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A $1 million grant from the National Institute of Food and Agricultural will support an innovative cross-campus collaboration at New Mexico State University that aims to transform the educational experience and increase accessibility and workforce opportunities for underrepresented students in natural resources and agriculture.
Alvaro Romero, associate professor of urban entomology in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, will lead the collaboration, known as “Enhancing Hispanic Access to Natural Resource and Agricultural Careers through Education, Mentorship, and Training,” or “ENHANCEMENT.” The NIFA is part of the research, education and economics arms of the United States Department of Agriculture and administers federal funding to programs that advance agriculture-related sciences.
“Our major goal with this four-year collaboration,” Romero said, “is to recruit, retain and prepare underrepresented minorities to enhance their competence for professional positions and contribute to workplace diversity.”
Recruitment for the first cohort of students will begin this fall semester, he said.
Faculty from NMSU’s main campus and its four community colleges in Las Cruces, Alamogordo, Carlsbad and Grants will work to identify and prepare underrepresented students to transition from the branch campuses into a four-year degree program, Romero said.
“Our ultimate goal is transitioning these students into a graduate degree program,” he said. “The novelty of this project is that undergraduate students will interact with graduate students by developing research linked to the graduate students’ research, and faculty supervise these mentorships.”
The program also will provide graduate assistantships to students and connect them to internships and other professional development and training opportunities that will prepare them to enter the workforce.
“Another component of the program,” Romero said, “is the institutionalization of spot-hiring events through NMSU Career Services and USDA agencies that will foster a clear transfer pathway of the students.”
Faculty participating in the program include: Wiebke Boeing, professor of fish, wildlife and conservation ecology; Amy C. Ganguli, associate professor of rangeland ecology; Omar Holguín, associate professor of plant and environmental sciences; Martha Desmond, Regents Professor of fish, wildlife and conservation ecology; Richard Wiedenmann, professor of biology at NMSU Carlsbad; Concepcion Martinez Miller, assistant Pprofessor of science at Doña Ana Community College; Jennifer Smith, professor of biology at NMSU Alamogordo; and Anne Semrau, assistant professor of biology at NMSU Grants.
For more information about the program, contact Romero at 575-646-5550 or firstname.lastname@example.org.