Knights build support for internationally recognized youth institute at MSU

Author: Addie Mayfield

Mississippi State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences logo

A recent commitment from Mississippi State University alumni Barry and Lana Knight of Cordova, Tennessee, is creating an annual fund in support of the World Food Prize Mississippi Youth Institute at MSU.

The Barry and Lana Knight World Food Prize Mississippi Youth Institute Fund will provide essential support for engaging Mississippi's high school students in the globally recognized program through MSU's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Founded in 1986 by Nobel Peace Prize Winner Norman E. Borlaug, the World Food Prize serves as the foremost international award recognizing the achievement of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world. In 1994, the World Food Prize Youth Institute was created to increase awareness and involvement of youth in the mission to fight hunger and poverty in a meaningful way.

As the host campus, the first WFP-MSYI was held at Mississippi State in March. The event allowed student participants to present their research and recommendations, connect with other student leaders, take part in educational sessions and interactive tours, and meet innovative researchers, professors, college students and global leaders.

To participate in the WFP-MSYI, ninth through 12th grade students research a global issue and write a three- to five-page paper, under teacher mentor supervision, addressing the challenges and possible solutions. Participants then attend the daylong event, where the top students are competitively selected by the WFP Board of Reviewers to represent Mississippi as delegates at the Global Youth Institute, to be held this year in Des Moines, Iowa, in October.

In an effort to help increase the significance of the experience for students and teachers who attend, the Knights' gift will help to defray costs of the institute including brochures, literature, meals and transportation. Additionally, the fund will provide scholarship support for WFP-MSYI student participants to pursue a college degree in agriculture or other related life science, as well as a stipend for a faculty or staff member to oversee the program.

"We are pleased to be the state's host for this incredibly valuable program that engages high school students in real-world problems and prepares them as future leaders," said Scott Willard, associate dean and professor for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and WFP-MSYI state coordinator. "The Knight's generous support for this program is an outstanding demonstration of their investment in our youth and the welfare of people around the world."

After earning a bachelor's degree from Oklahoma State University in 1983, Barry Knight earned a master's in agronomy from MSU in 1988. Recognized as the 2011 MSU Alumni Fellow for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, he serves as senior vice president of commercial operations in North America for Indigo, a Charleston, Massachusetts-based organization that specializes is optimizing agricultural production through plant microbiomes. Prior to his current position, he held progressive senior positions at companies including Cresco Ag LLC, Pinnacle Agriculture and Jimmy Sanders.

Fellow 1988 MSU graduate Lana Knight earned a bachelor's degree in elementary education. The couple have been avid supporters of their alma mater over time, supporting areas including Bulldog athletics and student scholarships. In 2013, the couple endowed perpetual support through the Barry and Lana Knight endowed scholarships in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Education, furthering their legacy at MSU.

For more information on how to support the WFP-MSYI at MSU, contact Jud Skelton, director of development for the College of Agriculture and Life Science, at (662) 325-0643 or

Date: 2017-04-13

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences