By Dr. Robb Fraley
Chief Technology Officer
I’ve seen and heard so much enthusiasm and excitement this week from the young people who are developing their skills and their dedication to supporting food security over the decades to come. I’m honored that I’ll be able to contribute to help support the development of some of tomorrow’s best and brightest agricultural innovators.
This week we announced the creation of the Fraley-Borlaug Scholars in Plant Science scholarship. The scholarship will support female students at the University of Illinois who are studying plant breeding and biotechnology. My wife, Laura, and I, as well as Monsanto, have decided to match my share of the World Food Prize award to establish this $250,000 endowment to the University’s College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.
As a University of Illinois alumnus and a native of the Champaign, Ill., area, I have the highest regard for the University’s agricultural sciences curriculum, faculty and students. I know that University of Illinois students and alumni will play an important role in addressing agricultural challenges in the years to come. I can’t wait to see the great things that future Fraley-Borlaug Scholars accomplish moving forward.
I’m equally honored that this endowment will share the name of my hero and great friend, Dr. Norman Borlaug. Norm is recognized as the father of the Green Revolution and is credited with saving more than one billion lives as a result of improved wheat production. He created the World Food Prize in 1986 to honor those who have made significant and measurable contributions to improving the world’s food supply.
It’s important to me that the Fraley-Borlaug Scholars in Plant Science scholarship also seeks to support young women working to advance plant science. Women, including fellow 2013 World Food Prize laureate Mary-Dell Chilton and so many of my colleagues at Monsanto, have played a central role in development of agricultural innovations, but they remain under-represented in the scientific community. The majority of the world’s small-holder farmers – the farmers who stand to benefit the most from innovation – are also women.
We plan to announce the first beneficiaries of the Fraley-Borlaug scholarship in conjunction with the 2014 World Food Prize Borlaug Dialogue symposium. I hope this scholarship helps to encourage more young women to join our ongoing efforts to safely produce more food to support the world’s population.