Knowing the opportunity
STARTNOW or Student Training in Agricultural Research Techniques by Novel Occupational Workshop, is a United States Department of Agriculture National Institutes of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA) competitive funded program to the Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI) Texas A&M University Kingsville (TAMUK) as lead and University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez (UPRM), Florida International University (FIU), and the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) as collaborative institutions. This grant specifically targets the education of undergraduate and graduate students of Hispanic background at 4-year Universities to equip them with the knowledge base and expertise needed to lead and succeed in the continuously evolving agricultural field.
Hispanic Americans with technical skills in science and research are largely underrepresented in the agricultural labor force. One way to improve undergraduate Hispanic participation in agriculture, is through experiential learning in Soil Science, Plant Science, and Environmental Science through outside the classroom learning activities in research, internships, demonstration activities, and career workshops. Field-based research and demonstrative experiences in STARTNOW will complement the existing educational and academic programs at UPRM and assist undergraduates to be more competitive and upon graduation to foster the increase of Hispanics in high-end positions within the agricultural and food industry fields. The program offers students a unique and positive experience in their fields of interest, thus encouraging and providing them with tools to pursue careers in the agriculture sciences.
STARTNOW at UPRM will provide competitive summer paid internships to undergraduate students and Graduate Research Assistantships to graduate students, over a four-year period (2016 to 2020). Each academic year, six undergraduate students will be selected for the summer internship. Of those selected, three will participate in the summer research-related training and mentoring with faculty and researchers at UPRM (Research-based summer internship) and three will participate in the summer internships with USDA agencies and/or industry partnering institution (Professional-based summer internship). The students in the Research-based summer internship will gather with other students from the lead and collaborative institutions for a 2-week occupational-intensive workshop located in Costa Rica at the ‘Soltis Center for Research and Education’ that is owned and operated by the Texas A&M University System. One of the UGs that participated in the summer workshop will travel to the annual ‘Southern Region Soil Judging Completion’ and join a team of four UG students (one for each of the four collaborating institution partners in this grant).
Students are expected to participate for two summers, yet all must re-apply for a second year and if selected will alternate in either the Research-based or the Professional-based internship. Selection and continuation of each student in the program is dependent upon student performance, program interests, and quality of candidates that apply to the program. The expected duration of the summer internships is at least eight weeks.
- Must be a regular student at any academic program at UPRM (required)
- A GPA of at least 3.0 (desirable)
- Have passed AGRO 3011 (Fundamentals of Soil Sciences) or CFIT 3005 (Fundamentals of Crop Protection) prior to initiating the summer internship (by May 2020) (desirable)
- Have approved at least 60 credits but no more than 100 credits prior to initiating the summer internship (by May 2020) (desirable)
- Submit the complete Application Form and academic transcript (required)
- Potential students may be asked to interview with the project PIs (required)
Award Duration and Expectations
- Participating students will spend eight weeks in Research-based summer internship or in a Professional-based summer internship.
- Program dates are fixed and cannot be changed. Students are expected to participate for 8 continuous weeks, and no vacation time except for regularly scheduled holidays.
- One student participating in the Professional-based summer internship will travel to Texas or the state where the Southern Regional Soil Judging Competition will be held.
- Students will be covered by the UPRM student insurance during the internship period.
- Students are expected to actively participate in seminars, workshops and training sessions coordinated by UPRM faculty in academic year during the participation of the program.
- Students are expected to provide a written report and a seminar upon completion of each internship.
- UPRM may require reimbursement of previously allocated stipend to the student if the student willingly withdraws from the program.
- Selection and continuation of each student in the program is dependent upon student performance, program interests, and quality of candidates that apply to the program.
- Stipends to students will be distributed at the start of the internship and at the conclusion of the internship in two payments via direct deposit.
- Each student in the Research-based summer internship will receive a stipend of $3,000/student-summer. In addition, the project will cover all travel (airfare and mileage) costs to and from San Juan Puerto Rico to San José, Costa Rica, and all costs (food, lodging and internal travel) associated with the 15-day international workshop.
- Each student in the Professional-based summer internship will receive a stipend of $5,000/student-summer. For students participating in this track, the project may not incur in additional (travel, food, lodging) expenses.
- UPRM project funds will provide for airfare, mileage and meals for travel to and from San Juan to the Southern Regional Soil Judging Competition. All other costs for this student during the competition will be covered by the TAMU-Kingsville’s travel budget.