Holding the title of Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) Scholar means quite a bit to five ACES students. During the spring of their freshman year, Nathan Waldeck, Jarai Carter, Kristine Droste, Ronald Dymerski Jr., and Corey Johnson were recognized as the winners of up to $50,000 in scholarships to pursue their educational goals in the field of crop sciences.
The recipients agree that the value of their scholarships extends far beyond the dollar figure.
ISA Scholar Nathan Waldeck of Farmersville said, “While the generous value of the scholarship was initially what attracted me to it, I have realized that it has many more benefits. Not only have I had the opportunity to network with leaders in the agricultural industry, but I have also been able to obtain an undergraduate research assistant position at the National Soybean Research Lab on campus.”
Waldeck, who grew up on a farm, said he is surprised by the number of people who do not understand the breadth of possibilities that a crop science major has to offer.
“If you are unsure about what you want to do, crop science offers so many choices to students,” Waldeck said. “From business to genetics to horticulture, the opportunities are endless. That, combined with a friendly department, impressive facilities, and excellent extracurricular activities, makes it a very exciting program.”
Jason Emmert, ACES assistant dean of academic programs, agreed. He said that students don't necessarily make the connection between food needs, crop genetics, and the crop science major.
“I'm not sure students understand the number of opportunities out there and the need we're going to have into the foreseeable future,” Emmert said. “Anyone who is interested in science would find this a fulfilling career field. Farm or non-farm, urban students or rural, they all bring a unique perspective. We need that diversity to solve problems effectively."
In 2010, the Illinois Soybean Association decided to address declining enrollment in crop science programs across the country by investing in future industry leaders today. Ron Moore, ISA chairman and a soybean farmer from Roseville said, “Students often overlook what can be exciting and well-paying career opportunities in this field, and we hope to change that by implementing these scholarships at the University of Illinois.”
ISA Scholars receive $12,000 during their first year, followed by $10,000 a year for up to three additional years if they meet renewal criteria. Scholarships may be used for tuition, fees, and other educational expenses. To help reduce the cost of tuition, recipients receive additional assistance worth up to $8,000 over four years.
ISA Scholar Jarai Carter of Champaign said, “It’s great knowing I can go to an excellent college with little to no worry about expenses. I have gained an enormous amount of knowledge already from my crop science courses. I am thankful the ISA decided to help students succeed in their career paths by allowing them to attend this great program at the University of Illinois.”