On a normal January evening, Dane Rivas headed over to the livestock arena on the Texas Tech University campus to help set up for Winter Welcome. Rivas thought he was helping out as an Agri-Techsan. Little did he know he would win Mr. CASNR.
Winter Welcome is a weeklong tradition at Texas Tech University to celebrate the beginning of the spring semester. During this week, over 45 events are held on campus, including the Mr. CASNR contest.
Rivas is junior agricultural communication major and animal science minor from Tahoka, Texas. When he graduates in May 2019, Rivas plans to go into ministry with Raider Church and possibly attend graduate school.
“I was really nervous the whole day,” Rivas said. “I got ‘voluntold’ that I was going to do this.”
January 25, 2018, was the fourth annual Mr. CASNR contest. Rivas said during past few years there has been a lack of participation in the Mr. CASNR contest. As a member of Agri-Techsans, a group of student recruiters for the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, Rivas and his colleagues were trying to brighten the atmosphere of the event.
Stephanie Legako, academic specialist for student retention for CASNR, said she loves how Rivas uses his humor to his advantage. For the talent portion of the Mr. CASNR contest, Rivas did rhythmic gymnastics with a stick ribbon to music from the “Greatest Showman.”
“That was actually my daughter’s stick ribbon that he borrowed,” Legako said, “so I helped him with some of the moves, but what I loved about it is he really owned it.”
Rivas said he put a great deal of work into preparing his talent for the contest, which involved learning how to rip and twirl in one week.
“It was a lot more fun and less nerve-racking than I thought it was going to be,” Rivas said, “It was more of a ‘Here I am, and I’m going to goof-off and try to make y’all laugh sort of thing.’ It was a lot of fun to bring something back that was kind of dying.”
Legako said while Rivas made the pageant fun, he also knows a great deal about the college and can recruit well from being an Agri-Techsan. She said it is nice his skill set now includes wearing the crown and sash of Mr. CASNR.
We have the potential for bigger diversity, bigger advances, and bigger steps within CASNR.
The Mr. CASNR contest consists of three categories: talent, interview and western wear. During the interview, each contestant was asked a question at random. Rivas’ question was, ‘What would you tell a junior or senior in high school who is considering coming to Texas Tech?’
“That’s basically what we do in Agri-Techsans,” Rivas said, “so I felt more at an advantage there.”
“We had a lot of different backgrounds this year,” Legako said, “but I was glad to see an actual CASNR student win.”
In 2017, Clay Brownlee won Mr. CASNR as representative of the Texas Tech Rodeo Team. Though he was involved with the rodeo team, Brownlee was actually an engineering major – not a CASNR student.
During the fall of 2017, CASNR met the enrollment criteria to be recognized as a Hispanic-Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education. This recognition shows how the college’s diversity is growing and qualifies it for federal grants.
“We have the potential for bigger diversity, bigger advances, and bigger steps within CASNR,” Rivas said.
Rivas said CASNR prides itself on having the highest percentage of scholarships given per student at Texas Tech. According to the college’s website, an estimated 43 percent of undergraduate CASNR students receive a scholarship.
Rivas said though CASNR is an agriculture-based college, not all of the students come from a background related to agriculture. He even said that is his favorite part of the college.
“Even if they don’t consider themselves country or from an ag background, they still have a place here, and they don’t have to feel left out,” Rivas said. “You can come from both [ag and non-ag backgrounds] and you can leave in both.”
Rivas said it is important people recognize the drive CASNR students have to discuss and make advancements in agriculture, but they are not limited to that. He said CASNR has students going into agriculture, the medical field, public relations, communications, non-profits and even ministry.
Rivas said events where students and their success are highlighted by the college help bring CASNR students together and keeps retention rates high. These events show the community, family, and diversity working within the college and makes students feel more connected.
According to Legako, CASNR tends to be a leader in retention rates. At the end of the 20th class day of the spring 2018 semester, the college was at 95 percent freshman retention from fall to spring.
Rivas has been given the opportunity to better the university and the college and represent them both in a way he was not able to before. He wants CASNR’s scholarships, diversity, and student success to be highlighted more.
“I need to set an example of what CASNR means and shine a light on CASNR,” Rivas said. “We have the most number of national championships in the university, and I don’t think we get highlighted enough for it.”
Rivas said he wants others to know he is just an ordinary student walking around campus. He is an active and involved student and wants to help do great things.
“I’m just a normal person who won Mr. CASNR and wants to use the platform to better the college and better the university,” Rivas said. “I represent CASNR now in this role.”