Skip to main content

USDA awards $20M grant to Texas A&M-Kingsville to prepare the next generation of agricultural leaders

Posted on

Photo of Dr. Natasha Mast, Dr. Natasha Mast, associate professor of animal science and ruminant nutrition at Texas A&M University-Kingsville

Dr. Natasha Mast, associate professor of animal science and ruminant nutrition, is the project director for the grant.

KINGSVILLE — Texas A&M University-Kingsville has been awarded a $20 million grant by the United States Department of Agriculture to establish a collaborative, 5-year program that will help Hispanic students learn the skills needed to enter the workforce in an agricultural-related career. It is the largest single grant the university has received in its near 100-year history. 

The grant award comes as part of a $262.5 million dollar investment in higher education institutions as part of President Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act. The National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s (NIFA) “From Learning to Leading: Cultivating the Next Generation of Diverse Food and Agriculture Professionals Program” will oversee the 33 project partners granted through this effort which are comprised of 1890 Land-grant Universities, 1994 Tribal Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-serving Institutions (HSI), Alaska Native-serving and Native Hawaiian-serving Institutions. 

Texas A&M University-Kingsville’s grant, titled Leading Hispanics to Federal Agency Employment (LEADING: Leading and Enhancing Agricultural Development in the Next Generation), will fund a program at the university and its partnering institutions to create a pathway for students from high school, through to undergraduate and graduate programs and into food, agricultural, natural resources, and human sciences (FANH) careers. The programs will offer students mentorship, professional and personal development opportunities and the chance to develop bilingual skills. 

“This is an incredible and historic achievement for Texas A&M-Kingsville and the students who will benefit from the program this grant funds,” said Texas A&M University-Kingsville President Dr. Robert Vela. “It reflects the tremendous outreach work led by our faculty, who are dedicated to ensuring their students’ success through enhancing scientific and technical skills and creating networks of opportunity for students. This program will not only improve retention and graduation rates but also increase USDA career placement of Hispanic students and prepare students to work in this vital sector of our economy.” 

The grant will also allow each institution to take turns hosting a symposium and career fair on their campuses with USDA agencies attending to interact with students and the community. 

“We are honored by the confidence and trust the USDA places in our faculty at TAMUK and partnering Hispanic Serving Institutions as they have demonstrated how to prepare, train and lead an increasing number of students towards employment in the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other Agriculture-related careers,” said Dr. Shad Nelson, dean of the Dick and Mary Lewis Kleberg College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. 

“This grant is a game changer for South Texas in advancing the Next Generation of students towards graduate degrees that will result in making future great and positive differences in the workforce of higher education and federal agencies.” 

Dr. Natasha Mast, associate professor of animal science and ruminant nutrition, is the project director for the grant and the university will partner with fellow Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) Texas State, New Mexico State University and University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez. Project co-directors at each partnering institution are Dr. Merritt Drewery at Texas State University, Dr. Clint Löest at New Mexico State University and Dr. Esbal Jimenez at University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez. 

“Through a collaboration of four institutions, my team (Jimenez, Löest and Drewery) and I have strategically designed the LEADING Hispanics program to develop and sustain the next generation of the Hispanic food, agriculture, natural resources, and human sciences workforce and build awareness of the processes and pathways leading to training opportunities and employment in the federal sector,” Mast said. “We are beyond excited for the opportunities we will be able to provide to our students as a result of this funding. LEADING Hispanics will change the lives of our students in extraordinary ways and we can’t wait to see the impact it has on their lives and their future successes.” 


Category: General Univ , Ag/Env & Wildlife Sci

Media Contact

News Archives