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AgFirst endows diversity scholarship
June 13, 2012
For Columbia-based AgFirst Farm Credit Bank, good corporate citizenship includes a strong commitment to workplace diversity. That’s why AgFirst recently made a $100,000 gift to the Darla Moore School of Business to endow a scholarship that will promote educational diversity. The AgFirst Diversity Endowed Scholarship Fund will provide financial support to Moore School students who are from underrepresented populations and will give scholarship recipients the opportunity to interview for paid internships with AgFirst in their junior and senior years.
“What motivated us to make this gift is a desire to improve inclusiveness,” says Karen Kemp, AgFirst’s manager of organizational development and recruitment. “We recognize that the more diverse we are, the better able we are to meet the needs of our diverse client base. And in our efforts to increase the diversity of the business community, we see the Darla Moore School of Business as a great partner.”
Dean Hildy Teegen says the benefits of the Moore School’s partnership with AgFirst are mutual. “The Moore School edge is felt throughout AgFirst and our alumni there are very active in supporting our educational mission. Andy Lowrey, a PMBA graduate of Moore and AgFirst CEO, demonstrates the mutual benefits of our important collaboration through his leadership in our Business Partnership Foundation. We are delighted to build even closer connections with AgFirst through this scholarship.”
|AgFirst CEO Andy Lowrey (second from right)
gave the keynote address at the Moore
School's Spring 2012 Master's Hooding
Ceremony on USC's Historic Horseshoe.
The value of that partnership stems not just from the Moore School’s own commitment to recruiting a diverse student body but also from AgFirst’s recognition of what Moore School students typically bring to the table. “We have hired a lot of Moore School students and alumni, and we consistently find that their analytical skills, communication skills, and technical skills are very strong, so we don’t have to spend a lot of time training them in those areas,” says Kemp. “And maybe even more importantly, Moore students understand what it means to work in a professional environment—how to attend meetings, ask good clarifying questions. They represent us very well.”
It’s only natural, then, that AgFirst would build internship opportunities into the new scholarship. “We’re looking to create a pipeline of talent into our organization,” Kemp says. “Hiring Moore School students as interns has already proven to be a great way to do that. They do such good work for us, and they often help us identify other students who are good internship candidates—and those recommendations tend to be spot-on.”
AgFirst internships also represent a significant professional-development opportunity for scholarship recipients. “We rely heavily on our interns,” Kemp notes. “They do important work for us right off the bat. Our use of interns is growing, and we couldn’t do what we do without them.”
Above all, though, says Kemp, the AgFirst diversity scholarships are a way for the bank to help build a diverse, talented finance community in South Carolina. “Cities like Columbia need diverse leadership,” she says, “and it’s important to us at AgFirst that talented people stay here and contribute to the vibrancy of our community. So for us, part of being a good member of the community is investing our resources in building the community. In the finance area, we are aware of the need for diversity. Helping the Moore School build diversity will ultimately help the community become more diverse as well.”
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