Objective 1: Recruit, retain, mentor and graduate

The MEA Center of Excellence will support the design and sharing of innovative ways for 1890 institutions to recruit, retain, mentor and graduate students from underrepresented minority groups in the food, agriculture, natural resources and human (FANH) sciences and related STEM fields.

Given the projections that the U.S. will have a white minority by 2045, it is imperative that investments be made to focus on the recruitment and retention and graduation of underrepresented students in these disciplines. Despite years of efforts to expand and diversify the scientific workforce, data show a pattern of continued underrepresentation by race and ethnicity. Targeted university recruitment and retention programs can encourage young people to pursue and complete degrees in the FANH sciences and STEM.

A recent study led by N.C. A&T faculty examined effective student recruitment and retention practices used by 1890s, 1862s and non-land-grant institutions. As a result, an agricultural student retention model that includes advising strategies and targeted retention practices was developed. The center will use this model as part of a mix of creative practices to increase the diversity of the agricultural workforce.

Some of the model components planned for use by center include frequent email communication with students and parents, a website optimized for mobile browsers, campus open house events, campus visit days for high school and community college students, and increased use of social media. Partners will improve retention through expanded academic support, opportunities for relevant work experiences, advising by professional staff, first-year programs and orientation courses, an early intervention system for struggling students, and professional development for faculty.

The center partners will seek additional funding to support this objective from foundations, government agencies and the private sector. Further, center partners will establish synergistic partnerships with the private sector to support the training and placement of minority graduates into jobs in various sectors of food and agriculture.

Objective Leaders

  • Marilyn Bailey, Ed.D., University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff
  • Paula E. Faulkner, Ph.D., N.C. A&T