Alcorn State’s School of Agriculture and Applied Sciences awarded $1.5 million collaboration grant from USDA

The School of Agriculture and Applied Sciences (SAAS) at Alcorn State University has been awarded a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to foster a diverse agricultural workforce.

As part of a collaboration grant with Tennessee State University, SAAS received $1.5 million for the “From Learning to Leading: Cultivating the Next Generation of Diverse Food and Agriculture Professionals Program” (NextGen).

“We are immensely proud of the work that our School of Agriculture and Applied Sciences continues to do to prepare our students for today’s agricultural workforce,” said Dr. Ontario Wooden, interim president of Alcorn State. “Their work to advance equity and opportunity for disadvantaged populations is to be commended.”

The NextGen program, funded by President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, is part of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s $262.5 million investment in higher education institutions to develop future diverse agricultural professionals. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack states that its goal “aims to lower costs for American families, expand access to markets to producers from all backgrounds and communities, build a clean energy economy, and strengthen American supply chains.”

The project will allow ASU students to apply for full tuition and fee scholarships, study abroad opportunities, internships, and summer bridge programs for students. In addition, it will offer small farmers and ranchers training as well as course exchange with peer institutions.

The primary investigators for the grant are Dr. Dexter Wakefield, interim dean of SAAS and director of Land Grant Programs, and Dr. Chunquan Zhang, associate dean for research and director of the Experiment Station.

“Clearly, we serve a major responsibility to the purpose of Alcorn’s mission,” said Wakefield. “As the oldest land grant HBCU in the nation, we seek to enhance opportunities for underserved populations. “This project will provide opportunities for many students to experience agriculture at its best through outreach and structured learning opportunities.”

In addition to Alcorn, this project is a partnership with faculty from Tennessee State University (lead), Fort Valley State University, University of Houston, Chief Dull Knife College, Middle Tennessee State University, University of Tennessee – Martin, University of Tennessee – Knoxville, Virginia Tech, Vanderbilt University, and the Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences organization.

Of the 33 awarded projects across 24 states, only five were awarded in Tier 3 projects up to $20 million, including at least three institutions across two states.

For more information about programs sponsored by this grant award, please contact Dr. Dexter B. Wakefield, I ([email protected]), Dr. Chunquan Zhang ([email protected]) or the NextGen project email [email protected].