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New grant at Texas A&M University-Kingsville aimed at diversifying the future of the USDA

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Posted at 10:13 PM, Jun 26, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-26 23:13:25-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Texas A&M University-Kingsville (TAMUK) is recruiting students for their agriculture department with their Leading Hispanics program made possible by a $20 million grant U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA).

TAMUK Associate Professor of Animal Science Natasha Mast worked with professors from other Hispanic-serving institutes to create the Leading Hispanics Program. They met two-three times a week for five months to provide as many opportunities with the money available from the grant.

"We didn't want to support 10,000 students in a little way. We wanted to support a good amount of students in a big way," Mast said.

The grant targets Hispanic serving institutes and is meant to diversify the USDA and prepare students for federal-level jobs in agriculture.

"We're preparing our students through various USDA experiences," Mast said.

Students will have experiences like mentorship opportunities with the USDA and other Hispanic serving institutes that are part of the program. These include colleges like New Mexico State University and Texas State University. The money will also go towards funding students' tuition, travel expenses, and equipment. The university hopes this will improve retention and graduation rates.

"If we can provide them with the funding they need to get through school and retain them through graduation, which hits our graduation rates, then they're not only going to succeed and get their degrees, but now they're able to be competitive for these really great jobs," Mast said.

TAMUK hopes to give students the funding they need to finish school with their new program. Students of all levels in the Department of Agriculture will be able to receive up to $5,000 in the fall semester and $5,000 in the spring semester. Students can get jobs in agencies like agriculture marketing, research, and farm services.

Senior Eva Morgan is one student who has experienced the benefits of USDA grants during her time at TAMUK. She has had many internship and research opportunities and hopes others can have the same.

"It feels amazing that they're gonna have that support right off the bat both financially and academically, with mentors and other students going through the program, as well. So I'm very happy to see a new generation of students taking lead of their education. We definitely need more agriculturists in the world. The worst you can find out is what you don't like, and through these opportunities, I've found the things I really do enjoy and the things I don't enjoy so much and that's helped me narrow down my career field," Morgan said.

The university will have five years to spend the $20 million grant. It is expected to impact $2,000 students. Applications open in two weeks, and students of all levels, new and existing students, can apply. Students can find the application on theCollege of Agriculture's website and on TAMUK's social media accounts.

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