3eX-Ag program aims to increase underrepresented students in grad programs via USDA grant
The Department of Agricultural Sciences at Texas State has received a $275,000 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Hispanic Serving Institution Education Grants Program to position underrepresented students for academic and professional success in agricultural sciences.
The four-year grant will support the Exposure, Experiential learning and Extension (3eX-Ag) program, overseen by principal investigator Merritt Drewery, assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural Sciences, along with co-PIs Ryan Anderson, assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural Sciences, and Tryon Wickersham, associate professor at Texas A&M University.
3eX-Ag seeks to address two national education problems: ethnic disparity in postsecondary degree recipients and too few qualified graduates to fill requisite positions in the agriculture workforce. 3eX-Ag will develop curriculum that involves experiential learning, placement of students in extension positions with the agricultural workforce and integration of students in a research laboratory.
The need for more holders of advance degrees in agriculture is a growing issue. The USDA's 2015-2020 Employment Outlook Report projects an annual hiring deficit of 22,500 agriculture positions and estimates that 40% of agriculture positions in the United States will be filled by underqualified candidates. These projections point to a pressing need to generate a steady stream of qualified graduates prepared to enter the agriculture workforce.
Ultimately, the grant will support 32 underrepresented students in their pursuit of a B.S. or M.S. degree in agricultural sciences at Texas State. 3eX-Ag will equip students with practical and professional skills that shape them into more well-rounded candidates for careers in their discipline after graduation.
Although Texas State's enrollment includes more than 50% minority students, this population is not represented among graduate students. A goal of 3eX-Ag is to increase graduation rates and matriculation of underrepresented students into master's or doctorate programs.