The Mississippi Forestry Foundation is investing in the lives of students at Mississippi State University.
The foundation, a nonprofit division of the Mississippi Forestry Association, created two endowed scholarships in the College of Forest Resources through the "Infinite Impact: The Mississippi State University Campaign."
The foundation's membership previously supported one of the most coveted scholarships in the college, an annual $2,500 award. The most recent gifts are in addition to that annual scholarship.
Tedrick Ratcliff, executive vice president of the Mississippi Forestry Association, said he understands how vital it is to support students studying natural resources. Ratcliff is an alumnus of the program and previously worked as the college's admissions coordinator.
"It is extremely difficult for many students to afford to go to college, and oftentimes they choose a career, based not on personal interest but on available scholarship support," Ratcliff said. "If a young person wants to pursue a future in forestry and natural resources, we need to help make sure the financial resources are in place to enable him or her to secure that future."
One of the gifts establishes the Mississippi Forestry Foundation Endowed Scholarship. Only students with high academic achievement and extensive extracurricular and community activity are eligible for this award.
Students must submit an essay detailing why they are interested in forest resources and provide letters of recommendation documenting their leadership qualities.
The newly established Mississippi Forestry Association Endowed Summer Camp Award helps students pay for the summer field session, a nine-week program of intensive field training.
While many other universities are discontinuing the hands-on training, MSU has embraced the program as a valuable component to forestry education.
"We adamantly believe that the hands-on instruction that our students receive during the summer field session prepares them for their careers and makes them more attractive to prospective employers," said Andy Ezell, forestry department head.
The summer field session award is available to outstanding students who excel in academics, exhibit leadership with peers, work well with crew members on field assignments, exhibit strong professional and ethical qualities, are service oriented, and demonstrate a financial need.
"The costs associated with the summer field session can be an added burden to students, especially when they forgo working to attend," Ratcliff said. "When the college made it known that it needed additional help with sponsoring summer camp students, the foundation was happy to take the lead."
George Hopper, dean of the MSU College of Forest Resources, said the foundation has made a long-lasting impact on the forestry industry and its future professionals, as well as the university and the college.
"The Mississippi Forestry Foundation began its financial commitment in 2012 with $75,000 gift to endow both the scholarship and the summer field camp award," Hopper said. "Since then they have pledged another $45,000 to increase the impact that they are having on our students."
Trustees for the Mississippi Forestry Foundation are equally enthusiastic about the partnership.
"The Mississippi Forestry Foundation trustees are excited that the forestry community continues to be so generous in donating these funds for the development of young forestry leaders in our community," said Matthew Raff, MSU alumnus and foundation board president. "The trustees feel that partnering with the MSU Foundation is the best way to maximize these funds and put the money to work to achieve the Mississippi Forestry Foundation's goals."
The university's capital campaign continues through 2018. For more information on "Infinite Impact: The Mississippi State University Campaign," visit infiniteimpactmsu.com.