NOVEMBER 15, 2022 — A UTSA-led research coalition has been selected to receive a four-year, $1M grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, a division of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), to establish the #EcoJEDI (justice, equity, diversity and inclusion) program, a citywide collaboration facilitating career readiness in food and agriculture sciences (FAS).
The project will target historically marginalized, underserved populations through science literacy and storytelling to build an education pathway to USDA careers, beginning in high school and continuing on to higher education.
“#EcoJEDI will prepare students from underserved populations for state and federal employment through hands-on, field-based experiences,” said Jeffrey Hutchinson, associate professor in the UTSA College of Sciences. “They will gain exposure to natural resource research and management through nature immersion, experiential learning, and culturally and regionally relevant communication practices.”
The #EcoJEDI program seeks to bolster recruitment, graduation and career readiness in FAS and establish a career pipeline with the USDA by prioritizing the inclusion of underserved student groups into experiential learning opportunities during the academic year and summer terms. Three Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs)—UTSA, Northeast Lakeview College (NLC) and Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU)—will collaborate to offer the program.
The #EcoJEDI program will integrate writing and other communication skills into existing science courses through a facilitated process called communication-enriched curriculum (CEC) that will include counter-storytelling, a method that chronicles the untold stories of underrepresented groups and communities.
“Counter-storytelling is used to encourage perspectives that are often considered marginal, subjective and non-disciplinary,” explained Sue Hum, a professor in the UTSA College of Liberal and Fine Arts.
#EcoJEDI is framed in an approachable learning style that is culturally inclusive to augment science students’ power skills in communication and writing. Participants will spotlight local ecological concerns through science narratives, stories that draw from a student’s background and cultural heritage. This storytelling is more inclusive and increases engagement in leadership, outreach and community building.
Nearly half of the project’s grant funding is dedicated to driving student success, including funding #EcoJEDI scholars to engage in environmental science and natural resource learning opportunities that will hone the communication and leadership skills that are crucial for career readiness. The remaining funds will support university initiatives such as summer enrichment activities, nature-immersion research, mentoring, workshops and training. That money will also fund faculty pay and stipends to support these activities.
Scholars will have the opportunity to work with their peers from across San Antonio during the summer enrichment activities and nature-immersion research. They will also share, with their peers, the stories of their communities.
This project will create programming that nurtures passionate engagement with natural resource environments, increasing experiences and access to Texas private landowners, urban green spaces and nearby natural resources.
For example, #EcoJEDI scholars will travel to the Gulf Coast to perform deep ocean activities related to marine biology and will assess water pollution in freshwater and estuaries along the coast.
Additional summer hands-on learning opportunities may include studies of soil and water microbiology, urban ecology and forestry, agroecology, water pollution and rangeland restoration.
These planned experiential learning opportunities will expose scholars to the benefits of studying natural resources and demonstrate how these resources affect their communities. #EcoJEDI initiatives will be implemented across a wide range of disciplines, such as natural resources science, biology, environmental science and environmental engineering.
“We are committed to creating a citywide collaboration to facilitate a skilled, well-prepared pipeline of historically marginalized, underserved populations of undergraduate and graduate students studying food and agriculture sciences related disciplines,” said Vikram Kapoor, an associate professor in the Margie and Bill Klesse College of Engineering and Integrated Design.
Hutchinson will serve as the principal investigator of #EcoJEDI. Joining Hutchinson as co-PIs are Hum, Kapoor and Gwen Young, associate professor of instruction in the Department of Integrative Biology.
Program co-PIs from OLLU include Briana Hauff Salas, assistant professor of environmental science, and Jamie Crosswhite ’20, UTSA alumna and instructor of professional writing and communication. The program co-PI from NLC is Laura Perry ’01, UTSA alumna and professor of biology.
UTSA Today is produced by University Communications and Marketing, the official news source of The University of Texas at San Antonio. Send your feedback to email@example.com. Keep up-to-date on UTSA news by visiting UTSA Today. Connect with UTSA online at Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Instagram.
Join the UTSA community in celebrating the life of Dr. Thelma Duffey.Aula Canaria (BV 1.328), Buena Vista Building, Downtown Campus
The proposed annual BME Research Symposium will allow students to present their undergraduate research free of charge, providing them with the opportunity to network and build their professional skills.H-E-B Student Union Ballroom 1 & 2, Main Campus
The UTSA Marches Committee, in partnership with the Cesar E. Chavez Legacy and Education Foundation, invites everyone to the 27th annual Cesar E. Chavez March for Justice. This event is in conjunction with the "Yes We CAN" food donation drive with the San Antonio Food Bank. Guests are encouraged to bring canned food items with them to the march to deposit cans into barrels before the march begins.1310 Guadalupe St, San Antonio, TX 78207
Join us to learn about how Impostor Syndrome can affect your career decisions and how you view yourself, your knowledge, and abilities. You will leave with actionable items related to implementing coping strategies for symptoms that may arise in your career development (mentally, physically, emotionally).University Career Center (S.U. 2.02.04,) Main Campus
Join UTSA librarians for this introductory workshop for early career faculty on how to build your online scholarly identity.John Peace Library, GroupSpot B
Join the conversation with Karleen Pendleton Jimenez, a professor in the Department of Gender and Social Justice at Trent University.Virtual Event
Learn to use the dynamic tool VMOCK to assist you in your job/internship search. Evaluate your resume. Get feedback on your "elevator pitch" and on how you engage in verbal communication virtually and in-person.Multidisciplinary Studies (MS 2.02.36,) Main Campus
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.
To be a premier public research university, providing access to educational excellence and preparing citizen leaders for the global environment.
We encourage an environment of dialogue and discovery, where integrity, excellence, inclusiveness, respect, collaboration and innovation are fostered.
UTSA is a proud Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) as designated by the U.S. Department of Education.
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.