After identifying a diversity gap in her academic environment at UW–Madison, first-generation student Abagail Catania ’19 was moved to create a scholarship for her peers to help fill it. What’s more, this inspiration motivated her to establish the fund while she was still a student.
“I have never experienced a student wanting to give back while they are still on campus,” says Karen Martin, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences scholarship director. “She has this need she wants to fulfill in terms of growing the major.”
The major mentioned is agricultural business management in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, where Catania was one of only a few students of color. Prior to her start at the UW, Catania had been accustomed to a much more racially diverse experience at the Chicago High School for the Agricultural Sciences. It was discouraging when she realized early in the university recruitment phase that that wasn’t the case at the UW. “If I go up to a table and I’m talking to someone, and every student that I see in every department that I see is white, I’m not going to feel like I belong,” shared Catania.
The Abagail Catania Agricultural and Applied Economics/Agricultural Business Management Diversity Scholarship was established for students of color who are at least sophomores and focusing on advancing the agricultural and applied economics and agricultural business management majors through involvement in student organizations. The first recipient, Mfonobong Ufot ’20, was selected in summer 2018.
Catania is steered by her passion for developing opportunities for underrepresented students, and through her contribution, she hopes they see that they have a place in agricultural studies. For the time being, her scholarship awards $500 annually. However, since completing her master’s degree at the University of Westminster and becoming the assistant director for diversity recruitment and initiatives at the University of Evansville, Catania is planning to increase that annual award amount to $1,000. She is proud of all that she has accomplished over the years and finds a lot of happiness in the prospect of where life will take her.
“I am the person I am today because of the experiences, people, and opportunities I had during my undergraduate studies at the UW,” Catania says.