As the NCAA Men’s Basketball season begins with courts across the country filled with athletes who have been awarded thousands of dollars in scholarship money to play basketball, dairy industry minded students are gearing up to compete for scholarships offered by one of the largest scholarship programs in the MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. The Michigan Dairy Memorial and Scholarship Foundation (MDMSF) was founded by a group of visionaries who wanted to provide scholarship funds to students interested in dairy science. Now marking its 60th anniversary, the program continues to award deserving students who are planning on pursuing a career in the dairy industry after graduation.
Dr. Miriam Weber Nielson, MSU Department of Animal Science and Secretary of MDMSF Board of Directors, explained that the Foundation has awarded more than $1.5 million in scholarships to young people aspiring to careers in the dairy industry. She commented, “With more than 1,000 donors, the foundation has provided a visible way for individuals and organizations to recognize with monetary gifts the work of their colleagues and friends in the industry, while strengthening the future of the industry.”
“Gifts to the MDMSF are used to grow the endowment fund with interest from the principal used to create scholarships and support learning experiences for our students in dairy science,” Nielson commented.
When donations are made to the foundation they are recognized in one of two ways: Foundation honorees and named scholarships. Foundation honorees are named when $1,000 or more is given to recognize a dairy leader, that individual will become a MDMSF Honoree and is recognized by a plaque with the Honoree’s picture permanently installed in the MSU Livestock Pavilion and the Honoree’s name permanently inscribed on a plaque in Anthony Hall.
Named scholarships may be named for an individual or organization with a minimum gift of $50,000. A named scholarship is awarded as part of the MDMSF program and carries the name of the individual or organization that provides the funds.
Nielson feels it’s the best of both worlds, “What a great way to recognize deserving individuals in the industry, and at the same time support and encourage the young people who are the future of the industry!”
Sheila Burkhardt, MMPA Sr. Director of Member and Government Relations, was a young agriculture communications student at MSU when she was awarded a MDMSF scholarship.
“I greatly appreciated receiving the scholarship when I was a student at MSU,” she said. “The scholarship meant a lot to me not only financially but knowing the Foundation made the commitment to me and my education influenced my decision to be involved in the dairy industry after college.”
Burkhardt continued, “It is pretty amazing the number of students who have benefited from the MDMSF scholarships over the years and the many different career paths those students have pursued.”
Growing up on a dairy farm, Brian Troyer found his way to MSU and found a vast array of career choices when he chose dairy science as his area of interest. As the President of the MDMSF Board of Directors and recipient of the scholarship in the early 1980s, Troyer knows the value of these scholarships, “That scholarship helped me pay the bills while I was in college. I was able to reap the full benefit of what college had to offer as an undergrad at MSU and today I feel it’s vitally important to invest in the youth of our industry if we are going to thrive.”
The MDMSF is more than just a vehicle for funds for students at MSU, Nielson commented, “The Foundation, and the people and organizations who contribute to it, have encouraged and supported the education of several generations of members of our Michigan dairy industry.”
She continued, “Through generous contributions, donors have recognized the accomplishments of over 200 individuals, outstanding in various professions in the dairy industry, as Foundation Honorees. The Foundation is a great way to celebrate the accomplishments of people from all segments of our industry, something that we usually don’t do often enough! There are so many great stories to tell right here in Michigan.”
The future of the dairy industry is under constant scrutiny and youth are a vital resource for future success. According to Nielson, MSU students interested in dairy are exceptional, “They stand out as being passionate, hard-working and willing to put in extra effort when needed to help others. More so than our average student in the Animal Science department, they seem resilient, focused and determined to find their niche.”
Nielson is proud of the outstanding team work and generous support of time and money from the industry that has fueled the growth in the dairy program at MSU. She concluded, “In addition to the Foundation’s scholarships, the industry support of our programs, even in very difficult times, distinguishes MSU from many other universities in what we can offer our students. With that type of leadership, teamwork and can-do attitude in our industry as well as our young people, I’m confident that the future of our Michigan dairy industry is bright and full of new opportunities.”
This article originally appeared in the December issue of the Michigan Milk Messenger.