N.C. A&T receives $1.6 million grant to promote inclusiveness in agriculture

By Dan Nonte / 06/11/2020

EAST GREENSBORO, N.C. (June 11, 2020) – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has awarded a $1.6-million grant to help implement the Center of Excellence to Motivate and Educate for Achievement (MEA Center of Excellence) based at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. The center is dedicated to encouraging and supporting young people from underrepresented minority groups to pursue studies and careers in food, agriculture and natural resources.

The MEA Center of Excellence serves all 19 of the 1890 land-grant universities and is led by representatives from seven 1890 institutions: N.C. A&T, Florida A&M University, Lincoln University, Tuskegee University, the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and Virginia State University.

This new grant comes from the NIFA’s 1890 Centers of Excellence Grants Program, funded through the 2018 Farm Bill.

“Inclusiveness and excellence are among our core values here at A&T. This grant and the MEA Center support both,” said Beryl McEwen, Ph.D., provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs. “All of us, and our rural communities especially, will benefit from a more diverse agricultural workforce, which this center will help create.

“We thank the members of N.C. congressional delegation for supporting the legislation that provided funding for the 1890 Centers of Excellence, especially Rep. Alma Adams, a tireless advocate for HBCUs, Rep. Mark Walker; Sen. Richard Burr and Sen. Thom Tillis.”

Housed in the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences at A&T, the center will serve as the virtual space to seek and support collaborative programs and initiatives. This space enables the 1890 institutions to recruit, retain, mentor and graduate underrepresented students; provide workforce development experiences for students to enhance the pipeline from high school to undergraduate programs, graduate programs and careers; increase students’ engagement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics; and provide students from grade school through college with experiential learning opportunities related to soft skills, research skills, international engagement, conference attendance, leadership training and technology skill development.

“Making agriculture more inclusive and a more attractive career choice has always been central to our mission in the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences,” said CAES Dean Mohamed Ahmedna, Ph.D. “The MEA Center provides a platform for us and our partners at the other 1890 land-grant universities to train more underrepresented students with the skills and education needed to work in agriculture, agriculture-related sciences and the food industry.”

In addition to its other work, the center intends to strengthen partnerships among the 1890 institutions, the USDA, and other public and private organizations. An external advisory board, consisting of both industry leaders and academic leaders from within and outside the 1890 system, will help the center’s leadership team ensure that programs are relevant and impactful.

Media Contact Information: jmhowse@ncat.edu