Researchers in the Texas Tech College of Agriculture Sciences & Natural Resources (CASNR) have received funding from the United States Department of Agriculture to develop a program that will create educational opportunities that will promote diversity in agriculture. 

Nathan Gill, assistant professor in the Tech Department of Natural Resources Management, leads the Bridge Adventure Program, which helps produce more educational opportunities, specifically those that encourage diversity and inclusion in the agriculture industry, according to a Tech news release. The goal of this program is to strengthen diversity and inclusion across West Texas and beyond.

Providing opportunities like the one in this program will help shape students and their futures, Gill said, according to the news release.

In 2019, Tech achieved the Hispanic-Serving institution status, which allowed the university to qualify for federally-funded grant support available under Titles III and V of the Higher Education Act of 1965 and the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, which provides improved educational opportunities for students, according to the news release.

This program will contribute to the goal of diversifying the university’s community and ultimately lead students of different backgrounds to whatever field they decide to pursue, Gill said, according to the news release.

Also assisting with this project is Lindsay Kennedy, assistant professor of practice in the Department of Agriculture Education and Communications (AEC), Scott Burris, professor and chair in AEC, Carlos Villalobos, associate professor in NRM, and Courtney Meyers, professor in AEC, who will serve as an external evaluator, according to the news release.

The program is funded by a $275,000 grant from the USDA-National institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Cooperative State Research Educational and Extension Service and will be funded through 2024, according to the news release.

The students involved in the program participate in various learning excursions, such as a service-learning trip, a mentored field-research trip, and an excursion, such as backpacking, canoeing, or mountain biking, according to the news release.

Students will be asked to participate in reflection activities, which allows leaders of the program to get an understanding of the effects the trips have on students, and if it improves their appreciation for the outdoors or willingness to work together as a team, according to the news release.

The program is meant to offer unique educational opportunities, further diversity and build community, Gill said, according to the news release. Through this program, students will be able to work with CASNR faculty and participate in mentored field-research trips where faculty runs a research project and students are allowed to identify problems, develop a methodology, collect and analyze data and present their findings.

The Bridge Adventure program will provide many opportunities for students to get hands-on in their field while experiencing personal growth and building their skill level all while working together, Kennedy said, according to the news release. Program leaders are excited and eager to launch something like this.

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