The George Washington Carver Fellowship for Graduate Studies helps support under-represented scholars in MS and PhD degree programs in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR) at the University of Missouri (MU).
The assistantship honors George Washington Carver, a native Missourian, who gained international recognition in the early 20th century for his teaching and research in agriculture. For the 2021-2022 academic year, two students were selected for this honor.
Educating the Next Generation
Growing up, Brittney Cade’s favorite part of the year was spending her summer in Alabama with her family and being in nature. Her journey in environmental science and natural resources began here.
“Growing up in the middle of Chicago, I wasn’t surrounded by nature,” said Cade. “Each summer my parents would take me to Alabama to stay with my grandmother and my family down there. They lived out in the country with nothing but trees and wildlife. I grew a special appreciation for the environment ever since.”
Cade’s educational path led her in many different directions, but has led her back to pursue a PhD in Human Dimensions of Natural Resources in CAFNR starting this fall under Dr. Halsey.
“I started out as an animal science major in my undergraduate degree. I thought I wanted to be a veterinary pathologist. Being from Chicago, environmental science and natural resources careers weren’t exposed to me in school. Going to my grandmother’s each summer, I fell in love with being outdoors,” said Cade. “It wasn’t until college that I realized how big the world was and all the opportunities and careers there were in environmental science and natural resources.”
One of Cade’s biggest inspirations as a kid was Steve Irwin. Irwin had a huge impact on wildlife conservation.
“Steve Irwin was one person I knew of growing up was actively trying to make the world a better place. He did this by educating people about animals, nature and why it’s so important. He made a human connection. I remember saying to myself, I want to be like him when I grow up.”
Along with her passion for the environment, Cade wants to help educate the next generation about environmental sciences and conservation, specifically students in more urban communities. After growing up in an urban setting herself, she wants to expose more youth to this field and career options.
“I was lucky to have had the opportunity to spend my summers out of the city. This opened my eyes to wildlife and the environment. But without that experience, I would have never been exposed,” Cade said. “Not every kid has the opportunity like I did. So, I want to be that person to give students exposure to the environmental sciences field.
“I wanted a program that specifically dealt with natural resources with a human aspect to it. MU has a great human dimensions program. We need more people from more diverse backgrounds in this program.”
Cade currently lives outside of Reno, Nevada, working for AmeriCorps as a stewardship assistant for The Nature Conservancy. Her current project consists of planting over 30,000 trees throughout the desert to help increase the bird population and wildlife in general to help them adapt to climate change. With the help of the Carver Scholarship, Cade will be able to continue her research with the Conservancy throughout her academic career. Cade’s PhD research will primarily involve searching for the cause(s) of decline within the Screwbean Mesquite Tree using citizen science.
“Receiving the George Washington Carver Scholarship is a great honor,” Cade said. “This is such a beneficial opportunity for people of color that are trying to further their academic career when they don’t have the financial means. This scholarship is going to help me continue my research in the southwest and connecting people with this regional problem.”
Going a Different Direction
Alexis Jones, a St. Louis native, graduated from the University of Missouri (MU) College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR) in animal sciences this past May. She will be continuing her master’s degree in animal sciences with a focus in reproduction this fall. Through her education at MU, her focus has switched gears.
“As a little kid, I always wanted to be a veterinarian. I thought it would be so cool to work with animals. Up until recently, that’s what I wanted to do,” Jones said. “But through my studies I learned there are so many other options within the animal sciences field.”
Jones took a reproduction class looking at anatomy and the effects of hormones in her undergraduate degree. After this course, it sparked her interest in fertility, specifically in humans. She will have the opportunity to shadow at an infertility clinic this fall.
Jones’ goal now is to become an infertility doctor. “The biggest fear for most women is not being able to get pregnant. Most research done about infertility in humans is actually done in animal science labs. I will be able to directly help people who have a fertility problem after my degree.”
Choosing MU for her education was an easy choice. Jones’ older sister attends MU, and the program was exactly what she was looking for.
“When I wanted to be a veterinarian, I looked at both MU’s undergraduate program, but also vet school. Both the undergraduate animal science degree and the vet school are great programs,” Jones said “So, transitioning from my undergraduate degree to vet school would have been easy. But in my time here I learned they have so many great graduate programs within animal science. My educational experience in the department has been great, but MU has provided me other amazing experiences outside the classroom as well.”
In 2019 Jones had the opportunity to study abroad in Thailand where she did research on coral reef health and got to plant new corals.
“The coolest part is that I am now a certified scuba diver,” she said. “It was such an amazing opportunity to be able to explore a new culture. I wouldn’t have had this experience if it wasn’t for MU.”
Along with her study abroad experience, Jones was involved in Pre-Vet Club and volunteered at the Raptor Rehab Center as well as a therapeutic riding facility.
“MU allows for a lot of connections and opportunities to get involved in clubs and organizations. The faculty on campus are always willing to help you in whatever you need. Dr. Sutovsky has been a great help especially getting me started with my master’s degree,” Jones said. “I want to thank Dr. Spain as well. He is the one that really helped me throughout my undergrad experience. When I wanted to switch out of the pre-vet program, he was so reassuring and helpful to get me where I am now. He is also the one that introduced me to Dr. Sutovsky and what he does in his labs.”
Being selected as a Carver Scholar can help students in many ways. Jones is appreciative not only for receiving the award but also that it is an option for students.
“Diversity is something the college struggles with. I appreciate that it’s acknowledged that there isn’t a lot of diversity, especially in the higher education. This scholarship is helpful not only monetarily but also a boost of encouragement for students to keep continuing their education.
“I am thankful for MU for providing clubs, organizations and events for minority students. Personally, by having these clubs, organizations and events it has made my MU experience that much better.”