Cultivating Student Interest In Agricultural Sciences

Iowa Farm Scene

Ag companies in Iowa are putting more effort and dollars into reaching high school and middle school students.

Published on: April 30, 2013

On April 25 DuPont Pioneer announced a $400,000 donation to Science Bound. It's the largest corporate donation the program has received since starting two decades ago, says Connie Hargrave, ISU's Science Bound director. The gift reflects a growing interest Iowa corporations are taking in building the state's STEM workforce (science, technology, engineering, math). Pioneer's gift, to be spread over five years, will help support 500 students in the program, particularly summer education programs and internships.

Since the program began, about 250 students have earned four-year tuition scholarships. Hargrave says 10 companies and foundations help support the program. In addition to Pioneer, sponsors include Deere & Co., Smithfield Foods, Emerson Fisher and MechDyne. She says helping Iowa students better understand what scientists, mathematicians and engineers do is critical.

Program has increased its focus on agriculture, prompted by the growth of farm and bioscience companies in Iowa
Science Bound is expanding its mentoring program with companies like Pioneer. "These students don't normally have large-scale interaction with STEM professionals, but thanks to Science Bound they do," says Hargrave. The program has increased its focus on agriculture, given the growing farm and biosciences industries in Iowa.

"We are so pleased that DuPont Pioneer, an early and strong supporter of Science Bound, has expanded their commitment with their most recent and very generous gift," says Hargrave. "This will make a tremendous difference to our state and nation by increasing the number of young people who are contributing to our nation's needs in agriculture and industry."

We'll need these students' innovation, creativity and brain power
"Building tomorrow's leaders in science, food and agriculture must begin today," says Paul Schickler, president of DuPont Pioneer. "We are proud to support the Science Bound program as they develop the students who have the imagination, creative thinking and enthusiasm needed to feed the world. In order to advance food security around the world, we need to inspire and engage young people in this great challenge."

Pioneer has already added around 6,000 people to its workforce globally over the past six years, and company officials say Pioneer will continue to grow to help feed an expanding world population, expected to hit 9 billion people by the year 2050.

Jaime Sandoval, an ISU senior studying animal ecology and agronomy, says, "I never thought of a science career until Science Bound came along." He says it helped him develop an interest in natural resource conservation and sustainable farming.

Indeed, these bright young people are curious. Michael Hardat, a Hoover High School junior, is interested in how scientists are trying ways to add zinc and iron nutrients to corn grown in Iowa. It can help improve the nutrition of children across the globe, especially those living in poverty, says Hardat, a participant in Science Bound. He says he realizes the importance of farming, after studying the work of Norman Borlaug. Hardat plans to study agriculture at ISU, where he can attend tuition-free, thanks to a Science Bound scholarship.