Spirits of Innovation, Service

George Washington Carver’s lifelong pursuit of education earned him national prominence as a scientist, inventor and artist. The George Washington Carver Spirit of Innovation and Service Award honors undergraduate students pursuing Carver’s quest.

The award is sponsored by the Carver Birthplace Association, a cooperating association of the George Washington Carver National Monument. Honorees must be first-generation college students who are academic achievers pursuing a scientific degree, involved in research and engaged in the arts and humanities.

Iowa State University President Wendy Wintersteen (’88 PhD entomology) worked to create the award during
her tenure as dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Iowa State. She collaborated with Walter Hill, dean of the College of Agriculture, Environment and Nutrition Sciences at Tuskegee University and director of the George Washington Carver Agricultural Experiment Station and director of the 1890 Research and Extension Programs; and Luther S. Williams, Board of Trustees chair of the Carver Birthplace Association.

“The award is restricted to students of the institutions at which Dr. Carver was a student: Simpson College and Iowa State University, and a long serving faculty member, Tuskegee University. In addition, such awards have been conferred on students of several other institutions affiliated, as land-grant colleges or universities, with Tuskegee University,” says Williams, a member of the board of directors for the Carver Birthplace Association.

The award honors undergraduate students who show evidence of the traits embodied by Carver, including creativity, courage and dedication. The award is a way to recognize, inspire and motivate students.

The first George Washington Carver Spirit of Innovation and Service Award was presented in 2016. It has since been presented to three students at Iowa State. This year’s award winner is Megan Kemp, a senior in agronomy and global resource systems.

“Words cannot describe the range
of emotions I feel when I think of how people believe I am aligned with Dr. Carver. It reaffirms my passion for agriculture and service within the global community,” Kemp says. “This award encourages me to continue to forge my path as a young, multicultural woman in agriculture with Dr. Carver’s legacy as a guiding light.”

“I see George Washington Carver as an inspiration and as a student of color I can relate to his experience. This award means a lot to me,” says Valeria Cano Camacho, a senior in agronomy and global resource systems, who received the award in 2017.

Estefany Argueta, a senior in animal ecology, was among the inaugural award recipients and is the first Iowa Stater to receive the honor. The award inspired her to find a quote from Carver that has laid the foundation for her future endeavors: “When you do the common things in an uncommon way, you’ll command the attention of the world.”

Argueta says doing common things in an uncommon way is as simple as getting to know her professors better, volunteering to serve others and always making the most of every opportunity.

“Hopefully I will start commanding the attention of the world,” she says.