University News

Melissa Yeast Receives Phi Kappa Phi Fellowship

May 22, 2008

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MACOMB, IL - - Melissa Yeast, a Spring 2008 summa cum laude graduate of Western Illinois University, was recently awarded a Phi Kappa Phi (PKP) Graduate Fellowship for the 2008-2009 academic year. The fellowship will assist in her studies toward a master's degree in agricultural economics at the University of Tennessee.

Western Illinois' Agriculture Departmental Scholar who also had minors in management and international relations, Yeast is among 60 students nationwide to receive the Phi Kappa Phi Fellowship, which includes a $5,000 award. The selection process is based on academic performance; leadership and service on campus and in the community; evidence of graduate potential; a personal statement of educational perspective, purpose and objectives; and the recommendation from three individuals who know the student's performance, citizenship and character. She is the 18th WIU student to receive the PKP Fellowship since the University's chapter was chartered in 1972, and the fourth student fellowship winner since 2000.

"I'm excited about receiving the Phi Kappa Phi Graduate Fellowship. It's really an honor, and it certainly will help out when I start my master's program at Tennessee this fall," Yeast said.

After her senior year at the former Northwestern High School (now West Prairie High School), for which she was valedictorian, Yeast participated in a yearlong Rotary International cultural exchange and language immersion program to São Paulo, Brazil, living with host families, and took part in the Rotaract club, a service organization affiliated with Rotary for people 18-30 years of age.

"I helped my club raise money for food pantries in our city, participated in events for local children and went to several conferences to learn more about being in Rotaract," Yeast said. "By participating in Rotaract I felt like I was helping to make a difference for these people and to pay forward all the good things and opportunities my life had given me. As I have been able to participate in many unique opportunities in college, that feeling has only increased."

Yeast chose to study agriculture because "I wanted to focus on an area that impacts people at the most basic level of life: their food supply.

"I quickly learned that agriculture is much more than food production. It is also an industry where travel and understanding of other cultures is imperative due to all the trade and international politics that affect producers," Yeast said.

In Summer 2004, she participated in Learning to Lead, Western's premier leadership development institute, which combined intensive classroom study followed by her internship at the National Community for Latino Leadership (NCLL), under NCLL President Alfred Ramirez.

Yeast returned to Brazil and the Universidade Estadual de Ponta Grossa in Paraná in Spring 2005 on an exchange program through Western's agriculture department to study agronomy. In Spring 2006, she joined Associate Management Professor Barbara Ribbens and three Western MBA students at the Universidad Autónoma de Querétaro in Querétaro, Mexico, to work with three agricultural firms in analyzing business practices. Yeast also participated in a yearlong program focusing on corporate social responsibility, with one semester at WIU and the second semester at the Universidad Panamericana in Guadalajara, Mexico, under the direction of Western's management faculty Steve Axley, Gordon Rands and Ribbens. While in Guadalajara she helped to prepare presentations for local hotels regarding cost-saving measures and opportunities in environmentally-friendly business practices. Yeast also journeyed abroad in Spring 2008 when she traveled through Russia for 10 days studying agriculture and visiting historical locations in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Ryazan with Professor John Carlson.

A four-year member of Western's Centennial Honors College, Yeast was inducted into Blue Key, Mortar Board, Golden Key and Alpha Zeta Agricultural honor societies. She was member of WAVE (Western's All-Volunteer Effort), a Student Orientation Staff Leader, a member of the Bureau of Cultural Affairs and a Conversation Partner with international students. She served as a First Year Experience Peer Mentor and participated in Peer Mentor training workshops; and she was a student assistant in Western's admissions office, giving tours to incoming students and their families.

Following her master's degree, Yeast intends to serve in the Peace Corps before going on for a doctorate so she can pursue her career goal of teaching at the college level.

Melissa is the daughter of Steve and Judy Yeast of Sciota.

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