Campus News

Grant encourages minority participation

The College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences’ Office of Diversity Relations received a USDA Higher Education Challenge grant to enhance the participation and experience of minority undergraduates in food and agricultural sciences.

The two-year grant provides $142,000 for faculty, staff and student development for effective mentoring in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). It also provides hands-on learning via an undergraduate laboratory experience.

“Our premise is that promoting an informed, localized, personal mentoring experience via an undergraduate laboratory experience will serve as a vehicle to remove the fear of accessing resources, to remove the feeling of isolation and to provide an understanding of the nature of research in STEM areas,” said Louise Wicker, professor of food science and technology and grant project director.

Co-directors include Kecia Thomas, senior adviser to the dean, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences; Jean Bertrand, assistant dean for academic affairs, CAES; Ron Walcott, assistant dean of diversity relations and associate professor of plant pathology; Paul Thomas, professor of horticulture; Bill Vencill, professor of crop and soil science, Jake Mulligan, assistant professor of food science and technology; Jerry Johnson, professor of crop and soil science at UGA’s Griffin campus; and J.C. Diaz-Perez, associate professor of horticulture at UGA’s Tifton campus.

“Students who enter college often do not choose to study in the disciplines of science, technology, engineering and math or switch to other majors early in their college career,” Wicker said. “Success in STEM areas in agriculture for minority students hinges on creating a climate of inclusion. The nature of instruction and research in STEM areas must be considered in facilitating an inclusive culture.”