Making the Most of Multiple Opportunities

Isaiah Massey's time at MU has been marked by involvement in numerous organizations, hands-on learning opportunities

Isaiah Massey built an impressive list of accomplishments as a member of the Troy Buchanan High School FFA chapter. There was little Massey didn’t participate in, eventually earning his American Degree – the highest degree in the National FFA Organization – and serving as the first vice president on the Missouri state officer team.

While Massey’s successes continued throughout his time in FFA, he was actually introduced to the organization on a whim.

“I had a friend who randomly stopped me one day on my way to track practice,” Massey said. “She thought I would make a good fit on the junior officer team. I honestly turned around and looked behind me because I thought she was talking to someone else. I’m in Jordans, wearing a Tupac shirt – there was no way she was talking with me, right?”

After looking into the program a bit, Massey interviewed and secured a spot on the junior officer team.

Massey said he has an interest in curriculum development and is interested in providing hands-on learning opportunities for inner cities and urban areas. Photo courtesy of Isaiah Massey.
Massey said he has an interest in curriculum development and is interested in providing hands-on learning opportunities for inner cities and urban areas. Photo courtesy of Isaiah Massey.

“I had some family involved in agriculture, but I wasn’t directly involved in any of that,” Massey said. “My biggest motivation for staying in FFA was the amount of people, including friends and family, who didn’t think I would be successful and questioned my decision – especially since I was such a prominent athlete. As I got into high school, though, I realized I didn’t have the same passion for sports. And as I got more involved with FFA, I saw my passions really come out. I went from being a three-sport athlete to only participating in FFA my senior year.”

Massey said that even though he didn’t have much agriculture knowledge when he joined FFA, that quickly changed as he got more involved.

“That really allowed me to have an empty cup to just learn everything I could,” Massey said. “I was in the ag building all of the time, and I tried a bit of everything. I went to as many conferences as I could and participated in multiple events. I took every opportunity that I could.”

Massey spent his freshman year at Northwest Missouri State University before transferring to the University of Missouri. He chose the agricultural education degree program at Northwest – and continued that track when he transferred to Mizzou. Massey is also majoring in Black Studies at MU, and working toward a minor in agribusiness management.

“My high school FFA advisor was very prominent in my life throughout my FFA career,” said Massey, a junior. “When I first joined, it was a bit of a culture shock, being one of the only Black students in the organization wherever we went. My advisor never left me out, though. He really emphasized me being myself.

“When I was picking my major, I knew agricultural education had been important in my life. I want to help students the same way I’ve been helped.”

Massey is on the communications and leadership track within the agricultural education degree program.

“The agricultural education program here is prestigious, and the best thing about it are the opportunities,” Massey said. “The goal is to set students up for their careers, and this program does that really well. There are so many opportunities to get your foot in the door within the industry. The faculty is also great to work with.”

Massey has been incredibly involved during his time at MU, serving in leadership roles in multiple clubs and organizations. He is the president of Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS), which pledges to work for the inclusion, achievement and advancement of all people in agriculture and the related sciences. Massey is also the president of National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC), a coalition of the nine largest historically African American Greek-letter fraternities and sororities, currently representing over 1.5 million members internationally.

Massey is a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., and serves on the CAFNR Inclusivity, Diversity and Equity (IDE) Committee.

“I’m busy, but these organizations are vital and provide so many opportunities for minority students,” Massey said. “For example, in MANRRS, we bring in multiple people of color who work in the industry and are leaders in their fields. It’s important for our members to be able to sit down and talk to someone who looks like them.”

To go along with his extracurriculars, Massey has completed a handful of internships, with Agriculture Education on the Move, Syngenta and Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture.

“Hands-on opportunities are incredibly important to me,” Massey said. “That was one of my favorite things about FFA. I can count on my hand how many times we just sat in class and took notes. We were always out and putting what we were learning to practice.”

Massey’s involvement with numerous clubs and organizations, as well as his internships, showcase experiential learning, a key part of the RISE Initiative. The RISE Initiative states that all CAFNR undergraduate students will take part in at least one signature experience while on campus: Research, International, Service Learning and Experiential Learning. Experiential learning offers students real-world learning experiences outside of the classroom, through industry engagement, internship programs and learning laboratories.

“Everyone learns a little bit differently – I don’t think there is one way to define intelligence,” Massey said. “These experiences allow students, like me, to gain multiple experiences before we enter the workforce.”

Massey said he has an interest in curriculum development and is interested in providing those hands-on opportunities for inner cities and urban areas.

“I’m very focused on helping get that type of curriculum to those areas,” Massey said. “Bringing the FFA, for example, would be highly beneficial for students. However, it’s tough to learn about farm management when the students have never seen a farm before. But there other areas that could be focused on, like mechanics, greenhouse management or aquaponics. There are different sectors where we can talk about new and innovative technologies.”

Massey is in the process of working with Stephen Graves, an assistant professor in the Department of Black Studies, on a Mizzou course focused on agriculture, food and related sciences.

“It’s important to understand African American contributions in agriculture,” Massey said. “There were so many concepts that African Americans brought to America. Individuals like George Washington Carver and Henry Blair made transitional movements within the ag industry. Ag wasn’t always what it is today; it’s not a monolith. I want to be able to highlight those concepts and those individuals. I want our programs to be inclusive in that respect.”