The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announces 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.
Some highlights of the 23 funded projects include:
- The University of Maine System will create the first five-year REEU site focused on both marine- and land-based aquaculture. The program will incorporate Indigenous cultural and ecological knowledge through a unique codesign of student projects with interdisciplinary aquaculture faculty, the aquaculture industry, and Wabanaki Traditional Knowledge Keepers; engage Tribal college and university students; and train students in applied aquaculture research through industry and mentoring to increase capacity for sustainability research and leadership.($750,000)
The University of Nebraska (Lincoln) will provide experiential learning through student participation in an integrated, interdisciplinary research pipeline that creates novel crop traits and applies innovative bioprocessing and formulation technologies to develop new food and feed applications. Research-based, experiential training will expose students to diverse disciplines such as plant breeding and biotechnology, bioprocess engineering, food science, and human and livestock nutrition. The program will develop recruitment networks with 1890 Land-grant Universities and other Historically Black Colleges and Universities to enhance underrepresented minority participation in the agricultural science, technology, engineering and math workforce. ($742,668)
The University of Texas Health Science Center (Houston) will provide 12 months of interprofessional training to undergraduate students who are interested in a health care profession. Undergraduates will receive scholarships and primarily come from Minority-Serving Institutions and universities not designated as top research universities. The program will provide nutrition education, applied research and community engagement opportunities led by medical/dental/nursing and health professionals and scientists at the University of Texas Health Science Center-Houston, in addition to partnering with community organizations. ($749,999)
Florida International University (Miami), a Hispanic-serving Institution, will recruit and train outstanding minority undergraduate Fellows in research and Extension to prepare them for careers in the scientifically challenging and globally competitive U.S. food and agriculture industry. Training will focus on plant health and production, bioenergy, natural resources and environment, agriculture economics with a focus on natural resource sustainability, sustainable agriculture, and agricultural climate adaptation. The program will enhance multicultural diversity in the skilled agricultural workforce by recruiting from traditionally underrepresented groups and will increase the percentage of undergraduate degrees awarded in food and agricultural sciences relative to the number of undergraduate degrees in all fields of study. ($392,742)
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.