Agriculture-Natural Resources Student Group Wins UC President’s Award for Leadership

MANRRS students in blue superhero T-shirts
UC Davis students are wearing the official T-shirt of the 2019 MANRRS regional conference held at California Polytechnic State University. San Luis Obispo, in November 2019. The MANRRS superhero shirts read: “There’s a hero in all of us. Together let’s strengthen our superpowers.”

Quick Summary

  • President Drake commends MANRRS for building community in pandemic
  • Chancellor May: “In upside-down world of COVID-19, MANRRS stepped up”
  • Mentoring, other services “vital” for first-generation, underserved students

The UC Davis chapter of a student organization that promotes and fosters the inclusion of underrepresented minorities in agriculture, natural resources and related sciences is the recipient of a 2021 UC President’s Award for Outstanding Student Leadership.

Michael V. Drake headshot
President Michael V. Drake

President Michael V. Drake presented the award during the Board of Regents virtual meeting in July, commending UC Davis’ Multiculturalism in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences, or MANRRS, for “really outstanding effort and demonstrated leadershlp” in addressing the impacts of COVID-19 on their peers.

“Specifically, MANRRS helped UC Davis undergraduate and graduate students find community, develop skills to support their academic sand professional success, and connect to resources during more than a year of lockdowns and distance learning. Please join me in congratulating these extraordinary UC Davis students.”

Drake presented two awards for outstanding student leadership, the other one going UC San Francisco medical students Jazzmin Williams and Laeesha Cornejo for addressing racism in the clinical setting. Noting that the COVID-19 pandemic had exacerbated the problem, the students produced and delivered workshops that enhanced preceptors’ ability to model anti-racism behavior for students.

Gary S. May, Abenezer Shankute and Carmen Books headshots
From left: Chancellor Gary S. May and MANRRS officers Abenezer Shankute and Carmen Banks. Shankute and Banks delivered remarks to the Board of Regents after accepting the President’s Award July 22.

‘MANRRS stepped up’

Chancellor Gay S. May also spoke during the regents meeting: “I want to congratulate MANRRS President Abenezer Shankute, Vice President Carmen Banks and everyone involved in the program. They are absolutely deserving of this award.”

The chancellor continued: “When the COVID-19 pandemic turned our world upside-down, MANRRS stepped up with efforts to engage with students, many of whom are dealing with social isolation and limited access to resources.”

In a normal year, MANRRS hosts networking events, socials and professional development workshops covering topics such as creating standout resumes and improving interview skills. It also invites guest speakers to discuss current issues or professional experiences.

In 2020-21, MANRRS launched a mentorship program for students within the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, or CA&ES. Shankute, a junior majoring in environmental science and management, and who is beginning his second year as president of UC Davis MANRRS, said the program paired undergraduate students, most of whom were freshman or sophomores, with graduate students so they could connect with one another socially and provide academic support.

“It helped students as a whole be more tight-knit and have more of a community aspect during online school,” he said.

Chancellor May said MANRRS mentoring and other services —workshops to connect students with industry professionals and programs to help students cope with stress — “were vital in helping first-generation, low-income and underserved students navigate the academic environment during COVID.”

FROM THE ORGANIZATION’S WEBPAGE:MANRRS promotes academic and professional advancement by empowering all students, including underrepresented groups, in agriculture, natural resources and related sciences.”

‘Care, love and passion’

Plant sciences professor Diane Beckles, one of MANRRS’ faculty advisors for the past year, said she and Sue Ebeler, CA&ES associate dean of undergraduate academic programs, and Annie King, a professor of animal science, have been impressed with the students’ high level of professionalism and organization.

Beckles said she was delighted to learn the group was being honored for its commitment to supporting fellow students. She noted the “emotional intensity” that went into the work that they did. “That work was driven by care, love and passion, and to see that rewarded was one of the highlights of my year,” she said.

The President’s Award for Outstanding Student Leadership comes with a $1,500 prize, which Shankute said MANRRS will use use to expand its impact on campus.

“I think one of the most important aspects of college is building relationships, and one obstacle that prevents people from building relationships is feeling like they don’t belong,” Shankute said. So, the fact that MANRRS offers a place for students from all walks of life to come together and be friends and build relationships and at the same time make advancements in their own professional or academic careers, is really great.”

LAURELS: Professor Luis G. Carvajal-Carmona is selected by the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities for its Presidential Leadership Academy, or La Academia de Liderazgo. Plus more honors for faculty.


Media Resources

Dateline Staff: Dave Jones, editor, 530-752-6556,; Cody Kitaura, News and Media Relations specialist, 530-752-1932,

Tiffany Dobbyn, communications specialist in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, contributed to this report.

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