Thursday, April 21, 2022

UTSA, U.S. Fish and Wildlife and New Mexico State create career opportunities for underserved STEM students

UTSA, U.S. Fish and Wildlife and New Mexico State create career opportunities for underserved STEM students

A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employee discusses alligators with an intern at Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana. Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

APRIL 19, 2022 — UTSA has signed a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and New Mexico State University (NMSU) to create a consortium that will establish a pipeline for STEM students from underrepresented backgrounds at UTSA and NMSU to be placed in rewarding internships and professions. The workforce training and education from these experiences will prepare students for future careers within FWS and other federal agencies.

“We are truly appreciative of this opportunity to collaborate with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and New Mexico State University in creating a model for other minority serving institutions to provide valuable experiential learning opportunities to support the success of our underserved and minority students,” UTSA Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Kimberly Andrews Espy said. “Through Classroom to Career opportunities including internships, peer-to-peer mentoring and experiential networks, we will support students, faculty and early career professionals with unique experiences and career preparation for competitive professional natural resource career positions.”


“UTSA aspires to develop leaders in natural resources and conservation. We have developed our curriculum to prepare our talented students for careers after they graduate.”


A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employee holds shells for a young man to photograph with his cell phone at the Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Delaware. Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service



UTSA established the Classroom-to-Career Initiative in 2018 as part of its 10-year strategic plan to help students gain the hard and soft skills in demand by employers. The program is particularly important in UTSA’s efforts to turn classroom success of historically underserved populations into lifelong professional success after graduation. As part of its strategic plan and by 2028, UTSA aims for 75% of its undergraduate students to participate in some type of experiential learning by the time they graduate.

This formal partnership between UTSA, FWS and NMSU will help underrepresented students gain exposure to research and career opportunities, within FWS or similar agencies, and prepare them to become research and policy leaders.

“We are excited to formalize this partnership that will provide a platform to recruit students from diverse backgrounds into conservation career opportunities within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” Service Director Martha Williams said. “The future success of the Service hinges on recruiting, welcoming and empowering bright, driven professionals from diverse backgrounds who can help us find effective approaches and innovative solutions to meet the conservation challenges of today and the future.” 

The recent classification of UTSA as a Tier One research university and its designation as a Hispanic Serving Institution places it in a unique position to advance diversity in STEM. The MOU will establish a consortium of minority-serving institutions with UTSA as a founding ambassador. The consortium will work to cultivate talented undergraduate and graduate minority students and connect them with experiential learning opportunities via a network of faculty and students engaged in research related to FWS.

“UTSA aspires to develop leaders in natural resources and conservation,” said Janis Bush, professor and chair of the UTSA College of Sciences’ Department of Integrative Biology. “We have developed our curriculum to prepare our talented students for careers after they graduate. This MOU and consortium will enable our students to collaborate with their peers from other universities, which will create new and exciting career opportunities.”

"The signing and actualization of the intent of this Memorandum of Understanding between these educational institutions and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is a significant step in advancing more diversity in natural resources and environmental sciences careers,” said Benjamin Tuggle, former assistant director for the Science Applications program at FWS.

Tuggle is the namesake for UTSA’s Tuggle Scholars Program, which is dedicated to mentoring and training graduate students who aspire to become leaders in environmental science and ecology. Tuggle worked with FWS from 1979 until his retirement in 2019 and served as a liaison for both the university and the agency at the recent signing.

“The subsequent actions of the partnership and the development of the relationships will play a pivotal role, over time, in developing a new generation of highly trained minority students that government, educational institutions and industry can employ," Tuggle added.


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Explore the UTSA College of Sciences.
⇒ Learn more about the Department of Integrative Biology.

Participants met online earlier this week on Monday, April 11, to sign the MOU. UTSA faculty and staff convened at the John Peace Library on the UTSA Main Campus. UTSA President Taylor Eighmy signed on behalf of UTSA. Joining Eighmy for the signing were Espy; Heather Shipley, senior vice provost and dean of the University College; David Silva, dean of the College of Sciences; Bush; Amelia King-Kostelac, assistant professor of practice in the Department of Integrative Biology; and Julian Chavez, undergraduate program manager for the department.

Martha Williams, director of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was the signing official for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Representatives from the agency also included Cynthia Martinez, chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System, Inez Uhl, chief of the Office of Diversity and Inclusive Workforce Management, and Doug Hobbs, chief of the Division of Partners and Intergovernmental Affairs, External Affairs.

Ryan Schoensee



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The University of Texas at San Antonio is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. As an institution of access and excellence, UTSA embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property - for Texas, the nation and the world.

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UTSA is a proud Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) as designated by the U.S. Department of Education.

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The University of Texas at San Antonio, a Hispanic Serving Institution situated in a global city that has been a crossroads of peoples and cultures for centuries, values diversity and inclusion in all aspects of university life. As an institution expressly founded to advance the education of Mexican Americans and other underserved communities, our university is committed to ending generations of discrimination and inequity. UTSA, a premier public research university, fosters academic excellence through a community of dialogue, discovery and innovation that embraces the uniqueness of each voice.