Home News Ag Economics USDA NIFA Invests $16M for Undergraduate Ag Research and Extension Experiences

USDA NIFA Invests $16M for Undergraduate Ag Research and Extension Experiences

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced today a $16 million investment in agricultural education and workforce development for undergraduate students from diverse backgrounds.  This investment will ensure that all students, including underrepresented and underserved students, are prepared and have a fair opportunity to compete for professional jobs in science and agricultural fields.

“Our nation is increasingly facing the challenge of meeting the demand for qualified graduates in the agricultural, food and renewable resources sectors of the U.S. economy,” said NIFA Director Dr. Carrie Castille. “USDA’s investments in students today through programs like this will expand opportunities for tomorrow’s workforce to develop the skills and training necessary to meet the needs of the agricultural sector, while ensuring that all voices across the fabric of our society are heard and included.”

These investments are part of the Research and Extension Experiences for Undergraduates (REEU) program, which promotes research and extension learning experiences for undergraduates such that upon graduation they can enter the agricultural workforce with exceptional knowledge and skills. This initiative helps colleges and universities provide opportunities for undergraduate students, including those from underrepresented and historically underserved groups, minority-serving institutions, community colleges, and universities. The program is funded by NIFA’s Agriculture Food and Research Initiative Education and Workforce Development Program.

One of the funded projects included is California State University Bakersfield, which was awarded $599,999 for their “Superstar Sustainability Undergraduate Program for Extension & Research of Agricultural Science & Technology.

SUMMARY: This SUPERSTAR project is proposed to the REEU program by engineering and science faculties at California State University, Bakersfield (CSUB). This 4-year project (40 weeks per year) will achieve the AFRI EWD program goal of “Developing Pathways” and cover 4 AFRI Program Priority Areas (plant health and production, food nutrition and health, bioenergy/natural resources/environment, and agriculture economics). The long-term goal is to enrich experiential learning and develop workforce to address challenges for the sustainability of agricultural system (crop health, grape quality, alternative irrigation water, wildfire, valley fever, cow manure management, renewable energy demand, water-energy nexus) in the nation’s leading agriculture region, California’s Central Valley. The project aligns with USDA AFRI goals, USDA Science Blueprint themes, and USDA Agriculture Innovation Agenda. CSUB (host institution) will collaborate with community colleges to train STEM/FANH program undergraduate students, women, underrepresented minorities, veterans and first-generation college students to guarantee diversity/equality (50% outside students). The project has 5 objectives: 1) Enrich students’ knowledge/skills of agricultural sustainability via experiential learning with 7 faculty mentors at CSUB (12 student researchers annually, mentor/researcher ratio=1/4); 2) Develop service-learning internships at government agencies and business/community partners with at least 6 industry/government mentors (12 interns annually, mentor/intern ratio>1/2); 3) Improve sustainability-related education by updating curriculum materials; 4) Disseminate project information thru website/listservs, symposiums and research conferences, and 5) Enhance students’ enthusiasm for earning a STEM/FANH degree and pursuing graduate study. The project will ultimately enhance agricultural sustainability, improve knowledge/skills/experience of future agricultural workforce, and build a tight connection between students and employers.

USDA is committed to equity and inclusion in all of its programs and services. Investments like this opens doors, creates opportunities and helps build a future workforce that mirrors America.

NIFA invests in and advances agricultural research, education, and Extension across the nation to make transformative discoveries that solve societal challenges. NIFA supports initiatives that ensure the long-term viability of agriculture and applies an integrated approach to ensure that groundbreaking discoveries in agriculture-related sciences and technologies reach the people who can put them into practice. In FY2021, NIFA’s total investment was $1.96 billion.

Visit our website: www.nifa.usda.gov; Twitter: @USDA_NIFA; LinkedIn: USDA-NIFA. To learn more about NIFA’s impact on agricultural science (searchable by state or keyword), visit www.nifa.usda.gov/impacts.

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