The Precision Livestock Production Research and Extension Experiences for Undergraduates program is in its second year at South Dakota State University.
The National Institute of Food and Agriculture-funded REEU Fellowship Program is a two-year program available to students of freshmen and sophomore year status. Participating students are pursuing bachelor’s degrees and are members of an ethnic minority group and/or are economically challenged and qualify for Pell Grant funding.
“We need to make sure professionals in animal agriculture mirror our diverse population in the USA,” said Michael Gonda, associate professor of animal science at South Dakota State.
This year’s students come from all across the nation with their home states of California, Alabama, Texas, Michigan and Florida. Three students attend Tuskegee University, one attends the University of California, one attends Oklahoma State University and another currently attends Michigan State University, but plans to transfer to SDState in fall 2018.
“We have tremendous challenges ahead for us as we try to feed a growing population while protecting the environment, fighting animal diseases, etc.,” Gonda said. “If we are to successfully face these challenges, our profession must be more inclusive.”
During the first summer, students live and work on SDState’s main campus for 10 weeks from May to August. All students are paired with two different faculty members who serve as their mentors throughout the program and work with them on active research and SDSU Extension projects involving farm animals.
Over the course of the summer, students learn cutting-edge research skills, develop scientific communication skills and prepare themselves for pursuing graduate studies and/or a career that will help feed a growing worldwide population in an environmentally sustainable manner.
During the second year of the program, students are given a stipend for living expenses at an off-campus site where they will complete another 10 weeks of work in their respective fields.
“This program is important because students are important,” Gonda said. “That’s No. 1. They’re our future.”
This project was supported by the REEU Program of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA, Grant #2016-06415.