South Dakota State University associate biology and microbiology professor Wanlong Li assesses the growth of two-week-old wheat seedlings. Through a new three-year, $930,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture grant, Li hopes to improve wheat yields by increasing the size and weight of the kernels. Credit: Photo by Emily Weber/South Dakota State University.
South Dakota State University associate biology and microbiology professor Wanlong Li assesses the growth of two-week-old wheat seedlings. Through a new three-year, $930,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture grant, Li hopes to improve wheat yields by increasing the size and weight of the kernels.

Nearly $1m available to recruit, educate more diverse ag workforce

National Institute of Food & Agriculture funds to help foster next generation of multicultural scholars in agricultural sciences.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food & Agriculture (NIFA) announced $945,400 in available funding to help foster the next generation of multicultural scholars in the agricultural sciences. Funding was made through NIFA’s Higher Education Multicultural Scholars Program (MSP).

NIFA director Sonny Ramaswamy said the MSP “seeks to help young people reach their potential in the agricultural sciences. It is important to develop the most diverse talent pool possible and show these students the abundant opportunities in the agricultural sector.”

The Higher Education MSP helps colleges and universities recruit and retain multicultural scholars who may pursue degrees in food and agricultural science disciplines or a doctor of veterinary medicine (DVM) degree. Projects may involve scholarships to support recruiting, engaging, retaining, mentoring and training committed multicultural scholars.

Eligible applicants include land-grant institutions, colleges and universities with significant minority enrollments and the capacity to teach food and agricultural sciences and other colleges and universities with the capacity to teach food and agricultural sciences. Additionally, research foundations maintained by an eligible college or university are eligible to submit undergraduate and/or DVM training proposals under this request for funding. Applicants should be institutions that confer an undergraduate or DVM degree in at least one of the disciplines of the food and agricultural sciences.

The deadline for applications is Oct. 31, 2017. See the request for applications for details.

Among previous projects, North Carolina State University’s poultry science department recruited five multicultural scholars for its program. Three graduated within four years, while the remaining two will graduate next year with double majors. Over the course of the project, the department has seen a steady increase in its ability to attract and retain additional students from underrepresented groups, and the program is now comprised of approximately 20% underrepresented students.

Oregon State University offers scholarships to undergraduate students from groups underrepresented in agriculture, natural resources, food science or human health and nutrition. The university has developed an innovative and interdisciplinary undergraduate curriculum in renewable materials and is actively recruiting more multicultural students to build the pipeline of professionals in this area. In recent years, the university has awarded 27 scholarships to MSP students pursuing BioResource Research, an interdisciplinary biosciences major centered on student research.

To learn more about NIFA’s impact on agricultural sciences, visit www.nifa.usda.gov/Impacts.

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