Food engineering alum provides leadership gift for Give Green Day

Michigan State University (MSU) alumna Cassaundra Edwards, ’94 food engineering, together with two additional alumnae gave a collective $10,000 in leadership gifts to double the impact for students on Give Green Day.

Cassaundra Edwards

Michigan State University (MSU) alumna Cassaundra Edwards, ’94 food engineering, together with two additional alumnae gave a collective $10,000 in leadership gifts to double the impact for students on Give Green Day.

As a College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) Alumni Association board member, Edwards felt a responsibility to give back.

“I was energized by my fellow CANR board members and just seeing how committed they are to advancing the goals of the department and helping students succeed was very inspiring,” Edwards said. “Drawing from my own experience as an undergraduate student, I remember at times how stressful school could be and the financial burdens that came along with it. Knowing that my financial contribution can lessen that stress for a student and allow them to experience school and campus life to its fullest, is rewarding.

Give Green Day is Michigan State University’s annual day of giving – 24 hours to give and make a difference to impact current and future Spartans. The 2023 CANR Give Green Day helped to grow the CANR Whole Student Success Fund. This fund helps CANR students facing personal and/or academic emergencies, such as food and housing insecurity issues, technology gaps for unexpected emergencies, funding gaps for graduate studies when circumstances delay research projects they have been working on for years, and other times of crisis that may arise and completely derail a students’ academic progress.

Fellow alumna and board member Valerie Wright and CANR dean, also a CANR alumna, Kelly Millenbah, Ph.D., joined Edwards in contributing a collective $10,000 in leadership gifts to inspire fellow Spartans to participate on Give Green Day.

“Students choose to come to MSU to pursue higher education – they are the reason we can carry out the mission of this great institution. Ensuring that our students receive whole-person support allows them to succeed, and I cannot imagine more important work than caring for them,” Millenbah said. “I am grateful that two incredible CANR alumni board members joined me in making leadership gifts to support our students through this fund.”

During 2023 Give Green Day, CANR Spartans, generously gave $20,030 to the CANR Whole Student Success Fund. With an additional $1,700 in university matching funds and bonuses, more than $21,000 was raised in the 24-hour period to support CANR students.

When asked why giving back and supporting CANR students is so critical, Edwards replied, “It is important for students to know that the university, and the colleges that make up the university, are run by people who care about their success and well-being. When I was attending MSU as an undergraduate student, there was a perception that it was the student against the university and there wasn’t an expectation of support from faculty and staff. That perception has changed over the years and there is much more engagement between students, faculty members and now alumni. I am happy to be a part of this evolution and the student experience.”

Ultimately, Edwards hopes her gift reduces stress for students, that students can enjoy all that the university offers and can focus on just being a student. She believes that students are more likely to achieve higher academic success when they do not have heavy and immediate financial responsibilities, not to mention significant debt waiting after graduation.

“Lastly, my wish is that students will feel inspired to give back themselves once they’ve achieved success in their own careers and are able to reflect on their own academic journeys,” Edwards said.

What does Edwards enjoy most about MSU?

“I love that Michigan State is a land grant university and recognized as one of the premier research institutions in the world,” she said. “I’ve always loved our beautiful campus and many of our vintage academic halls and dormitories. I love Farrall Hall (Agricultural Engineering)! I spent half my undergraduate life in that building and was fortunate enough to experience engineering courses in small classroom settings while most students were in classrooms with up to a hundred people. Farrall Hall will always have a special place in my heart for its caring faculty and staff.”

Edwards, of Portland, Oregon, earned a bachelor’s degree in food engineering from MSU in 1994 and a master’s degree in engineering, mechanical/material science from Case Western Reserve University. Since September 2022, she has served as a CANR Alumni Association board member representing the Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering (BAE). Additionally, she has served on the BAE Industry Advisory Board since 2013. Edwards is a supplier quality and manufacturing professional for Tillamook County Creamery Association in Oregon. Her prior experience includes work at Bimbo Bakeries USA, ConAgra Food, Oscar Mayer Kraft Foods Group and Nestle/Stouffer’s Division.

Give Green Day began in 2016 coinciding with the global day of giving, Giving Tuesday, just after Thanksgiving. In 2021, MSU moved the campaign to March.

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