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2019 Alumni Fellow Nathan Smit and Wife Becky Establish Scholarship for Distance Food Science Students

"How will you innovate the food industry when you finish your degree?"

Nathan Smith and Wife Becky

This is the question Nathan (B.S. in Food Science, ’08) and Becky Smit of Austin, Minnesota, want the recipients of their new scholarship for online food science students to answer.

“How will you improve the food supply or decrease food insecurity? Do you want to own your own food-related business?” Nathan said. “My job is about innovation every day, so I want to help adult students who want to make change in the world.”

Nathan, the 2019 Global Campus Alumni Fellow and senior innovation manager at Hormel Foods, earned a scholarship himself back in the day, which was a real source of pride for him, as a nontraditional, online student.

“It’s special to be recognized, particularly when you’re working full time and trying to move up the ladder,” he said. “There aren’t a lot of scholarships for distance students, so I really appreciated it.”

While Hormel funded some of his education, the Smits and the scholarship took care of the rest.

“The scholarship relieved some of the pressure to pay for college, eased some of that stress for both of us,” Becky said.

Nathan Smit Food TestingBecky, an accountant with a national call center for electric cooperatives and municipalities, recalled how much it meant to them both when Nathan found K-State’s distance bachelor’s in food science program, around 2005.

“I really appreciated that it was reputable and accredited, so that his degree meant something,” she said. “When he started, the lectures came on VHS tapes — I even got roped into watching some of them, and I learned a little more about food myself!”

Although by the end of Nathan’s program the course work arrived via the internet, what didn’t change for him was the time commitment every distance student is very familiar with.

“Every night, every weekend was school work. It takes a lot of self-discipline and organization,” Nathan said. “That’s why I came to campus in Manhattan for my graduation. It was a personal accomplishment that I wanted to celebrate.”

Nathan has since worked his way up the ladder at Hormel, earning six promotions since finishing his degree.

“The only thing holding me back before my promotions was my lack of education, and I give K-State the credit for making my bachelor’s degree possible.”

Nathan SmitThe Smits were in Manhattan twice recently, when Nathan spoke to food science students, met with faculty members, toured the Biosecurity Research Institute and enjoyed some famous Call Hall ice cream.

“K-State feels very comfortable to us. People are so friendly and the atmosphere isn’t rushed,” Becky said. “I like old architecture, and I appreciate how K-State has bridged the old with the new and kept up with the world today.”

Both Becky and Nathan gave a shout-out to Melinda Sinn, Global Campus alumni and external relations coordinator, for her stellar alumni relationship-building skills.

Nathan, who referred a colleague to Melinda and K-State for distance education, said, “We have had such a positive experience with Melinda. All our interactions with her are great. When someone is just a good person, you want to help them out. I’m very loyal to Melinda.”

Becky said, “Nathan’s whole experience with K-State, and now with us being in a position to help someone else, is really important. And for Nathan, especially, I’m glad he can have that experience of giving back.”

If you want to discuss how you can support distance education students like Nathan and Becky, please contact Melinda Sinn at K-State Global Campus, globalalumni@k-state.edu or 785-532-2515.