By: Beth Ann Luedeker
Contact: Mark McDonald - [email protected]

Students supporting other students

group of students
Incoming and outgoing SCGO officers gathered after elections. Back row ( l to r): Taylor Atkinson, Administrative Assistant - SCSC Instruction office; Rahul Raman,2019 VP-Finance; Mark McDonald, 2019 President; Jales Fonseca, 2018 VP-Programming; Rohith Vulchi, 2019 VP-Communications; Promod Pokhrel, 2019-GPSG Representative. Front Row: Seth Abugho, 2018 GPSG Representative; Karina Morales, 2018 Vice President; Ammani Kyanam, past President; Dorothy Menefee, 2018 VP-Finance; Aniruddah Maity, 2019 VP-Programs; Dr. Nithya Rajan, faculty sponsor. Not pictured: Marie Schirmacher, 2018 VP-Communications and Jennifer MacMillan, 2019 Vice President.

As a new slate of officers is sworn in for the Soil and Crop Sciences Graduate Organization (SCGO), it is a good time to look back at the students who organized and led the group through its formative years.

After conducting the first Plant Breeding Symposium, a graduate student planned and run event, a group of plant breeding students commiserated on some of the difficulties of graduate school. How nice it would be, they thought, to have a place to turn for support beyond that which the university could provide.

“We felt at a disadvantage, especially those students from out of state or another country” said Ammani Kyanam, one of the group’s founders. “It can be terrifying to be a long way from home. It is nice to have a connection.”

In mid-2015 Kyanam, Laura Masor, Brian Pfeiffer, Smit Dhakal and other plant breeding students founded the Plant Breeding & Genetics Graduate Student Organization to provide that connection.

group of students in the football stadium
A group of SCGO members participates in ont of Texas A&M's famed traditions - Midnight Yell Practice!

They soon realized that there were many students with other majors in the department who would benefit from the organization, so the name was changed to the Soil Crop Graduate Organization in 2016 and the group’s constitution was amended to benefit students in all soil and crop science programs.

The SCGO has three objectives, Kyanam stated. To build community (aka have some fun), to provide professional development opportunities and represent the interests of the department’s student body to the university’s Graduate and Professional Student Government (GPSG).

group of students with shovels
Members of SCGO volunteer cleared the area and placed paving stones duringThe Big Event.


From 20 - 35 graduate students attend the meetings and events. The events range from socials, to group attendance of sports events, to volunteer work. During The Big Event, members of the group volunteered at the Brazos County Food Bank. They recently held a “Paint Night” where about 35 students gathered to create their own masterpieces.

These events provide a sense of family and of belonging that many students miss when they are far from home.

Three girls digging up a yard
Members of the SCGO clear grass to set landscaping stones during The Big Event.

Professional Development

At the monthly meetings invited speakers discuss topics such as networking, how to write a resume, preparing for an interview, or how to write a scholarship essay.

Having a Voice

Since the SCGO has a delegate to the GPSG, they have a platform where their voice is heard. This helps students from throughout the university know what is going on in Soil and Crop Sciences, and helps SCSC students stay connected to the greater university.

students in front of the Brazos Valley foodbank
Members of SCGO, Ammani Kyanam, Yu-Ya Liang, Marie Schirmacher, Dorothy Menefee and Rahul Raman were part of the group that helped to sort more than 1,200 meals at the Brazos Valley Foodbank.

Moving Forward

“One of our big challenges is trying to include graduate students with families,” Kyanam said. “Much of what we do is at night, and often later than people with small kids can participate. I hope the new officers can find some activities that will include the families.”

“I was super impressed with the organization when I came in, so I am happy to be able to do my part and lend my skills,” said incoming President Mark McDonald.

“It is a good organization so we are going to try to build on what has already been done,” he said.

The socials are well attended, so he and his team of officers will continue with those, and try to expand them to include family friendly activities.

McDonald also hopes to add career advising to the professional development aspect of the organization. He thinks topics such as how to ask for a salary, or how to succeed in the career world would be a beneficial addition.

“All the new officers are fresh - we have never been officers before - so we have a new perspective and fresh ideas,” McDonald said. “We are also early in our graduate programs so we may have a little more flexibility in our schedules and more time to dedicate to the SCGO.”

The new officers include: McDonald; Jennifer MacMillan, Vice President; Rahul Raman, VP-Finance; Rohith Vulchi, VP-Communications; Aniruddah Maity, VP-Programs; and Promod Pokhrel, GPSG Representative.