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CSU Monterey Bay awarded $975,000 grant to boost success in agricultural sciences – Monterey Herald

SEASIDE — CSU Monterey Bay has been awarded a $975,000 grant to create more interest in agriculture and related sciences and create additional courses in the field.

The four-year grant comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to bolster the food, agriculture, natural resources and human science fields at the college starting this school year. It is facilitated through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Hispanic Serving Institutions Education Grants Program.

“Monterey Bay and Salinas are important agricultural areas for California and for the country,” said John Banks, director of CSUMB’s undergraduate resource center and co-principal investigator for the project. “These areas and the opportunity to work in them through a scholarly lens is often underdeveloped, so we’re trying to boost interest and participation of students who may not realize the opportunities we have.”

Banks, as well as fellow co-principal investigator and CSUMB professor J.P. Dundore-Arias, hopes this project will help address gaps in equity among underrepresented students in the food, agriculture, natural resources and human sciences.

With more than half of its student population composed of underrepresented minorities, including a campus community that is 45% Latinx, CSUMB has the chance with this grant to play a role in building a more equitable future for a field important to its community, Banks explained.

This plays into a larger $12 million effort by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help Hispanic-Serving Institutions like CSUMB bring underrepresented students into the workforce.

“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,” U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a press release.

Part of this project also includes a partnership with UC Santa Cruz, a neighboring Hispanic-Serving Institution. For its contribution, UCSC will receive a piece of the U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to foster student recruitment, retention and job placement of those interested in going into agriculture or similar areas of study. To do so, UCSC graduate students and faculty will mentor undergraduates from CSUMB with plans to go on to graduate school to guide next steps through the industry, Banks said.

Another portion of the grant funds will go toward expanding CSUMB’s Agricultural Plant and Soil Science degree program by inviting those within the program to participate in a two-year scholars initiative aimed at boosting self-confidence, self-efficacy and exposure to research activities.

“The project not only strengthens support for the new popular (agricultural plant and soil science) major, but we expect this will increase student interests in the (food, agriculture, natural resources and human sciences),” Banks explained.

Currently, in the planning stage for implementing the project, Banks expects to have initial opportunities for expanded research and coursework available by the upcoming spring and summer terms.

“We’re really having a moment here where we can create and benefit a whole new generation of students,” he said.

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