MANRRS recognized for its ‘outstanding student leadership’

Despite virtual learning and being away from campus, the UC Davis student-run organization Multiculturalism in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS), was able to come together this past year to accomplish its goal of maintaining a sense of community. The group was honored with a 2021 President’s Award for Outstanding Student Leadership by the office of UC President Michael Drake for its dedication to encouraging togetherness during the pandemic.


Collage of students on the MANRRS board at UC Davis


MANRRS is a local chapter of a national society that promotes and fosters the inclusion of underrepresented minorities in agriculture, natural resources and related sciences. In a normal year, the group regularly hosts networking events, socials and professional development workshops covering topics including creating standout resumes and improving interview skills. It also invites guest speakers to discuss current issues or professional experiences.

The organization launched a mentorship program this year for students within the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Abenezer Shankute, president of MANRRS and a junior majoring in environmental science and management, says the program paired up undergraduate students, most of whom were freshman or sophomores, with graduate students so they could connect with one another socially and provide academic support.

“The purpose was to help students who were transitioning into college get guidance from graduate students who could pass on their advice,” Shankute said. “It helped students as a whole be more tight-knit and have more of a community aspect during online school.”

Creating that program was among the reasons why MANRRS was selected as one of two recipients of the 2021 President’s Award for Outstanding Student Leadership. MANRRS was honored for its work to help students find community, develop skills to support their academic and professional success and connect to resources during a year of COVID-19 shutdowns and distance learning. Shankute says he’s very proud that the group was honored and joined last month’s virtual UC Regents meeting to accept the award.

“Looking at the mentorship program and everything we did with our club, it was great to see all of the hard work pay off,” Shankute said.

Diane Beckles, a professor in plant sciences, has been one of the organization’s faculty advisors for the past year. Beckles says she, along with Sue Ebeler, associate dean of undergraduate academic programs for the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and Annie King, a professor in animal science, have been impressed with the students’ high level of professionalism and organization. Beckles says she was delighted to learn the group was honored for its commitment to supporting fellow students.

“I cannot express how happy I was when I heard that MANRRS got this recognition,” Beckles said. “We want to see students who make this sort of effort be rewarded, especially because I knew the emotional intensity that went into the work that they did. That work was driven by care, love and passion, and to see that rewarded was one of the highlights of my year.”

The award consists of $1,500 in general support for MANRRS and a framed certificate of honor. Shankute says the group hasn’t specifically determined how to use the funds yet, but he anticipates it will be spent on expanding the group’s impact on campus.

“I think one of the most important aspects of college is building relationships, and one obstacle that prevents people from building relationships is feeling like they don’t belong,” Shankute said. So, the fact that MANRRS offers a place for students from all walks of life to come together and be friends and build relationships and at the same time make advancements in their own professional or academic careers, is really great.”

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