A grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture is helping FIU enhance its efforts in recruiting, cultivating and preparing underrepresented students for career and leadership opportunities in the agriculture industry.
The university will use the $975,314 grant to enhance its Broadening Agriculture Science Education (BASE) program for Hispanic Students through its Florida-Texas-New-Mexico Consortium.
The consortium enables underrepresented students at three South Florida, Texas, New Mexico universities to develop scientific skills in biological, agriculture and natural resource sciences and to find a career in the Agriculture Department or related agencies or to advance to higher education.
FIU’s program has offered college scholarships, travel grants, conferences, and internships and study abroad programs to more than 500 undergraduate and graduate students.
“We’re proud of the students we’ve been able to help cultivate careers in agriculture and related fields over the years,” said FIU agroecology professor and the director of this new grant, Krishnaswamy Jayachandran. “They’ve been able to conduct cutting edge research into bio-fertilizers, bio-energy and sustainable production practices.”
The university also developed a nationally acclaimed outreach program for veterans, beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers, and helped increase their access to Agriculture Department grants and loans. FIU has assisted more than 200 farmers in South Florida with technical training and advice on Agriculture Department farm loans and grants, said FIU Agroecology Professor Mahadev Bhat of the College of Arts, Sciences & Education's Department of Earth and Environment.
The BASE grant program was part of a broader $12 million investment in Hispanic-serving Institutions of higher education to strengthen their ability to attract, retain and graduate underrepresented students pursuing careers in agriculture, natural resources and human sciences. The Agriculture Department awarded this funding through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Hispanic-serving Institutions Education Grants Program, which enhances student learning experiences and opportunities across the agriculture sector.
“We recognize and value the multifaceted contributions of our nation’s Hispanic-serving Institutions, which educate more than 3.2 million students every year across the country,” Agriculture Department Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a news release. “USDA has the great privilege of partnering with Hispanic-serving Institutions, and Minority-serving Institutions as a whole, to advance scientific research, develop future agricultural leaders and, we hope, cultivate the next generation of USDA employees.”
FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg was among a select group of leaders invited to meet virtually with Secretary Vilsack in October.
“As a Hispanic-serving institution, FIU is leader in ensuring equitable access to very worthwhile career and leadership opportunities in the agriculture industry and in the research that helps to ensure one of Florida’s largest industries continues to prosper in an era of continued climate change,” Bhat said.