How can the science workforce reflect a nation that is growing more diverse each year? To help build a more representative pipeline of agricultural scientists and educators, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced four FY16 grants totaling $382,650 through the Women and Minorities in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Fields Program (WAMS).
The Woman and Minorities in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Fields Program (WAMS) supports research and extension projects that increase the participation of women and underrepresented minorities from rural areas in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. WAMS projects seek to increase the number and diversity of students entering food and agriculture-related STEM disciplines Projects that contribute to the economic viability of rural communities are also supported through WAMS.
Fiscal year 2016 grants through WAMS have been awarded to:
- The Level Playing Field Institute, Oakland, Calif., $100,000
- Universidad del Este, Carolina, Puerto Rico, $100,000
- Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind., $92,538.00
- University of Florida, Gainesville, Fla., $90,112.00
Among this year's grants, a grant to the Level Playing Field Institute to support SMASH, a free, five-week residential college preparatory program at UC Davis for high-potential, underrepresented high school students. Another project by Purdue University helps to recruit underrepresented minority graduate students in the agricultural sciences through partnerships with 1890 land-grant universities.
A previous WAMS grant to the Maui Economic Development Board, Inc. has helped create STEM education programs reaching more than 40,000 students across the state of Hawaii. The University of Tennessee used a WAMS grant to teach STEM topics to high school girls from rural eastern Tennessee, encouraging them to consider careers in agricultural and natural resource management.
NIFA invests in and advances innovative and transformative research, education, and extension to solve societal challenges and ensure the long-term viability of agriculture. NIFA support for the best and brightest scientists and extension personnel have resulted in user-inspired, groundbreaking discoveries that are combating childhood obesity, improving and sustaining rural economic growth, addressing water availability issues, increasing food production, finding new sources of energy, mitigating climate variability and ensuring food safety.