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SERD NEWS – January 2010

A notice from NIFA’s Science and Education Resources Development

SERD News provides information about NIFA’s efforts to promote excellence in academic, research, and extension programs in the food and agricultural sciences.

Program News

  • Welcome to Our Newsletter
  • Welcome Shane Ball to SERD
  • New Era Rural Technology Program: First Award Season a Success
  • In the Spotlight: One School, Many SERD Programs

Meeting and Conferences

  • Federally-Recognized Tribes Extension Program Conference
  • Hispanic-Serving Institutions Project Director Conference
  • First American Land-Grant College Organization and Network


Welcome to Our Newsletter
Happy New Year! It seems that new is the theme at our agency these days. We became the National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) in October—the same month I joined USDA as director for the Higher Education Programs (HEP) within the Science and Education Resource Development Unit (SERD).   This newsletter is one of my first initiatives.

The reason is simple: We administer education funding to support many programs, from Ag in the Classroom to advanced doctoral candidates, but we haven’t done much to inform our colleagues about our programs and how we can help the agency fulfill its mission.  

At my former agency, the National Institutes of Health, I worked to increase the number of underrepresented groups in the sciences who would eventually obtain Ph.D. degrees in biomedical sciences. Making the transition to HEP, with its goal of enhancing diversity in science, technology, and mathematics at many levels, made perfect sense.

Awareness is the gateway to opportunity.  I’m sure you will see areas for partnership and linkages as you know more about SERD, not only the work done in the Higher Education Programs but also in the Multicultural Alliances and International Programs.  I’m sure you also know our leadership wants to see a greater diversity in science and agriculture. That’s our key mission, too, and it’s my passion.

In closing, as a new director of a newly renamed agency, I welcome you with an invitation—this newsletter. My invitation is your chance to embark on a journey of information, collaboration, and increased partnership.

Jermelina Tupas, Director of SERD Higher Education Programs

Welcome Shane Ball to SERD

Shane Ball recently joined the SERD staff.  As a data analyst, he will direct new efforts to improve our data collection and management.

Ball served as an agronomy specialist, agricultural extension and research director, and cotton program director at New Mexico State University, Rutgers University, and the University of California–Davis, respectively. He received his Ph.D. (breeding/genetics & statistics) from Washington State University; a master’s degree (breeding/genetics & statistics) from North Carolina State University, and a bachelor’s degree (biology & mathematics) from Sul Ross State University.

New Era Rural Technology Program: First Award Season a Success

The New Era Rural Technology Program held its first panel this summer and awarded $692,870 to six independent community colleges for projects involving bio-fuels, renewable energy, and pulp and paper technologies. Awards ranged from $9,244 to $278,699.  The program, authorized under the National Agricultural Research, Extension, and Teaching Policy Act of 1977, funds community colleges or advanced technological centers in census-defined rural areas.  The recipients are independently accredited schools, not affiliated with a major college or university.  The money allows these schools to develop technology, research, and training to produce graduates capable of bringing excellence to the U.S. workforce in the fields of bio-energy, pulp and paper manufacturing, and agriculture-based renewable energy resources. This will ultimately provide jobs in rural areas and improve U.S. competitiveness in the global marketplace.

In the Spotlight: Two Schools, Many SERD Programs

Salish Kootenai College, in Pablo, MT, has created an innovative bachelor’s degree program in forestry by using several SERD programs. The school used a Higher Education Challenge Grant to establish a 4-year forestry program, and the Multicultural Scholars Program to provide scholarships for five students in the new program.  Salish Kootenai also developed an articulation agreement with College of the Menominee Nation so their associate forestry degree earners could pursue a 4-year degree at Salish Kootenai. To ensure the partnership’s success, Menominee obtained a Secondary Education Challenge Grant to enhance its own forestry program.  The program and partnership are having results. Data showed there were only 20 Native Americans in bachelor’s programs in forestry in 2006; there were 35 in 2008 and 43 in 2009.  So far, 8 students who have graduated from the Salish Kootenai forestry program and some have gone on to mange tribal forests and pursue advanced degrees. Salish Kootenai is also an active participant in the 1994 Tribal College Grant programs, and used the Tribal College Research Grant Program to fund a study on invasive species and a Tribal College Equity Grant to help develop a new curriculum in water resources and environmental science. Salish Kootenai demonstrates the many ways SERD programs can increase diversity in environmental science when project directors know the capacities of each grant.


Federally-Recognized Tribes Extension Program (FRTEP) Conference

The Intertribal Agriculture Council/Indian Nations Conservation Alliance Agriculture Symposium was held December 8-10, 2009, in Las Vegas, NV.  NIFA National Program Leader (NPL) Tim Grosser addressed the 400 attendees, proving an overview of NIFA and its support of tribal communities. Joan Gill, NPL for the NIFA’s FRTEP grants, held a listening session for funding recipients. Program Specialist Garland Robertson participated in exhibits and breakout sessions. The council members included American Indian producers and land-grant partners serving tribal communities through extension programs, many of which are financed through FRTEP.

Hispanic-Serving Institutions Project Director Conference

The Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI) Education Grants Program held its annual project directors meeting November 16-19, 2009, in Arlington, VA. There were 24 project directors and co-directors who gave presentations on a variety of research from biotechnology to food safety. The project directors came not only to teach, but also to learn as NIFA presented speakers from multiple agencies on many topics of interest to HSI faculty. Representatives from the National Science Foundation, Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, and other groups, talked about what they have to offer and their programs’ requirements.  Project directors also received practical advice about grant management from NIFA IT Specialist Carolyn Deckers about the Current Research Information System.

First American Land-Grant College Organization and Network
SERD hosted the annual meeting of the First American Land-Grant College Organization and Network (FALCON) October 17-20, 2009, at NIFA’s Waterfront Centre. FALCON fosters communication, cooperation, and professionalism among tribal college educators, many of whom have grants from NIFA programs. The conference had over 100 attendees, including tribal college faculty, students, and their advocates.  A preliminary report on a SERD-funded survey of tribal colleges was presented by Lisa Guion, of North Carolina State University. In addition to faculty and student presentations and posters, there was a special breakout session on October 20, where seven program leaders outside of SERD presented informal talks about their programs and the opportunities they offered to tribal colleges. Each talk had 13–20 participants.  Big thanks go to NPLs Siva Sureshwaran, Mary Ann Rozum, Shirley Gerrior, Daniel Cassidy, Patty Fulton, and Mike O’Neil for their time and to Antonio McLaren for his coordination efforts.


For a plain text copy of this newsletter, please contact Jill Lee. SERD NEWS is published quarterly. The next issue is planned for March 19, 2010

Editor: Jill Lee, SERD program specialist. If you have questions about SERD NEWS, please contact her at jlee@nifa.usda.gov.

Jermelina Tupas, Director of SERD Higher Education Programs

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