Graduating college during a global pandemic

COLUMBIA, Mo. – The uncertainty of what will happen after graduation during a pandemic has been on the minds of many 2020 graduates. As for Cole Diggins, the upcoming semester will be an opportunity to continue his education and experience a new school and a new state. 

Photo Courtesy of Cole’s Facebook Page

A Bronaugh, Missouri native, he graduated in May from the University of Missouri with an undergraduate degree in soil, environmental and atmospheric science. The major emphasized “the knowledge and study of the natural world and how we can sustainably modify it for our betterment and repair our mistakes” Diggins said. 

In high school, he was accepted into the Youth Education Summit that focused on teaching constitutional rights and the law during a week long camp that included touring Washington, D.C. and debating other students. “I was fortunate to receive the subject of large scale farming and if suits should be filed based on non-point source pollution,” he said. “It quickly became a debate where I had to educate many people, some adults, about agriculture due to their lack of exposure to the field.” 

The debate created a discussion on the importance of the environmental impact of agricultural production, the experience was a “very neat moment in my young life,” Diggins said. 

As a first-generation college student, he found support as a McNair Scholar with opportunities to conduct research and present his findings at multiple conventions along with receiving advice while preparing for the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and applying to graduate school. 

He has been accepted into Oklahoma State University and will continue his education in Stillwater by earning a master’s degree and eventually a doctoral degree. He said he is excited to work on water management issues in a more arid state like Oklahoma. There is always some stress that comes with moving to a new state but thanks to the McNair program he’s “incredibly prepared” and hasn’t felt as much stress as he had expected.

His career goals are to work as a consultant on environmental remediation plans or as a consultant on large agricultural or natural resource projects. He’s also thought about working as a professor since the doctoral degree he will pursue will focus on plant and soil sciences with an emphasis in soil physics. 

Diggins’ is concerned that the campus may be closed during his first semester of graduate school, but he doesn’t foresee long-term impacts on his degree program. He is well positioned to continue his education as he was fortunate to receive scholarships, allowing him to stay debt free while earning his bachelor’s degree. His acceptance into OSU along with his graduate assistantship and tuition waiver will be the best opportunity to lead to his future success despite the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine.

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