Student Success and Workforce Development (SSWD Center) is to support the collective efforts of the 1890 land-grant universities to enhance their success in improving the recruitment, retention, and graduation of industry-ready underrepresented minority students. The SSWD Center will continue and expand the existing Virtual Center to Motivate and Educate for Achievement (MEA Center). The objectives of the SSWD Center coincide nicely with the objectives of the MEA Center to seamlessly continue its operation while currently expanding the consortium and adding a cross-cutting focus on emerging technologies.
Objective 1: Provide experiential learning opportunities
Provide experiential learning opportunities to all students (K-16). These opportunities cover FAHN sciences, STEM fields, soft skills development, research skills, international engagement, conference attendance/presentations, leadership training and technology skill development. The MEA Center team decided to combine MEA Center objectives 3 (STEM engagement) and 4 (experiential learning) into objective 1 for the SSWD Center. This objective will have strong applications to preparing secondary students for FANH sciences majors and enhancing the academic experience of undergraduate and graduate students.
The SSWD Center cluster group for experiential learning and STEM engagement implements three major initiatives across the 1890 land-grant system, 1) inter-institutional undergraduate research experience, 2) FDA Food Safety Regulatory Online Certificate Training and 3) the virtual cross-curricular course delivery in FANH Ag-STEM sciences across the 1890s via the National Student Exchange (NSE). These proposed endeavors synergistically strengthen student training and their employability skills in the Ag-STEM areas on both domestic and global levels.
Objective 2: Recruit, retain, mentor, and graduate first-generation, underrepresented students at 1890 LGUs.
Recruiting activities that will be provided by the SSWD Center include general career/major-focused marketing materials that can be provided to all 1890 LGUs, e-marketing, strategies, and best practices for virtual open house events for families, engagement of USDA 1890 Liaisons in recruitment activities, leveraging of USDA 1890 scholarship program, and a focus on partnerships with community colleges. Since 2001, N.C. A & T has successfully implemented a 2+2 online program in agricultural education. The program is designed to allow students with two-year degrees, to transfer their Associate’s degree in an agricultural related discipline into a bachelor’s of science degree in agricultural education at N.C. A&T.
To enhance retention efforts from 1890 LGUs a formalized mentoring program and support initiatives will be used as a strategy to increase enrollment retention, and graduation rates. The University of Pine Bluff and N.C. A&T will provide leadership for this cluster group and proposes the following activities to support the 180 LGUs system through the SSWD Center with 1) partnership with the Mentor Collective to develop a formalized 1890 Mentoring Program beginning especially with first-generation college students pursuing degree in colleges/schools of Agriculture at 1890 land-grant universities, 2) development of an 1890 Mentoring. Program newsletter for stakeholders as easy access to mentoring tips 3) Mentoring Program Resource Guide 4) development of a lecture series for mentees to expose them to successful individuals of color in the FANH sciences and STEM fields 5) Development of an 1890 Mentor Blog. 6) development of a Summer Scholars Mentoring Program for high school students.
Objective 3: Deliver workforce development experiences for students to enhance the pipeline from postsecondary to graduate programs and to careers.
Workforce development activities are essential to students as they provide opportunities to gain real world, applicable, experiences, in their respective academic field. These opportunities are the proven way to help students acquire and demonstrate their work readiness to potential employers. Consortium partners from Lincoln University and Tuskegee University will address workforce development through the establishment of an Employability Faulty Resource Center, adoption of an Employability Student Certificate Program and implementation of a Virtual Food and Ag Career Fair.
Objective 4: Develop strategies to integrate emerging technologies into the academic curriculum for postsecondary students.
There are three areas of proposed technologies with respect to the SSWD Center 1) instructional technology with respect to online/distance education. 2) advising/student management technology and 3) technology used in the FANH sciences industry, such as drones, precision agriculture, bioinformatics, and big data. Fort Valley State will coordinate the program and provide professional development opportunities for the emerging technologies prior to materials being made available to the LGU system. Furthermore, virtual reality immersion module will be developed to enhance experiential learning via virtual platforms.