CSUMB awarded $975,000 USDA grant to boost student success in ag

Students studying plants in the AGPS program

Students studying plants in the AGPS program

October 20, 2021

CSUMB has been awarded a $975,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to increase participation in the food, agriculture, natural resources and human (FANH) science fields starting in Fall 2021. 

The project, led by principal investigator John “Buck” Banks of the Undergraduate Resource Opportunities Center and co-principal investigator J.P. Dundore-Arias, addresses gaps in equity among underrepresented students in the FANH sciences as well as activities that prepare them for graduate school and the workforce.

CSUMB will partner with the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC), also an HSI, on student recruitment, retention, and job placement through partnerships with community colleges, community organizations, and the regional agriculture industry.

“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,” said USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. 

As part of that effort, the department announced an investment of $12 million to HSIs to help them attract, retain and graduate underrepresented students pursuing careers in FANH. 

At CSUMB, undergraduates in the new Agricultural Plant and Soil Science (AGPS) degree program will participate in a two-year scholars program aimed at boosting self-confidence, self-efficacy, and exposure to research activities. 

“AGPS students in CSUMB’s Undergraduate Research Opportunity Center [UROC] from non-traditional backgrounds and underserved communities can build their upskilling, networking, self-mentoring career skills,” said Dundore-Arias. “The project will also let us streamline a transfer pathway to graduate programs at UCSC in agroecology, environmental science, ecology and evolutionary biology.”

Banks added, “The project not only strengthens support for the new popular AGPS major, but we expect this will increase  student interest and participation in the FANH sciences.”

The USDA has awarded this funding through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Hispanic-serving Institutions Education Grants Program. 

In a related effort to boost the ag workforce, Vilsack spoke with former U.S. Congressman Sam Farr at the “Greater Vision 2021: Your Future in Ag” webinar and virtual career fair on Oct. 4. The event was organized by CSUMB’s College of Business and College of Science, and the Grower-Shipper Association Foundation.