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USDA Director's Meeting Jan. 2014


January 8-11, 2014, Dr. Nora Garza of Laredo Community College and David Vela, a graduate student from Texas State University traveled to Beltsville, Maryland to attend the USDA Director’s Meeting. Below is a reflection of the trip written by David Vela.

The Hispanic-Serving Institutions Grants Program – New Project Directors’ Training
 
The Hispanic-Serving Institutions Grants Program – New Project Directors’ Training was a very informative conference that encompassed a range of topics that are pertinent to the development and advancement of under-represented demographics in the agricultural workforce. Project directors and student recipients from HSI institutions all over the country were in attendance for the training at the USDA – Agricultural Research Service (ARS) location in Beltsville, Maryland.
 
The first session on January 9th was focused on the agricultural and environmental issues we are faced with in the present and upcoming years. World renowned scientists from ARS and all across the country shared their insights and expertise in detail on many topics including sustainable agriculture, organic food production, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and global climate change. The speakers explained not only the importance of understanding the issues, but also different ways in which we as scientists and agriculturalists can transfer the information to large audiences of people in order to encourage progressive action from populations across the globe. Students were also given information on different internship and career opportunities with agencies throughout the USDA. At the end of the day we were allowed the opportunity to tour official ARS research labs and study plots where state-of-the-art research was being conducted by highly recognized scientists in the field of sustainable agriculture.
 
The second session on January 10th concentrated on the development and management of USDA grants. Speakers from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) spoke on the logistics of properly preparing and writing grants to agencies such as USDA and National Science Foundation (NSF). There was significant information given that discussed appropriate management of funds and adherence to regulations of reporting and accountability. There was a separate afternoon session which sent grant Project directors to the NSF Headquarters in Washington, D.C. and sent students on a tour of the city. The NSF session continued discussion of grant development and procurement of student opportunities in more detail for the project directors. Students were first taken to the USDA Headquarters building to have lunch and listen to several Hispanic government employees who shared their stories on how they achieved success and advice on how to make the most of the opportunities currently available to Hispanic students in USDA. The students were then taken to see the many historical sites all across Washington as well as tour many of the famous museums.
 
This conference was a fantastic opportunity that provided valuable information that I will definitely be able to use as a resource in my future career search. Learning of the many current and upcoming opportunities available for Hispanic students in USDA as well as the huge push for their higher education is very encouraging and exciting for me as a Hispanic student. I know that the information I gained will help me in making the most out of my education as well as allowing me to help other like-minded students attain their future goals.
 

David Vela

Graduate Student – Agricultural Education