STARTREC aims to increase underrepresented students pursuing agriculture degrees, careers

Inside TXST

Jayme Blaschke | January 6, 2021

two women in field gardening

The Department of Agricultural Sciences at Texas State has received $360,000 from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture's Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) Education Grants Program to attract and support underrepresented undergraduate and graduate students to prepare them for food, agriculture and natural resources careers.

The four-year grant will support the "South Texas Agricultural Roadmap for Teaching, Research, Experiential Learning and Careers in Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources," (STARTREC) program. Alexis Racelis, assistant professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, is the project director. Merritt Drewery, assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural Sciences, along with Ken Mix, associate professor in the Department of Agricultural Sciences, will serve as the co-project directors at Texas State.

STARTREC will leverage collaborations among multiple HSIs in Texas that have ongoing programs for academic development and career attainment of underrepresented groups in fields related to sustainable agriculture and food systems, including soil and water management, horticulture, animal science and whole farm systems. This multi-institution consortium will collaborate to enhance the quality of education at HSIs by developing a clear intra-state, multiple-point-of-entry roadmap for education and careers for high school, associates, bachelors and masters students interested in food, agriculture and natural resources-related studies.

The program will facilitate the impactful training of 25 undergraduate and 10 graduate students, highlighting regional opportunities and focusing on cultural-relevant approaches for training across the state of Texas. Participating institutions will strengthen curricula through cross-institutional exchange, including annual offerings of online or in-person short courses each summer at either UT-Rio Grande Valley or Texas State for all students

STARTREC is expected to prepare students for careers in the scientifically challenging and globally competitive U.S. agriculture industry by providing students experiential learning opportunities at partnering USDA agencies and other institutions. These experiences will help increase technical and professional competencies for cross-sector employability and increased interdisciplinary scientific expertise in food, agriculture and natural resources careers.

By the end of the project, a clear roadmap resource will be developed for students at HSIs to matriculate from high school through associates and bachelors degrees to graduate study and or to various careers. This will include a published guidebook with students, faculty and career professionals who will discuss tips, tools, and opportunities to succeed and excel in agriculture and food related careers across Texas and across the U.S.

For more information, contact University Communications:

Jayme Blaschke, 512-245-2555

Sandy Pantlik, 512-245-2922