By Doyle Karr
My desire to do something about something has gotten more complicated with age.
These days, when I have one of those “someone-should-do-something” moments, not only am I readily aware of the limited amount of time and energy I have to invest in a solution, I also know that many times there is already someone working on it—someone with more “extra cash,” someone who understands the challenge more clearly, someone who has more patience, someone who is more fired up about the problem.
And yet, despite all the other demands on my time and money, I have chosen to give to the University of Illinois Agricultural Communications Next 500 Scholarship Drive. Here’s why.
Professionally, I experience a clear and present need for more—and better—food and ag communicators every day around the world. The University of Illinois has positioned itself to meet that need, inspired by the always forward-thinking Dr. Jim Evans.
Personally, I have a strong appreciation for what the Ag Comm Program at Illinois provided me, and I want to make sure more students have the opportunity I had.
Practically, I’ve learned that building and maintaining a world-class program at a university takes more than desire and our first-in-world endowed Agricultural Communications chair.
We have the commitment from the University. We raised $2 million. We have a terrific teaching staff and incredible, award-winning students. All huge advances. But for this program to be viable at a large public university, it needs to attract more students. Many more students.
Awareness among prospective students is critical, and dedicated alumni are working with the University to get word out about the reinvigorated program.
And yet, even with all that the program now has going for it, we continue to lose top prospective students to other universities. With the increase in costs, scholarships are often the deciding factor. While the existing agricultural communications scholarship funds are strong, they are not sufficient to keep up with current needs. A successful awareness campaign may fail to increase enrollment sufficiently due to lack of scholarship funds.
So, yeah, someone should do something about that scholarship fund problem. What a shame to have come so far—to have the Ag Comm Program positioned like never before for the future—and not be able to fill up the classrooms.
The pool of “someones” who would give to the Ag Communications scholarship fund is relatively small. There are only about 631 living alumni of the Ag Comm Program. And yet, that small group has a strong tradition of supporting the future generations beyond its numbers.
I benefited from those who graduated from Ag Comm before me, and now it is my turn to step up for the Next 500.
Most importantly, giving to the campaign is something I can do that—along with contributions from other alums and friends—will have a significant impact on young people with a passion for communicating.
And that’s enough to get me fired up to give…even at my advanced age.
Learn more about the Next 500 Scholarship campaign.
Doyle Karr is a 1986 graduate of the University of Illinois Ag Communications Program and today is Director of Biotechnology Policy at DuPont.