For more than four decades now, students, faculty and even some alumni and friends of NC A&T State University have been recognized as the best in agricultural academics through Gamma Sigma Delta. The organization started at Ohio State University in the early 1900’s, and by 1917, Gamma Sigma Delta officially became The Honor Society of Agriculture. It’s been part of history at NC A&T since the university’s chapter formed in 1974. (The chapter at NCSU began in 1955.)
“It is to be recognized for all your hard work and contribution to the ag sector, but there’s also prestige,” said John Paul Owens who’s been affiliated with the chapter for many years. “We run into people at events all the time who are wearing their pins, or when our folks go on to another institution they’re able to say they’re already a member.”
Current NC A&T undergraduate student and Gamma Sigma Delta member Chandler Dix agrees there’s a certain prestige to being a member. She’s a junior from Conyers, Ga., in the food science program, and she sees membership as a real bright spot on her résumé.
“As a minority, we’re not given the chance to join as many honor societies. I’m very honored to represent my school department and my family in an organization like this,” Dix said. “The faculty is looking to nominate students who aren’t just in an everyday club. They want to see that you’re going above and beyond.”
In order for undergraduate students to qualify for nomination, seniors traditionally had to be in the top 15 percent of their class academically. Juniors like Dix had to be in the top five percent.* Grad students need at least a 3.5 GPA. All students must also show some service to the agricultural field through things such as internships, conferences, competitions, etc. Faculty and alumni must prove outstanding work. Occasionally, honorary memberships are awarded, such as the honorary membership awarded to Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler in 2005.
Dix is an example of how the field of agriculture isn’t limited to just the areas you may immediately think of such as growing plants and animals. As an aspiring food scientist, a lot of her work happens in a lab, but she still feels connected to agriculture.
“Food doesn’t just materialize. It has to be grown. After harvest, food has to be processed, and that’s where food scientists come in,” Dix said.
She loves being able to explore everything from the soil that food is grown in, to the elements and nutrients in it, to the food packaging. Food scientists may also work on developing new ways to offer food to the public such as “health food” that’s just as appealing as an indulgent snack.
She’s always had a passion for food, science and helping others, and it’s a love that she fully realized when attending an ag camp at Tuskegee University when she was 16. She’s now enjoying being able to carry her interests further, and being a part of the history and honor of Gamma Sigma Delta is a nice feather in her cap that she’ll carry on from NC A&T.
“The faculty members do make sure we understand where the organization came from and what they want it to be,” Dix said. “They are very good at being sure we understand the history.”
*A recent update from Gamma Sigma Delta International allows for nominations for sophomores, juniors or seniors who rank in the top 20 percent of their respective class.