College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences

Our Programs

SAPLINGS consists of these six modules designed to enhance student learning, training and success to cater to the diverse needs of our students, leverage resources and assets across partners and stakeholders, and pilot, customize and scale programs to align outcomes for all seven 1890 land-grant university partners.


This module is intended to ignite interest and engagement in FANH (food, agriculture, natural resources and human sciences) programs among students in grades 5-12 to increase college readiness and strengthen the pipeline to college. SAPLINGS will: 

  • Conduct market research to determine how underrepresented minority youth perceive agriculture and agriculture-related careers and will use the data collected to develop best practices for outreach and recruitment. 
  • Develop new STEM content for schools, 4-H and community-based organizations and infuse culturally-responsive content and pedagogy into existing curricula used in mobile STEM classrooms, robotics, drones and Microsoft FarmBeats for Students. 
  • Create a first-of-its-kind Ag College and Career Pathways Family Engagement workshop series for underrepresented minority families. 
  • Increase student and teacher awareness of FANH by arranging for elementary, middle and high school students to visit 1890 land grant universities. Multi-day summer enrichment workshops will teach educators about the interconnections between STEM and agriculture. 
  • Provide experiential learning for students in grades 11-12 via the DREAM program, led by Florida A&M. This program will allow students to shadow or intern with FANH agency personnel during the summer to increase awareness of state and federal governmental programs. 
  • Enhance the competencies around FANH, food science careers and agricultural education of 40 educators in high schools with high populations of underrepresented minority students.

This module will help college juniors and seniors develop into agriculture professionals with the technical and leadership skills needed to start, grow, and succeed in their own agribusiness or gain employment in the FANH sector. This agricultural entrepreneurship program will be the first of its kind among the nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities. 

Participating undergraduate students will take part in paid internships with USDA’s Economic Research Service or agribusinesses. Students will shadow small minority farmers to learn the farming enterprise and will receive training to develop business and marketing plans from the new 1890 Agriculture Business Innovation Center based at N.C. A&T. An Ag 101 bootcamp will provide information about the agriculture sector and related careers. Students will be mentored by Farm Foundation Cultivators on how to address issues faced by rural agribusinesses.

To advance state-of-the-art training, this module will prepare undergraduate and graduate students for research, education and extension careers in integrated agriculture and natural resources (animals, plants, soil, water and the environment).

SAPLINGS will award scholarships for students pursuing agriculture and natural resources degrees; create a summer internship program for students to work in circular economy, data analytics, climate smart agriculture, and urban agriculture; and introduce a certificate program in agriculture and natural resources to train students to evaluate and solve problems at the systems level. 

To expand the reach and impact of this module, the selected five students in each annual student cohort will serve as ambassadors to assist with outreach, recruitment and education. In addition, after strengthening existing programs and assets within this module, partnerships will be expanded to the regional and then the national level. Ultimately, participating students will intern at federal agencies, 1862 land-grant universities and industries across the country.

This module will prepare undergraduate and graduate students to become the next generation of diverse food and nutritional sciences professionals dedicated to promoting healthy eating and combating diet-related health disparities in communities of color. 

SAPLINGS will advance “farm as pharmacy” education and training by creating The Farmacy Scholars scholarship program to attract, support and retain graduate students in food and nutritional sciences and using experiential learning to expose students to education and leadership opportunities within food and nutritional sciences. 

This module will begin by leveraging existing assets and partnering with the 1890 Center Of Excellence (COE) for Nutrition, Health, Wellness, and Quality of Life at Southern University. SAPLINGS will build upon this foundation by creating regional clusters to train students on aspects of food, nutrition and health via joint courses, new certificates and academic degree options and experiential learning. This regional cluster will be further expanded into a national cluster that will enable students to work as summer interns or research lab scholars at USDA’s regional and national research units.

The scholarship provides the students the opportunity to do food and nutrition research and training with various faculty.

Students can complete Application to apply for our scholarship program. Upon submission, we will arrange an interview to determine the student's eligibility for participation.

This module will introduce data analytics, precision agriculture and artificial intelligence into food and agricultural education to enable next-generation solutions for food and agriculture industries. This multi-institutional pathway will prepare underrepresented students in high school and college to meet labor demands for Big Data and AI.

SAPLINGS will develop three AI-enabled educational labs to give upper-level undergraduate and graduate STEM students hands-on training in smart farming, smart food, bio-manufacturing and smart environmental health that focuses on key infrastructure for precision agriculture, AI and agricultural data analytics. SAPLINGS also will develop one entry level and two advanced data analytics modules (for advanced students, young tech farmers and other professionals) for the AI labs that focus on statistical approaches, econometrics, data mining and machine learning. Using the infrastructure and materials developed by this module, new educational materials — such as labs, projects and workshops — will be developed to train students.

Big data and artificial intelligence (AI) are receiving remarkable attention for dealing with complex problems in agricultural production, food processing, biomanufacturing, bioeconomy, and environmental sustainability. Big data and AI technologies are playing a key role in studying and managing the interactions of cyber-physical agricultural systems, and nature and human activities. Big data and AI are being used to provide predictive insights in agricultural operations, make real-time operational decisions, and redesign agricultural business models. Future agricultural workforces should understand big data and AI concepts, analytics and applications. The goal of this scholarship program is to prepare the next-generation agricultural workforce to develop AI and data science based solutions for agricultural production, and food and bio-manufacturing processes.

Students who are interested in this research scholarship should meet the following criteria

  • Be a continuing undergraduate student with the CAES in the sophomore, junior or senior year when the scholarship is awarded
  • Have a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.80
  • Complete the online application and specify an interest in conducting an AI or data science related research project

Students who are selected for awarding this scholarship should agree to

  • Devote 10-12 hours per week to an AI related research project for at least one semester
  • Be compensated $14 per hour for research time and related activities
  • Complete time sheets (biweekly) for approval by faculty mentor
  • Maintain a minimum of a 2.80 cumulative GPA
  • Attend at least one AI and data science seminar/workshop per semester as recommended or approved by the faculty mentor
  • Work with assigned faculty mentor to develop an AI and data science related research proposal, conduct and complete approved research project and meet with mentor regularly to discuss research progress and issues
  • Have interest in learning statistical software packages/programs (e.g., Matlab, R, Python etc) common in AI-related activities
  • Deliver the research findings to broader audience through presentations at professional conferences and publications in refereed journals (travel support will be contingent on the available of funds)

This module will enhance faculty development and expand student learning and support across the seven SAPLINGS institutions. This first-of-its-kind coordinated effort across 1890 land-grant universities will provide mentoring and career awareness support to improve student success in FANH sciences disciplines and careers.

SAPLINGS will provide centralized professional development for faculty, expanded course offering to students and other institutional support. Selected faculty will participate in a micro-credential program to enhance teaching practices. Workshops about culturally responsive pedagogy and inclusive teaching strategies will be available, and a Digital Learning Faculty Fellows program will be created to increase online teaching skills. 

The program will cover membership costs for all SAPLINGS partners to participate in the National Student Exchange, which will allow participating students to complete up to two semesters of courses not available at their home institution at other land-grant universities across the country. A new 10-week paid summer internship program will match students with a faculty member from another 1890 land-grant university. The Emerging USDA Leaders Model Program, led by Virginia State in partnership with University of Maryland Eastern Shore, supports experiential and career-building learning opportunities such as apprenticeships, internships, practicums and fellowships. SAPLINGS also will provide participating students with peer and industry mentoring and recurring workshops and seminars about USDA employment.

For more information

To find out more information about programs for students and educators, please visit our Our People page.