United States Department of Agriculture: Grants for Hispanic Serving Institutions

Past USDA Projects

Start Now


(Student Training in Agricultural Research Techniques by Novel Education Workshops)

Project Directors:  Dr. Shad Nelson and Dr. David Ruppert

The mission of this USDA funded project is to maximize the educational and professional attainment of underrepresented post-secondary students through a multi-state (four HSI institutions) project that attracts, supports, and trains students in the NIFA Priority Science Areas of Food Security, Climate Variability and Change, Sustainable Bioenergy, and Water for Agriculture.

For The Students

  • Research-based experiential learning with one-on-one faculty mentorship.
  • Workshops at the Texas A&M Soltis Center for Education and Research in Costa Rica that utilizes the expertise of four collaborating institutions to provide education on four of the NIFA Priority Science Areas.
  • Professional internships with USDA agencies.
  • Professional certification in plant and soil sciences.
  • Intercollegiate Soil Judging coached by an NRCS soil scientist.

The goal of this project is to empower underrepresented students, through excellence in the plant and soil sciences, to build careers addressing the NIFA Priority Science Areas.  To achieve this goal our primary proposed activities are:

1) Research-based experiential learning

2) Synergizing the expertise among four collaborating HSI institutions to produce, Costa Rica an international location, a plant and soil science workshop oriented toward four of the six NIFA Priority Science Areas, with undergraduates as the primary target audience.

3) Professional internships with USDA agencies.

4) Course creation to prepare students for professional exams in crop and soil sciences, initializing the professional certification process in plant and soil sciences.

5) A multi-HSI-institutional team of students coached by NRCS competes to increase soil science competencies among underrepresented students.  A soil judging team consisting of at least one undergraduate per HSI will be coached by an NRCS soil scientist and will compete in the fall on an intercollegiate basis.

Lead Institution


  • Florida International University--Lead Collaborator: Dr. K. Jayachandran
  • University of Texas-El Paso--Lead Collaborator: Dr. H. Taboada
  • University of Puerto Rico--Lead Collaborator: Dr. D. Sotomayor

Logic Model

Upcoming Events

Past Events

  • Summer Career Experience (Internship) Presentations open to public (September 19, 2018; 3:00-6:00pm; Wildlife Center)
  • START NOW students traveled to Costa Rica for a Workshop at TAMU Soltis Center (May 27-June 9, 2018)
  • Summer Career Experience (Internship) Presentations open to public (September 20, 2017; 5:00-7:30pm; Kleberg Ag Rm 102)
  • START NOW students traveled to Costa Rica for a Workshop at TAMU Soltis Center (June 19th-July 2nd, 2017)

Summer 2019

Student Name---Career Experience Location

Annalysa Camacho---Costa Rica & Montana
Cristina Castellano---ARS-Beltsville, MD
Cynthia Covarrubias---APHIS-Laredo, TX
Desiderio De Leon---Costa Rica & Montana
Leslie Dominguez---APHIS-Laredo, TX
Julio Menchaca---NRCS-Uvalde, TX
Ashley Mondragon---NRCS-Rosenberg, TX
Jonah Trevino---TAMUK
Allison Watts---Costa Rica & Montana

Summer 2018

Student Name---Career Experience Location

Leslie Dominguez---Costa Rica
Michaela Elbert---ARS-Beltsville, MD
Christopher Flores-Lopez---Costa Rica
Michael Gonzales---Brookwood Horticulture, Houston, TX
Zachary Hamaker---AMS-Washington, D.C.
Ashley Mondragon---Costa Rica
Guadalupe Rodriguez---NRCS-Robstown, TX
Nikki Sandigde---NRCS-Kerville, TX
Jonah Trevino---Botanical Garden, Washington, D.C.

Summer 2017

Student Name---Career Experience Location

Weston Burns---Costa Rica
Gerardo Mata---APHIS-Laredo, TX
Elisha Palomo---NRCS-Rosenberg, TX
Cynthia Puente---Costa Rica
Valerie Ruiz---NRCS-Eagle Pass, TX
Jonah Trevino---Costa Rica