Jasmine Scott at speaking engagement
Scott attended North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, earning a B.S. in agricultural education in 2015. She worked as a financial analyst with the U.S. Forest Service for four years in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Graduate student profile

Jasmine Scott '20

M.S., Agricultural Leadership

Jasmine Scott is going places. The 26-year-old Madison, North Carolina, native was recently elected graduate student vice president to the National Society of Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences (MANRRS), and it’s easy to see why. Effervescent and affable, impassioned and resolute, her desire to make an impact makes her an effective advocate for students and an ideal spokesperson for minorities. Scott is poised to become a change-agent for a more dynamic, diverse, and inclusive model for agricultural systems, practices, and policies that serve all.

1. Tell us a little about yourself and your family.

I’m from a small town near Greensboro, North Carolina. I’m an only child, and I was raised on my family’s 100-acre tobacco farm in an isolated area. The environment was not made for African Americans to succeed, and there were racial undertones. As a kid, I remember passing KKK signs on my school bus. I used to beg my mom to let me to live in the city so I could be around more people who looked like me and were ambitious.

My mom has always understood that education would be my ticket to success. When she asked me if I wanted to go to college, she said she wouldn’t pay for it. She empowered me to manifest a scholarship or anything I wanted, and this helped me establish a clear goal. In addition to my undergraduate USDA 1890 National Scholars Program scholarship, I also earned a George Washington Carver fellowship. Now, I am so grateful that my mom allowed me to experience what I did. I learned so much.

2. What’s the most important lesson your family gave you?

Not to be ashamed of my faith. Faith has always been a framework for me, and I try to consider the spiritual concept and merge it with what I’m experiencing in the physical.

My grandmother was a good woman with a deep religious connection. She had a Bat-phone to God. The way she interacted with her friends, parishioners, and the larger community was inspiring. Both of my grandparents had very little education, yet their experience gave them the framework to be successful. Now that I am also in the agricultural field, I wish I had learned from them. I missed that generational transfer of knowledge.

3. Can you share a little about some of your interests?

Agricultural and environmental policy, and policy as a whole. I get energized during election season. I like to get involved in politics and to ask questions, such as, “What makes a good political leader? What role do they play in inspiring ownership and agency?” I also have a background in public speaking. This past summer, I participated in Virginia Tech’s Second Annual MLK Oration Contest, and won. I have also won MANRRS public speaking competitions.

4. Tell us more about your field of study.

This is my second year in the agricultural leadership program. I will graduate in May 2020. I’m studying farm-to-school programming in Virginia and exploring the role state legislators play in implementing and maintaining those programs. Farm-to-school can also be about connecting kids with local farmers and connecting classroom learning with what is occurring on a real-life farm. This can also encompass nutrition education. I like seeing how local procurement is integrated into school lunch programs, and how kids are learning to grow produce in school gardens.

5. MANRRS is a big part of your life. What do you love about this organization?

Of all the organizations I’ve been a part of, MANRRS has helped me grow the most. This will be my fifth year as a member, including four years as an undergraduate. Given that my time is limited, I chose MANRRS because it gives me the most networking opportunities and the most workshops and trainings.

6. Tell us about your role as a MANRRS national officer.

Being a member comes with many benefits, but being a national officer takes those to another level. The exposure, programming, and one-on-one time with corporate sponsors are things I don’t take for granted. My role is to serve as a spokesperson for graduate students’ needs and for concerns in the region, and to act as a liaison to the national office.

I worked with my undergraduate counterpart, Alexis Doon, and with our faculty advisor, Chevon Thorpe, director of inclusion, diversity and equity for the college, to design a “cluster” that was held at Virginia Tech last fall. The cluster is a conference-like event, though at a small scale. We expect diverse stakeholders from companies, graduate students, and undergraduate students from the region.

7. What is special to you about CALS and Virginia Tech?

Ultimately, I feel supported academically. All of my academic mentors have encouraged me to pursue my interests. They have created a climate to inspire my intellectual curiosity. Both the college and the university are making a commitment to promote diversity and inclusion.

8. What steps do you think could help reach this goal?

There is a quote by Dr. Phil: ‘You can’t change what you do not acknowledge.’ We need to acknowledge where we are. We can examine the climate and change the way we respond. I’m proud of the institutional goal to increase diversity, but it’s a tough goal. The minority presence in Blacksburg is still small, though I hope to see it grow with the help of organizations like MANRRS. At the same time, offers will have to be more attractive to recruit and retain minority students and faculty. Coming here appeals to my academic/professional development side, and we also have to consider that everyone here is a whole person. How can we work together to create an environment that is attractive outside of the academic context?

9. What do you aspire to do when you earn your graduate degree?

I would love to secure a career in governmental relations. Whether that means I am directly supporting someone in Congress or navigating those relationships within an agricultural firm is up in the air now, but anything where I can probe into political spaces and conversations would be lovely.

10. What advice do you have for incoming students and graduate students?

I have advice for people before they come to college: Have diversity in the things you do. I believe you reach an age in high school where you are expected to know what you want to do with your life but you’ve barely had the experiences to know one way or the other. Get involved with Junior MANRRS and FFA to help you explore potential careers. And remember, no one cares about how smart you are unless you’re nice – all the time and to everyone. It’s not about what you know or what you think you know. Ultimately, people care most about how they feel in your presence.