California State University, Stanislaus Professor Mark Bender, Chair of the Agricultural Studies Department, was one of 20 faculty from all over the country recognized on June 26 as an E. (Kikda) de la Garza Fellow in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) Hispanic-Serving Institutions National Program (HSINP).
Founding Chair of the Agricultural Studies Department at CSU Stanislaus in 2002, Bender received his award during a program hosted by the USDA in Washington, D.C. The 10th annual class of fellows met with representatives of the USDA-Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) Leadership Group, a national body appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture and the President of HACU, a San Antonio, Texas-based association founded in 1986. In 2003, CSU Stanislaus was officially designated by the U.S. Department of Education as an Hispanic-Serving Institution, making the University eligible to apply for grants awarded to colleges and universities with large numbers of low-income Hispanic students. More than 26 percent of CSU Stanislaus students are of Hispanic heritage.
The goal of the fellows program is to advance USDA's relationship with participating universities and enhance the professional growth of participants while fostering workforce diversity and strengthening the nation's capacity to provide high quality education and increased opportunities for Hispanic-Americans.
"This experience has been extremely valuable for me professionally as well as an opportunity for personal growth," Bender said. "I am extremely grateful to the University for allowing me this opportunity and to the USDA for sponsoring this excellent program that should benefit CSU Stanislaus. This program should bring valuable resources and contacts to the University."
Fellows, who were selected by the USDA through a competitive process, work collaboratively with USDA scientists and managers in Washington, D.C., to learn more about research and management issues and to collaborate with the USDA on food security, biotechnology, landscape horticulture, and agribusiness issues. They are provided travel and expenses for lodging, meals, incidentals, and daily commuting costs during the program.