MURRAY, Ky. — Murray State University Hutson School of Agriculture is introducing the Murray State University Congressman James Comer Congressional Agriculture Fellowship program.

The fellowship will be a continual, revolving fellowship program during the fall, spring and/or summer semesters. The fellowship will be awarded to one or two Murray State agricultural students. Recipients will serve as agricultural liaisons in Washington D.C.

Rebecca Mackey, a junior agribusiness student from Elizabethtown, KY, has been named the pilot fellowship student and will serve from June to August 2017.

“The Congressman James Comer Congressional Agriculture Fellowship program is a highly competitive and selective process and I am pleased to partner with the Murray State Hutson School of Agriculture to implement the program,” said Congressman James Comer. “I’m honored to have such a talented, driven student in Rebecca Mackey come work with us in our Washington D.C. office as the first intern. She will be a great addition to our staff, and will learn valuable life experiences in the process.”

The fellowship came about because of Congressman Comer’s background in agriculture as Kentucky’s Agriculture Commissioner and his history of supporting Murray State’s Hutson School of Agriculture.

“We are extremely appreciative of Congressman Comer for his support of this program and our students wishing to participate in this fellowship,” said Dr. Tony Brannon, dean of Hutson School of Agriculture. “Being the only congressman on the [United States House of Representatives] Agriculture Committee in Kentucky, holding a bachelor’s degree in agriculture and being one of the few farmers in Congress, he recognizes the true educational value that this will provide our students.”

Murray State is the only four-year comprehensive university in Congressman Comer’s congressional district.

“As soon as Congressman Comer was elected and it became apparent that he was going to serve on the Agriculture Committee, we began discussions with him and his chief of staff, Caroline Cash, about establishing a congressional fellowship program,” said Dr. Brannon.

A final agreement about the fellowship was reached on March 8 in Washington D.C.

Congressman Comer’s office will cover a stipend of approximately $1,000 per month for the fellowship recipient. However, recognizing that this will not be enough to cover housing and expenditures for the recipient, Murray State’s Hutson School of Agriculture will be providing support with the creation of a Congressional Fellowship Support Fund. The fund will be supported by numerous Kentucky agriculture commodity group and organizations. Those that have already committed are the Kentucky Corn Growers Association, the Kentucky Pork Producers Association, the Kentucky Poultry Federation and Kentucky Farm Bureau.

“Interest among the students has been high, and the agricultural commodity groups and organizations have been greatly supportive,” said Dr. Brannon.

Fellowship recipients will have the opportunity to attend agriculture committee hearings, prepare briefs, conduct agriculture research and meet with constituents. At the end of the fellowship, recipients will be required to write and present a report detailing the experience. Recipients will also earn a minimum of three credit hours toward an undergraduate degree.

According to the guidelines for the Murray State University Congressman James Comer Congressional Agriculture Fellowship, students who are eligible to apply are those who have completed at least 60 semester hours with the most recent 15 hours being completed within the Murray State University system. They will continue their undergraduate study at Murray State, be in good academic standing, have respectable interpersonal and public relations skills, have a record of campus involvement and have a background or interest in agriculture, food and natural resources policy.

“We look forward to implementing this program as another opportunity to provide our students an ‘education’ instead of just a ‘degree’,” said Dr. Brannon.

Pictured from left to right: Chief of Staff Caroline Cash, Dean Dr. Tony Brannon, Congressman James Comer, Murray State University Congressman James Comer Congressional Agriculture Fellowship program recipient Rebecca Mackey, Director of Constituent Services Luke King and Director of Development Abby Hensley.