Houghton Students and Faculty Attend National Conference

Six Houghton College students and two Houghton faculty members recently attended the Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS) national conference in Overland, Kan.

Erik Sorensen, Elliot Spicer, Ryan Ozzello, Jonathan Povish, Caroline Smith, Christian Tomford and Teresa Soley attended the meeting with faculty members Rebecca Williams, assistant professor of biology, and Ryan Yates, assistant professor of computer science and data science.

The Houghton students and faculty joined nearly 1000 attendees from 76 colleges and universities at the event. The students engaged in professional development seminars, interacted with students from other colleges and universities, attended job and graduate school fairs and onsite interviews, and participated in competitions.

Spicer, a junior from Newtown, Penn., studying data science at Houghton participated in the Lincoln Douglas Memorial Debate at the national level with two fellow Cluster 1 members, Sagar Desai from Maryland and DeAndra Best from UMES. The topic of the debate was whether global politics would be the main contributor towards the upcoming projected food deficit in 2050.

Ozzello, Sorensen and Soley won first place at the National Business Pitch Contest competing against Michigan State, Kansas State, California Polytechnic State, and Tuskegee universities. The goal of the contest was to pitch a business idea related to agriculture that would help the local community or address a problem in the agriculture field. (Think “Shark Tank” meets agriculture.) The Houghton team’s idea was AgNet, a social media platform designed to help strengthen local farming by equipping it with easy and accessible tools like webpage personalization and marketing and sales opportunities. Ozzello, a data and computer science double major from Rochester, N.Y., said, “This was truly a wonderful experience that has had personal, social and professional takeaways that I am still unraveling now. Winning first place was a team effort. My fellow team members acted as a catalyst, enabling my presentation talents that I didn’t even know I had.”

Povish, a senior from Potts Grove, Penn., studying computer science and data science related, “Throughout the weekend, employers and professionals were explaining the importance my role as a data/computer scientist would have in the future as agriculture becomes more and more reliant on the data that is often overlooked.”

Smith, who is a junior majoring in psychology with a focus in neuroscience and a minor in biology, added, “This opportunity allowed me to express my interest in the sciences and take them to a higher level of understanding. The interactions and connections I made have allowed me to have a foundation to build my future graduate endeavors upon.”

Professor Williams, Houghton’s MANRRS advisor, said, “It was a pleasure to see our students interact with peers from many different schools, successfully attend a job fair, engage in professional development, plan for the future, and grow in their ideologies and as a team. If I could describe the chemistry that was shared as a team, it would be ‘electric.’ I could not have been more proud of their attendance, performance and win! I look forward to seeing what the future holds for our chapter and our highly committed, motivated students.”

MANRRS is a national organization committed the promotion of academic and professional advancement by empowering minorities in agriculture, natural resources, and related sciences.

Houghton College is a liberal arts institution that challenges students to academic excellence – in the context of a relevant Christian community – and empowers them to enrich the world. The college of 1,000 students is located in Western New York, just 65 miles from Rochester and Buffalo.