The National Pork Board recently awarded 18 scholarships to college students around the United States as part of its strategy to develop the pork industry's human capital for the future.

The scholarship winners were selected from a pool of 21 applicants based on scholastic merit, leadership activities, pork production industry involvement, as well as their future pork production career plans.  

Karen Richter, who serves as the president of the National Pork Board, as well as a pork producer from Montgomery, Minn., noted that helping develop the next generation of pork professionals is one of the top issues that the Pork Checkoff has identified as crucial for the industry's future.

She added that the Pork Checkoff's ongoing service and obligation to helping producers includes ensuring that there is a sustainable source of young people who are ready to take on the industry's charge of producing safe, wholesome pork, in a way that is socially responsible.

The 18 student recipients represent 12 states, 10 universities and 13 swine-related career paths. The 2014 Pork Industry Scholarship recipients are:

Recipient

Home Town

Institution

Career Path

Dustin Compart

Nicollet, Minn.

South Dakota State University

Animal Science

Jake Erceg

Talent, Ore.

Kansas State University

Swine Nutrition

Matt Kerns

Clearfield, Iowa

Iowa State University

Business

Alyssa Clements

Livingston, Tenn.

University of Tennessee

Animal Nutrition

Molly Frank

Dexter, Minn.

Iowa State University

Production

Jared Mumm

Kimberly, Idaho

Kansas State University

Behavior/Reproduction

Haley Gilleland

Fitzgerald, Ga.

University of Georgia

Animal Science

Kiah Gourley

Philomath, Ore.

Kansas State University

Swine Nutrition

Evan Koep

Lakefield, Minn.

South Dakota State University

Immunology

Jordan Bjustrom

Clarksville, Iowa

Iowa State University

Swine Health

Ashalynn Bilton-Smith

Centralia, Wash.

Washington State University

Veterinary Medicine

Caitlin Hupp

Cedar Rapids, Neb.

South Dakota State University

Production

Lauren Honegger

Forrest. Ill.

University of Illinois

Swine Nutrition

Austin Bailey

Curryville, Mo.

University of Missouri

Agriculture Education

Shelby Englert

Logansport, Ind.

Purdue University

Sales and Marketing

Cathy Bernhard

Batavia, Ill.

University of Illinois

Applied Swine Research

Emily Scholtz

Comfrey, Minn.

South Dakota State University

Production

Wes Darcy

Forked River, N.J.

Rutgers University

Veterinary Medicine

This year's top candidates were Dustin Compart, Jake Erceg and Matt Kerns, who will each receive a $5,000 scholarship. Compart, a junior at South Dakota State University from Nicollet, Minn., plans to eventually join his family's farm, selling seedstock and branded product direct to restaurants. Erceg, a junior at Kansas State University who is from Talent, Ore., hopes to pursue a Master of Science degree in swine nutrition after completing his undergraduate degree. Kerns, a junior at Iowa State University from Clearfield, Iowa, plans to obtain his Masters of Business Administration and focus on the business side of pork production. The other 15 applicants will each be awarded $2,000.

"A skilled workforce is essential for the competitiveness of this industry," Richter said. "The scholarship awards help encourage these young people to pursue a career that offers many diverse opportunities. On behalf of the Pork Checkoff and its partners, we congratulate this year's Pork Industry Scholarship recipients."