Athens, Georgia-based Terrapin Beer Co.is partnering with Middle Tennessee State University‘s Fermentation Science Program, offering an annual $10,000 scholarship to underrepresented undergraduate students wanting to pursue a degree in the program.
Molson Coors Beverage Co., which acquired Terrapin in 2016, recently established a $25,000 endowment with MTSU and similar partnerships with Colorado State and Oregon State University.
Officials said they hope the additional funds will generate underrepresented students’ interest in pursuing a fermentation science degree at MTSU and working in the industry after graduating.
“Corporately-funded scholarships are the gold standard of academic program endorsement, and Terrapin Beer Co. and Molson Coors’ establishment of this scholarship and endowment firmly confirms the value of these programs to the brewing industry,” said Tony Johnston, director of the MTSU Fermentation Science Program, which has grown considerably since it launched for undergraduates in 2017 and added a graduate program in 2019.
Terrapin, which is calling the gift the “Brewing Education Scholarship Fund,” is making the commitment to help educate the next generation of brewers and encourage a more diverse pool of students to train for the industry. Molson Coors’ endowment will support an internship.
“We want to grow diversity within Terrapin and within the brewing industry as a whole,” Dustin Watts, Terrapin’s president, said in an internal letter to the company in June. “This begins with increasing opportunities for employment and education.
“I’m here to tell you that I want to be better. I want Terrapin to be better,” Watts added. “I want us to create long-term change for me as an individual, for Terrapin and for our community.”
An added benefit for future scholarship recipients, as MTSU seniors who are at least 21, will be paid summer internships at either Terrapin’s brewing facility in Athens or the Terrapin Brew Lab in Atlanta, Georgia, and other potential opportunities.
“(This is) a great opportunity for us to focus on diversity in STEM career fields in general as well as in the brewing industry,” Johnston said, adding that he looks “forward to working with Terrapin/Molson Coors and other industry partners that utilize fermentation to increase the diversity of their workforces.”
Jeremiah Shepherd, Terrapin’s vice president of human resources, “discovered” MTSU while searching for a university partner.
“MTSU’s participation in the Academic Common Market was incredibly important to us in looking for a partner for the scholarship program,” Shepherd said. “Currently, there are no undergraduate fermentation science degree programs in our home state of Georgia.
“When we look to fundraise and host events for this scholarship in the future, we are excited to be able to tell students in Georgia that, in addition to these scholarship funds, they can also receive in-state tuition at MTSU to study fermentation science.”
MTSU’s Academic Common Market program allows the university to offer in-state tuition rates to students living in several states surrounding Tennessee, including Georgia, if those states don’t offer comparable programs in certain areas of study.
Multiyear scholarship awards will be designated for individual students. An entering freshman recipient would receive $1,000 the first year, $2,000 in Year 2, $3,000 as a junior and $4,000 as a senior. Scheduled scholarship amounts also are available if rising sophomores, juniors and seniors are selected.
Terrapin marketing manager Leah Keggi and Johnston have been collaborating on a social media presence. Terrapin and MTSU want to raise $10,000 annually to go toward the scholarship.
Keggi said Terrapin and the brewing company “have been discussing opportunities to increase diversity in the brewing community for years and understand that specialized education and skills can be a hurdle.
“We’ve been working on other internal diversity and inclusion initiatives, and the attention on inequality this spring demonstrated a need for us to work outwardly as well,” she added.
To learn more about the MTSU Fermentation Science Program, visit the website or call Johnston at 615-898-2421 or email him at Tony.Johnston@mtsu.edu.
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)