UT Martin agriculture student Michael Katrutsa was 14 when he moved to the United States from the Ukraine and settled in Camden, Tenn. The long process began to gain U.S. citizenship, which finally happened in 2012. This milestone was followed by his first opportunity to vote as a U.S. citizen in the recent elections.
“[The process} is long and tedious,” Katrutsa said. “I came here just about seven years ago and it took about six years.”
He then described in detail the channels of obtaining a temporary green card, and then permanent green card, plus a biometrics test in Nashville and a citizenship interview in Memphis to ensure that he could read and speak English and had knowledge of American government. The language part, he said, was “easy as pie,” because he had attended Camden High School since coming to the United States and his mother had been an English teacher in the Ukraine.
“Then you have to go to Memphis again for the naturalization ceremony, where you take your oaths. There were 248 people there from different countries, 48 different nations,” he said. “I’m proud to get it. I’m proud to be an American.”
Katrutsa settled into farm life when he moved to rural Camden and became active in the National FFA Organization in high school, which sparked his interest in agriculture at UT Martin.
“I was president of FFA my senior year [of high school]. I got involved in judging … livestock judging, soil judging, horse judging …” he said.
It comes as no surprise he chose UT Martin for its agriculture program.
“It’s one of the best schools in the state for agriculture. They have a reputation for that,” he said.
Plant science, how to identify weeds, and soil fertility and erosion were some subjects he mentioned learning about during class and some he was able to implement while working for himself to complete the program’s internship requirement.
“We have a particular tract of land, and we have to figure out conservation practices for the particular piece of land,” he said of one class project.
Overall, Katrutsa praised UT Martin as a student centered school with good opportunities.
“The professors are great. They will bend over backwards to help you.
Katrutsa is also practically a renaissance man as he raises and sells vegetables at a farmer’s market six days per week during summer months, currently commutes to campus from Camden where he takes a heavy course load of 23 hours, and plays the piano and organ at Liberty United Methodist Church in Camden.
“I actually play the organ. My mom plays the piano but when she’s not there I play the piano,” he said with a smile.