CSU Stanislaus' Agricultural Studies program receives $240,000 grant

The Agricultural Studies program at California State University, Stanislaus, has received a two-year grant of $240,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to increase the recruitment and retention of underrepresented students and provide them with hands-on learning experiences that will prepare them for careers in food and agricultural industries. The USDA accepts only 20 percent of grant applications for these programs.

The USDA Hispanic Servicing Institution Grant will allow the Ag Studies program to achieve three key objectives - increase the recruitment and retention of underrepresented students by 10 percent, develop experiential learning opportunities, and create a new instructional delivery system through the use of a sustainable garden.

In meeting the three objectives identified, 10 scholarships will be awarded, at least 30 internship opportunities will be created, and a sustainable garden will be designed and installed on the CSU Stanislaus campus. Students will assist with operating the sustainable garden as they learn about sustainable farming, ecology, and crop management. The garden will also be used to provide community service through food donations, to host an Agricultural Awareness Day for local elementary school students and their teachers, to promote healthy eating habits, and as a training tool for elementary school teachers on how to create their own sustainable school gardens.

Dr. Eric Houk from the CSU Stanislaus Economics Department serves as Principal Investigator for the grant with Dr. Mark Bender of the University's Agricultural Studies Program serving as Co-Investigator. Houk said, "We are very pleased to receive this grant that will allow us to grow and expand our Ag Studies program in ways that will enhance the education of our students and provide services to the greater community."

The USDA grant is the second one awarded to the CSU Stanislaus Ag Studies program under the leadership of Professors Bender and Houk; the first grant of $103,777 was awarded two years ago and ends on July 1. It focused on increasing the number of students recruited from community colleges by providing over $30,000 in scholarships and streamlining the transfer process.

The USDA Hispanic Servicing Institution Grant is a competitive grant program designed to strengthen the ability of Hispanic Serving Institutions to carry out higher education programs in the food and agricultural sciences in order to enhance the scientific and professional workforce in the nation's food and agricultural industries.