Texas A&M University-Kingsville

Texas A&M-Kingsville graduate to pursue master's in The Netherlands

KINGSVILLE - August 15, 2014

Contact: Julie Navejar
julie.navejar@tamuk.edu or 361-593-2590

Recent Texas A&M University-Kingsville graduate Amanda Lewis remembers a moment from her childhood that changed her outlook and led to a life dedicated to helping others. To help reach this end, she applied for several prestigious scholarships that would enable her to study abroad and reach that goal. 

Lewis earned the $30,000 Rotary District 5930 Global Grant Scholarship that will allow her to attend school at Wageningen University in Wageningen, The Netherlands for two years, to pursue her master’s degree in controlled environment agriculture in the plant science department.

She received a degree in agriculture science from Texas A&M-Kingsville while minoring in plant science, agribusiness and mathematics. She plans to do her research on vertical farming.

Lewis was born in Mexico in the state of San Luis Potosi. Her father moved the family to Saudi Arabia, where they lived for nine years before moving back to Mexico for about seven years. They came to the United States in time for Lewis to attend high school in San Antonio. She has dual United States and Mexican citizenship.

It was while living abroad that Lewis found her calling. “We took a trip to India when I was eight. I was walking with my mother and as we walked by an alley, I saw a man holding a child. They were both emaciated,” she said.

“As I watched the man pull something out of a heap of trash, it did not occur to me it was a banana peel until he brushed the flies off of it. As the man handed the banana peel to the child and the child started sucking on the inside of that peel to gain whatever sustenance he could, I understood what had only been an abstract concept to me until that point—hunger. This memory has stayed with me and shaped my perception of the world I live in.

“My academic and professional goal is to be on the forefront of agricultural innovation during what I believe is a time of pronounced transition in the field of agriculture. My interest stems from my uniquely global perspective and direct involvement in agriculture development in Mexico,” she said.

“Growing up in Saudi Arabia allowed me to experience a nation so culturally and financially affluent, yet dependent on imports and unable to produce enough food to sustain its population. My family in Mexico has showed me how alternative agricultural methods must help not only the environment, but also those who earn their livelihood from food production.

“My extensive travels and 15 years of living in developing nations gave me an understanding of how the affluence of nations such as Saudi Arabia and the United States contrasts with desperation and malnutrition in rural areas of India and Zimbabwe,” Lewis added.

When she was a young teen, she helped her family start Tools for Development in Mexico. “We worked in indigenous villages of the Pame Nation, where most of the men are transient workers. These villages are in very rural areas. We taught them to be more independent. We built a community center and brought doctors and dentists to them. We taught them classes in child care.”

Lewis said vertical farming is one solution to help populations with little land dedicated to flat-land farming to produce enough to feed the people. A vertical farm is basically a multi-story greenhouse where farming is done on many floors and doesn’t take up as much space as a traditional farm. 

“Dubai is toying with the idea and working on a prototype of a vertical farm. Other Middle Eastern and Asian countries are as well.  I see myself working in the Middle East when I complete my education.”

Lewis didn’t realize her life’s ambition on her first foray into college. She was originally a marine biology major at Texas A&M University-Galveston. She took a few years off of school and started thinking about agriculture. “It suddenly made sense to me. When I started classes here at Texas A&M-Kingsville, it all made sense. I started to like going to classes and liking doing homework and research. It all came together,” she said.

“My first attempt at college didn’t go very well. I didn’t have any motivation,” she said. “But then I came here for my first semester and I knew this was where I needed to be and this is what I needed to do. I knew I was in the right place.”

Lewis said Dr. Greta Schuster, professor, and Dr. Juan Carlos Melgar, assistant professor, have been her primary influencers at Texas A&M-Kingsville.

“Dr. Schuster encouraged me to apply for graduate school and as her student worker I have been involved with her research projects like studying the zebra chip with potatoes,” Lewis said. “Dr. Melgar also had me involved with research.” 

About the Rotary District 5930 Global Grant Scholarship

District 5930 annually supports the Global Grant Scholarship program for post-baccalaureate studies in another country. These scholarships, facilitated by the Rotary Foundation Global Grant Program, are made to exceptional individuals through a competitive application and interview process.

The award for each of the scholarships extended for the 2014-15 academic year will be $30,000. Each student must study at a university located in a country other than the country of their citizenship.

This scholarship is designed to support an individual who has exhibited a passion for public service. It is intended to provide for a course of overseas studies which will enable the individual to be a more successful leader in their chosen field of service.

The scholarship will be provided to an individual who intends to pursue a career in one of Rotary’s six areas of focus. Those areas include peace and conflict prevention/resolution; disease prevention and treatment; water and sanitation; maternal and child health; basic education and literacy; and economic and community development. 

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This page was last updated on: August 15, 2014