes little to the broader goal of understanding and valuing all intersections of diversity in the field because it makes no call to action or change. Cultivating an inclusive, diverse environment requires confronting uncomfortable histories with our professions and dismantling the foundational ideologies claimed to be long dead."

Receiving second place honors were Jessica Clark, a forest ecosystems management major, and Juliet Lana Mejias, who is studying community, environment, and development in the Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education. Each received $150.

In her essay, "Why Forestry Needs Diversity," Clark expressed her concerns about adversities faced by those trying to break into a traditionally male-dominated field.

"Forestry needs advocates for diversity, people who understand and value the experiences offered from others," she wrote. "We require people of different ages, races, classes and sexual orientations to expand our horizons and gain new perspectives ... I will vow to be an advocate of diversity, a voice for the minority, and a supporter of change for the betterment of the natural world."

Mejias' essay, "Diversity is Difference," focused on her experiences as a minority student and how an internship on an urban farm in Philadelphia helped her gain new insight and belief that three types of diversity are needed in agriculture: spatial background, class and race/ethnicity.

"Our differences make us human and great," Mejias wrote. "A world without differences, with clones of the same person, would be stagnant and boring because everybody would have the same opinions. Diversity is valuable in any setting because it gives people the chance to exchange their thoughts and ideas."

Information on programs and resources through the college's Office of Multicultural Affairs can be found at https://agsci.psu.edu/diversity.

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