College of Ag Sciences students recognized in Diversity Essay Contest

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Three students in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences have been recognized for their commitment to diversity as winners of the second annual Undergraduate Diversity Essay Contest, which is sponsored by the college’s Diversity Coordinating Council.

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

“Today’s students will have to acclimate themselves into the culturally diverse workforce that lies ahead of them,” she said. “It is important that students consider the impact of diversity in the fields that they plan to enter.”

Veterinary and biomedical sciences major Jasmine Morgan was awarded first place for her essay, “How Homogeneity has Robbed Us of Public Health Advancements.” Morgan received $200 for the essay, which examined how the lack of diversity in public health research fields limits the ability to make significant scientific progress from social and biological standpoints.

Morgan stressed the need to create more diversity in STEM and public health fields. “To make the most influential advancements in the field of STEM, diversity can only be accomplished if the workforce reflects the diverse populations that they serve,” she wrote. “Furthermore, scientific public health research is rendered useless if there is no trust between marginalized communities and scientists.”

Second-place recipients were Olivia Kranefuss and Tynetta Muhammad, who both received $150. Kranefuss, who is an agricultural science major, submitted an essay titled, “Celebrating the Seeds of Diversity in Agriculture.”

In her essay, Kranefuss looked at the complicated history of modern agriculture. Specifically, she examined how many tenants of sustainable agriculture can be traced back to Afro-Indigenous peoples or African Americans, yet these groups do not often receive credit for these advances.

“It is important that we understand the history of these farming practices because these diverse voices and cultures hold infinite agrarian wisdom,” Kranefuss wrote. “The history of farming is diverse — so too should be the future.”

Muhammad, who is majoring in community, environment, and development, wrote an essay about “Diversity Within the Institutional Setting,” in which she discussed the “deficiency of diversity” in her career path and how she sees echoes of this deficiency in larger social issues.

She stressed that it is not just an absence of diversity, but a deficiency “because many issues within the sector of community, environment and development are not even met with the much-needed intersectional lens that diverse groups have. There never will be a shortage of diverse voices and opinions, but it is up to those who wish to hear from them to facilitate environments that allow them to flourish.”

Information on programs and resources offered through the college’s Office of Multicultural Affairs can be found at

Last Updated May 18, 2021