Local Chapter of National Organization to Support Minorities in Natural Sciences is Established at UMass
- Graduate student Mateo Rull Garza and UMass Stockbridge Extension Professor Jaime Pinero established the first MANRRS (Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources & Related Sciences) chapter in New England, an organization geared to support students from racial and ethnic minority groups in the natural sciences, both professionally and academically.
- Being a national organization, students who join MANRRS will receive a myriad of benefits including (1) access to a diverse professional network locally and nationally, (2) opportunities for internships and employment in the government and private industry sectors, (3) professional development at all college levels, and (4) participation in science meetings and symposia, including the National MANRRS Conference.
- Both Pinero (faculty advisor) and Rull Garza (chapter president) emphasized the importance of being a student-focused group, providing direct mentorship and collaborative workshops.
- The UMass MANRRS chapter will meet at least once a month. At next year’s October meeting, the club will host the accomplished Chilean agroecologist Dr. Miguel Altieri.
UMass Stockbridge School of Agriculture professor Jaime Pinero and graduate student Mateo Rull Garza officially started a MANRRS (Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources & Related Sciences) chapter at UMass in May. This national organization has chapters at universities across the country that promote the success of students from groups that have been historically underrepresented.
MANRRS provides its members with career support, mentorship, and exclusive job opportunities. All students are welcome to join and minorities are especially encouraged. UMass is the first and only university in New England to start a chapter, making Pinero and Rull Garza pioneers of MANRRS for New England.
Pinero has always been passionate about supporting underserved students. Last fall, Jody Jellison, the director of CAFE, approached Pinero. “Why don’t we start a chapter of MANRRS at UMass?” she said, as Pinero recalled. The first thing needed was a faculty advisor. “Let’s do it!” Pinero said, eagerly stepping up to the plate. Pinero then approached Mateo Rull Garza, a graduate student in his lab who has always been interested in mentorship, and Rull Garza came on board to serve as President of the chapter.
The UMass chapter
MANRRS Chapter President Mateo Rull Garza said that chapter members will benefit in many ways. “I see this happening at least on two levels: UMass-based mentorship and networking… and also opportunities available at the national level,” he said.
Pinero and Rull Garza do not want this to be a club where the president or a professor gives a lecture each meeting. Rull Garza envisions professional and academic development through collaboration and community building.
The MANRRS chapter encourages participation by minority or underserved students, but all who are interested are welcome to join. “We do not close doors to any students,” Rull Garza said.
The MANRRS constitution on their website states, “We pledge to work for the inclusion, achievement, and advancement of all people in the agricultural sciences.”
MANRRS was originally formed in 1982 by a group of students from Michigan State University and from there, more universities joined. It is a non-profit alliance between student organizations across the country that is committed to promoting student success over profit, which Rull Garza said he admires about the organization.
The Vice President of the chapter is Matthew Bley and the Treasurer is Ajay Giri. Both of whom are graduate students under Dr. Pinero studying Plant and Soil Sciences at Stockbridge.
The membership of the UMass MANRRS chapter is currently composed mainly of Dr. Pinero’s students interested in agricultural sciences. Rull Garza noted that, nevertheless, students from a wide variety of disciplines would benefit from joining.
There are ten members currently in the chapter, but Rull Garza is hopeful for future growth. The chapter was only created a couple months ago, in May 2023, but they are “really excited to see how this [club] will evolve,” Rull Garza said.
They plan to have accomplished agroecologist Dr. Miguel Altieri participate in a student forum event on October 20th at the monthly MANRRS meeting. Pinero said it will be helpful for students to have a role model like Dr. Altieri, (link is external)who is highly successful in his field of agroecology, authoring over 230 publications and books.
Dr. Jaime Pinero
Throughout his education and his career, Pinero had to fight for a seat at the table. He maintains that his past experiences as a student and young researcher were very positive, although it was sometimes difficult to “pave the road for people” to believe that he knew what he was doing in his field.
Pinero received his PhD in Entomology at UMass Amherst in 2005 after receiving his Bachelor’s Degree at the University of Veracruz, Mexico in 1992. In 2010, Pinero landed his first job as a researcher and assistant professor at Lincoln University (an 1890 land-grant University) in Missouri.
Pinero said that, even with his expertise, it took many years to earn farmers’ trust and get to a point where food growers would follow his pest management recommendations.
Before starting the MANRRS chapter, Pinero recognized that ethnic and racial minority students in the Stockbridge School of Agriculture needed more support from the university. Pinero emphasizes that the department itself deserves more support and recognition for the important work they do.
Pinero referred with pride to the recent UMass rankings by US News and World Reports for the best universities for Agricultural Sciences that places UMass #1 in the United State and #5 worldwide. “People should know that,” Pinero asserted.
“We are going to keep pushing harder and harder to be more visible and support our stakeholders in the ways they deserve,” Pinero continued. By forming a chapter of MANRRS at UMass to promote and support students, he hopes Stockbridge will continue to provide excellent academic leadership in agriculture.
The national organization
Not only will the club provide students with a local network of support, but the national organization of MANRRS will provide students with a network of connections across the country.
“We are still in the process of developing the UMass level of mentoring and promoting student success. But our members today already have access to hundreds of opportunities provided by the national organization,” Rull Garza said.
According to Pinero, “students can find exclusive access to internships at companies that only advertise with MANRRS.” Even with companies that advertise elsewhere, MANRRS members still get exclusive access and priority when applying, Rull Garza noted. In addition, MANRRS students will (1) have access to a diverse professional network both locally and nationally, (2) engage in the government and private industry sectors, (3) develop professional skills at all stages of their university career, and (4) participate in conferences and other science community events.
The opportunities offered are not limited to a specific field or discipline, as long as it is related to agriculture, natural resources or related fields. Rull Garza mentioned that this can include roles in finance and account management, as well as in agriculture and research.
Mateo Rull Garza
Rull Garza is a graduate student at UMass studying for his M.S. in Plant and Soil Sciences who looks for opportunities to mentor wherever he can. In Pinero’s lab, Rull Garza co-mentors students on Integrated Pest Management, focusing on plant-insect interactions to promote a more environmentally sustainable and less resource-intensive forms of pest management. He is also research coordinator for the REEU internship program (read more at: Research and Extension Experiences for Undergraduates).
“I know what it feels like to be an outsider,” Rull Garza said.
He lived in Mexico for most of his life and when he came to Massachusetts in 2016, he described his English skills at the time as “rudimentary at best.” He completed his last year of high school in a predominantly white school in South Deerfield, where he felt he either needed to adapt quickly or he would continue to feel like an “outsider.”
Rull Garza became even more aware of the difficulties minorities face in achieving academic and professional success during his undergraduate program at UMass Lowell, where he served on his college’s diversity and inclusion task force. After this experience, he knew that he wanted to support these students through mentorship.
His goal as a mentor is to make an impact and be remembered by the lives he has touched. “I don’t want my time here [at UMass] to be remembered by an archived thesis,” he said. “Thus far, I am very proud of what I have accomplished with my own research…But my greatest impact has not been what I have accomplished but what I have helped other people accomplish. That’s very big for me,” he continued.
Working in the lab last year, Rull Garza co-mentored students majoring in biochemistry, sustainable food and farming, and political science. He said that it didn’t matter whether they had the exact same interests as him — whatever it was they wanted to pursue, he helped them develop their skills.
How to get involved
UMass Amherst students can join the MANRRS chapter by registering on this page(link is external). All dues are paid by the university when students register through UMass Amherst.
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