Des Moines, IA — Nine graduate students representing six institutions are starting their fall semester as Real Pork Scholars. Through the National Pork Board-sponsored program, students will receive professional mentorship, the opportunity to build a strong peer-to-peer network and professional training to help communicate technical information. 

The two-year program focuses on three pillars:

  1. Network building, both with professional mentors and peers
  2. Communications training focused on helping students share research-based information with non-research audiences
  3. Relevant research connected to current pork production challenges and the industry’s We Care® Ethical Principles

Real Pork Scholars supports the future of the swine industry

The Real Pork Scholars program is an evolution of NPB’s Pork Scholars program, which primarily focused on supporting academic research related to pork production. NPB CEO Bill Even said the new program aligns with the current needs of the industry and the students involved. 

“The U.S. pork industry is connected to many different areas of study and cultural aspects – nutrition, economic development, environmental studies, consumer trends, and more. We have designed the Real Pork Scholars program to support students in many of those subject areas, which will help our industry gain valuable insights and create meaningful connections with these next generation leaders by helping them grow in areas outside the lab or classroom,” Even said.

Cohort members represent multiple fields of study

Members of the inaugural 2023 Real Pork Scholars cohort, their university, and area of study are as follows: 

  • Lindsey Britton, North Carolina State University, Swine Reproduction 
  • Abigail Jenkins, Kansas State University, Applied Swine Nutrition 
  • Molly Kroeger, Iowa State University, Immunobiology PhD 
  • Carolyn Lee, The Ohio State University, Veterinary Preventative Medicine 
  • Daniel Morales, Iowa State University, Field Epidemiology PhD 
  • Isabel Rodrieguez, Iowa State University, Animal Science – Reproduction  
  • Haley Schwecke, University of Minnesota, Swine Infectious Disease 
  • Sudario Roberto Silva, Jr., University of Minnesota, Swine Nutrition, Microbiome, Sustainability 
  • Beth Stevermer, Drake University School of Law, Juris Doctorate – Agricultural Law

The cohort will begin its Real Pork Scholars experience with a meeting focused on professional mentorship, held on October 17-18 at National Pork Board headquarters. In the first year of the program, scholars will meet regularly with a mentor currently working in a segment of the pork industry relevant to the scholars’ interests and area of study. In addition to mentorship, the scholars will receive hands-on experiences to learn more about the pork industry. The program’s second year will continue the mentorship experience and focus on its communication training component.  

“We’re excited about this opportunity to create a strong win-win experience for these students and our industry,” Even said. “We will gain knowledge and insights from the outstanding representatives of the next generation of leaders, while they will gain training to help them advance their careers and relationships that will benefit them for years to come.”

What’s Next for 2024?

As the 2023 cohort begins its work, NPB will start recruiting for the next class of Real Pork Scholars, opening applications on November 1. To stay up to date on the latest news about the Real Pork Scholars, visit and subscribe to the organization’s weekly emails.  

The National Pork Board has responsibility for Pork Checkoff-funded research, promotion and consumer information projects and for communicating with pork producers and the public. The Pork Checkoff funds national and state programs in consumer education and marketing, retail and foodservice marketing, export market promotion, production improvement, science and technology, swine health, pork safety, and environmental management and sustainability. For the past half century, the U.S. pork industry has delivered on its commitment to sustainable production and has made significant strides in reducing the environmental impact of pig farming. Through a legislative national Pork Checkoff, pork producers invest $0.35 for each $100 value of hogs sold. Importers of pork products contribute a like amount, based on a formula. For information on Checkoff-funded programs, pork producers can call the Pork Checkoff Service Center at (800) 456-7675 or visit