Real Pork Scholars - Pork Checkoff

Real Pork Scholars

Real Pork Scholars is a professional executive mentorship program for graduate students that is designed to leave a lasting impact on participants and the U.S. pork industry.

Grounded in research and driven by professional relationships, experience as a Real Pork Scholar will launch students into the next phase of their careers. The program offers students:

  • mentorship
  • peer-to-peer network building
  • professional training
  • funding for relevant research

At the same time, the U.S. pork industry will gain enhanced insights by filling research gaps and building strong connections with emerging thought leaders.

Program Objectives

The Real Pork Scholars Program is a prestigious cohort-based program designed to build capacity for research and communication in the next generation of leaders in the U.S. pork industry. The program seeks to identify outstanding students pursuing graduate-level study who will have the capacity to deeply engage in value-added experiences while conducting academic work to influence the U.S. pork industry positively.

The program seeks graduate students who want to develop strong interdisciplinary mentors and peer networks and actively help build awareness among consumers and other audiences about their expertise and perspectives on food and food animal production.

What to Expect

Throughout the two-year program and after its completion, scholars will apply their training by sharing their work and its relationship to advancing U.S. pork’s commitment to people, pigs and the planet.

What Students Gain

Real Pork Scholars gives graduate students across multiple study areas an opportunity to develop connections that will advance their careers and participate in training to elevate their ability to communicate technical details to various audiences through the following.

  • Mentoring and Peer-to-Peer Network Building: Scholars participate in monthly conversations with hand-selected mentors relevant to their field of study and multiple in-person and virtual events with peers in the scholar cohort.

  • Skills Advancement: Professional training to help students communicate highly technical information to various audiences will equip scholars to effectively share their expertise in a way that resonates with non-scientific audiences. Part of the training will be provided by the Real Pork Trust Consortium, a multi-university effort that applies research-based communications techniques to build consumer trust in agriculture.

  • Financial Support: Real Pork Scholars invests in students doing relevant research. Up to $60,000 for two years is available for cohort members to support their academic and professional development, not directly fund their research.

  • Opportunity to Make a Tangible Difference: Real Pork Scholars want to drive the discussion, understanding and efforts to continually advance the health of people, pigs, the planet and our communities.

Research Priorities for Students Selected

Students selected for funding will conduct research that is relevant to the pork industry and aligns with the risks and opportunities identified by the National Pork Board (NPB).

Emphasis is placed on scientific research to address gaps in consumer understanding of pork and pork production related to the industry’s We Care® Ethical Principles:

  • Environment
  • Public Health
  • Community
  • Animal Welfare
  • Food Safety
  • People

Scholars will also engage as a cohort in NPB-hosted experiences at pork industry events and activities twice a year minimum.

Who Is Eligible?

Students pursuing graduate study in accredited M.S., Ph.D., J.D., or DVM-Ph.D. programs are eligible to apply. The program is open to various study areas as NPB seeks a diverse group of students representing multiple areas that influence the pork industry. Areas of study may include, but are not limited to:

  • Ag Communications
  • Ag Law
  • Agricultural Economics
  • Animal Science (Genetics, Nutrition, Reproduction, Meat Science, Animal Welfare)
  • Biosystems
  • Business Analytics
  • Computer Science / Engineering
  • Data Science
  • Dietetics / Human Nutrition
  • Economics
  • Engineering
  • Environmental Science
  • Feed Science and Management
  • General Science
  • Human Resources
  • Materials Science
  • Math/Statistics / Bio-Statistics
  • Public Health / Pharmacology / Microbiology
  • Veterinary Science

Academic excellence is an important criterion, as is the applicant’s ability to think critically, engage with a multi-disciplinary cohort of colleagues, and transfer learning to action with enhanced communications advocacy and media skills.

NPB views the partnership between the applicant and their major professor/academic advisor as critical to their successful participation as a Real Pork Scholar.

NPB seeks and encourages the participation of people from traditionally underrepresented audiences.

Statement of Support from Major Professor or Academic Advisor

NPB views the partnership between the applicant and their major professor or academic advisor as critical to their successful participation as a Real Pork Scholar. We ask for your candid assessment of the applicant in a statement of support.

Instructions for Major Professor or Academic Advisor

Please provide a written statement on institution letterhead to the applicant for submission. Include the following:

    • Describe the applicant. What skills or experiences does the applicant bring to your program? How does their background and/or career aspirations contribute to a positive future for the U.S. pork industry?
    • Address the applicant’s current or proposed academic work. What is the feasibility of the proposed project or work? What is the connection of the academic work to pork industry risks and opportunities?
    • Provide your evaluation of the applicant. What is your assessment of the applicant’s ability to successfully meet the requirements of the Real Pork Scholars program and meet the rigor of their academic program?

Also, please provide your CV/resume to the applicant to upload with their application packet.

FAQs

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What research topics will the program address?

Students selected for funding will conduct research that is relevant to the pork industry and aligns with the risks and opportunities identified by the NPB.

Research topics may cover a wide variety of areas.

  • Emphasis is placed on scientific research to address gaps in consumer understanding of pork and pork production based on the We Care® Ethical Principles. Emphasis is also placed on research that helps answer common questions from consumers, such as:
    • Does pork come from real farms or factories?
    • Is pork healthy and safe?
    • Do pigs have space and are they treated well?
    • What does raising pork mean for the environment?
    • How does raising pork impact our society?
  • Areas of priority include, but are not limited to: sustainability, air quality, water quality, public health, economic value, human nutrition, health outcomes.
How long does the program last?

The two-year program will include a consistent focus on the scholar’s research project, as well as the following:

Year One: Network Building

  • Match with mentor based on areas of interest and career aspirations. Meet monthly.
  • Network with fellow scholars and gain hands-on experience about the industry through bi-annual in-person events.
  • Consistent virtual seminars, training and learning opportunities with subject matter experts from industry and academia.

Year Two: Training and Application

  • Continue building mentor and cohort relationships with intentional connections.
  • Receive training specific to sharing technical info with multiple audiences through NPB, the Real Pork Trust Consortium and additional collaborators. Training will include virtual and in-person sessions.

Scholars will be required to attend NPB-hosted experiences at pork industry events and activities twice a year minimum.

How is the funding provided?

Real Pork Scholars may receive up to $60,000 over the maximum of two years in the program ($30,000 annually for two years with satisfactory participation). The funds are designated to support the student’s research agenda that is focused on relevant U.S. pork industry risks and opportunities as defined by NPB.

  • Funding is capped at $30,000 annually for two years ($60,000 total per Real Pork Scholar).
  • Each award is intended to support a single student.
  • Student awards will be for a maximum of two years and can be used for graduate-level study at an accredited M.S., Ph.D., J.D., or DVM-Ph.D. program.
  • Second-year funding is contingent upon satisfactory participation in year one. Scholars will submit a progress report at the end of the first year.
  • Additional tuition and stipend costs above the limit of each fellowship are the responsibility of the successful student, faculty member, and the university.
What is the application process timeline?

The 2024 application timeline is as follows:

  • Nov. 1, 2023 — Application available
  • Jan. 15, 2024 — All application materials must be submitted by 5 p.m. CT
  • March 1, 2024 — Applicants will be notified
  • April 1, 2024 — Real Pork Scholars Program agreements submitted
  • Fall 2024 — Year one funding distributed to Real Pork Scholars Program institutions

Applications will be reviewed by a panel of NPB staff and U.S. pork producers.

Do students or faculty members complete the application?

The application is completed by the graduate student.

NPB views the partnership between the applicant and their major professor/academic advisor as critical to their successful participation as a Real Pork Scholar.

Major professors/academic advisors are required to provide a statement of support, as well as their CV or resume.

Two letters of recommendation are also required and may be provided by a current or former professor, professional mentor or industry professional.

To be considered, applicants must submit all materials by the due date.

What if I have more questions?

Questions may be directed to Chelsey Van Genderen, NPB’s manager of industry relations at [email protected] or 515-223-2641.