Clemson packaging science student Gabrien Gillespie.

Clemson packaging science student Gabrien Gillespie.

Clemson, S.C- The students apart of Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANNRS) at Clemson University attended a regional conference that not only tested their knowledge but allowed them to take away professional development skills.

The MANNRS Regional Conference, held from Sept. 25-26, was virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Because MANNRS hosts sixty-three schools, each school is broken up into one of six regions. The Clemson chapter, located in the second region, participated with other chapters from regions 1-3, which included schools from the northeastern and southern United States.

Each day of the conference was filled with different activities. Students participated in workshops that ranged in topics from mental health to how to build your brand. The students in attendance were able to network and talk to career professionals.

One student, Gabrien Gillespie, took home second place in the 2020 Virtual Interview Competition. Gillespie is a junior packaging science major and business administration minor. The Goose Creek native is involved in many organizations on Clemson’s campus, like Brother-2-Brother where he serves as the secretary, Tiger Alliance as an ambassador, and the National Society of Black Engineers where he serves as the telecommunications chair.

He got involved with MANNRS after having a meeting with Katie Black and Paula Beecher, who both work in the W.B Bookhart Student Services Center located in CAFLS. Beecher serves as the director of the center and Black serves that the director of student recruitment and new media. After learning about the program, he got in touch with Julian Nixon, one of the advisors for MANNRS, who allowed him to join the program.

“It was an extremely beneficial discovery,” he said.

The Regional Conference this year was Gillespie’s first big event with the MANNRS organization. He said that placing in the interview competition felt really good.

“I was using the opportunity to test my interview skills before the CAFLS Career Fair. Most importantly, it was great to bring recognition to Clemson’s MANNRS chapter,” he said.

Gillespie believes that he took away many skills from the conference.

“From the numerous breakout rooms to the interview contest, I learned a lot personally and professionally. Most importantly I took away how to enhance and critic my interview skills,” he said.

The regional conference was not only beneficial for the members of MANNRS, but also for the president of Clemson’s chapter, Caterra Heard-Tate.

Tate is a senior nutrition major from Anderson. As president of MANNRS, she believes that it’s highly important for members to attend this conference because of the long-lasting connections that can form.

“I believe it is extremely important to have our members attend this conference in order for them to get experience networking with other professionals and to meet other students that are interested in similar fields…because we are all in this together and we can learn something from one another regardless of the level we are in within our careers,” she said.

Tate also believes that the attendees gained many professional development skills that will stick with them.

“The skills I believe our members have gained from attending this conference is the ability to network with individuals in a virtual setting. They have [also] been able to strengthen their communication skills verbally and electronically, [they learned] how to build a brand on social media and on virtual networking platforms, and they have been able to gain more technology skills by going to the various workshops,” she said.

With the regional conference helping students to develop skills, Gillespie was able to network with many other students.

“I made many connections,” he said. “Right before the conference our MANNRS chapter held a LinkedIn even, explaining how to build a solid account. So, when peers, chapter advisors, and chair members from other regions asked to connect with me, I could finally say yes with confidence,”

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