Students Discover Opportunities in Newly Endowed Club

Alejandra Marquez LozaOf OSU's nearly 400 recognized student organizations, one repeatedly honored in recent years is MANRRS (Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences), a student-run professional development group. As BioResource Research senior Alejandra Márquez Loza explains, MANRRS is far more than a social club.

"It really influences students and enriches their college experience; you learn about opportunities you'd never hear of otherwise," she says.

Born in Mexico, Alejandra grew up in Puerto Rico but lived in Corvallis while her father, Luis Márquez-Cedillo '01, earned his doctorate. The university wasn't completely unfamiliar when she returned as a freshman, but she didn’t know many people, either. It was hard at first, living by herself.

But in her first year, Alejandra got involved with MANRRS. It changed her life.

Dreaming of medical school, she knew she wanted to get involved with OSU research. Yet MANRRS opened even more doors for her. She took advantage of mentoring and networking opportunities. She learned about, applied for, and received a scholarship from the USDA-NIFA Multicultural Scholars Program: an enormous help for a student paying out-of-state tuition.

She attended three national MANRRS conferences, including the 2011 gathering in Kansas where OSU won the national Chapter of the Year award for the second time in three years. She gained leadership experience.

Then to cap it off, last spring Alejandra was chosen for a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, the nation's most prestigious award for undergraduates studying the sciences. "It was the MANRRS adviser, Wanda Crannell, who encouraged me to apply; I never thought I'd get it," she says. "It means a lot to me because it means people believe I have the potential to succeed."

Recognizing the value of this student organization, last year the dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences designated $75,000 from the college's donor-supported Fund for Excellence to create an endowment for MANRRS.

This time it was adviser Wanda Crannell who was "absolutely shocked and amazed." Crannell explains that while the endowment income will only cover a portion of the club's expenses, it will be the first time the club has had access to recurring funds, period.

"I was more than elated. People don't know how much of a difference it makes," Crannell says. She notes that of Oregon State students who register with the national MANRRS Society, 95 percent graduate – far above the overall graduation rate for OSU's minority and underrepresented students. "It's delightful and inspiring to watch these students making a difference and helping each other."

Following a summer of research at Oregon Health and Science University (where she is pictured), this fall Alejandra will continue working on her University Honors College thesis, which has to do with memory and aging. In October she'll be a presenter — one of only a handful of undergraduate presenters — with Dr. Kathy Magnusson at the Society for Neuroscience national conference in New Orleans.

She'll also be busy with a new OSU student organization: Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science. OSU actually had a SACNAS chapter in the past, but it went defunct for lack of funds. Alejandra helped relaunch the chapter last year because in comparison to MANRRS it has more of a focus on science and medicine.

"Sometimes even though an organization or a student has the potential to do great things, finances can stand in the way," she reflects. "Scholarships allowed me to stay in the university. Funding for student organizations also helps make things happen."

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