Thursday, October 22, 2015

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture has announced that a $275,000 Agriculture and Undergraduate Achievement grant has been awarded to Northeastern Illinois University. The award was part of an Oct. 20 USDA announcement of $8.8 million in grants to support agricultural science education at Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs).

At Northeastern, the AGriculture and Undergraduate Achievement (AGUA) project will engage urban undergraduate students from underrepresented groups in research on topics of national and international significance with scientists who are experts in their fields. The program will launch in spring 2016 and is funded through fall 2019.

“AGUA students will start building a professional network while still in college,” said Earth Science Professor Laura Sanders, who will head up the program. “They will work with USDA scientists on cutting-edge research. And who knows—they might make the next big discovery that helps people get clean, safe water for drinking and growing food.”

The program will put students in the field to study agricultural science applications focused on improving water quality. It will include a spring break immersion at a USDA-Agricultural Research Service laboratory, a summer enrichment program to strengthen academic and professional skills, and a summer research internship in a USDA laboratory.

The project is expected to create a diverse, highly skilled group of graduates who will be prepared to advance to the next level of academic or professional training for career paths in agricultural water science.

“As one of the most diverse universities in the Midwest, Northeastern Illinois University takes great pride in its status as a Hispanic-Serving Institution,” Provost Richard J. Helldobler said. “This grant directly supports the University’s mission: We prepare a diverse community of students for leadership and service in our region and in a dynamic multicultural world.”

The $8.8 million in grants awarded nationally will support the future workforce need of educated and able food and agriculture sector professionals through programs that serve underrepresented students.

“The Hispanic population in the United States is growing, as is interest and emphasis on research, education, and extension services in higher education across the country,” said Sonny Ramaswamy, National Institute of Food and Agriculture director. “Programs at Hispanic-Serving Institutions that focus on climate change and variability, food safety and security, water, childhood obesity, and sustainable bioenergy create opportunities to train and educate these students, allowing them to excel in higher education and in the workforce.”