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From the Classroom to Washington: 2022 E. Kika De La Garza Fellowship Program

Posted by Stephanie Ho, Acting Communications Lead, USDA’s Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement in Research and Science
Sep 20, 2022
Group photo of 2022 E. Kika De La Garza fellows with USDA staffers

July 2022 was the third hottest July the country has ever seen, and for staff and faculty from Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) and Hispanic-Serving School Districts, the sweltering temperatures they were experiencing in Washington, D.C. were no exception. This was not summer vacation. The 20 E. Kika De La Garza fellows were at U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) headquarters to meet with senior leaders from all of USDA’s mission areas.

“I now have a much better sense of the breadth of USDA’s work and resources,” said Engil Pereira, a 2022 fellow and an assistant professor at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. “I feel much more empowered to continue pursuing my goals at UTRGV, now that I understand what resources are available and who to contact.”

Deputy Agriculture Secretary Jewel Bronaugh thanked the fellows for their important work. The weeklong session also included talks by Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement Director Lisa Ramirez and leaders from around USDA.

The De La Garza fellows include faculty or staff from Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) and Hispanic-Serving School Districts around the country. These are educational institutions with Hispanic student enrollment of 25 percent or more. For five of the De La Garza fellows, an extra week of engagement involved working with USDA scientists at Agricultural Research Service (ARS) labs in Colorado, Mississippi, New York, and Washington, or with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Nebraska.

Even after the fellows go through program, they continue to collaborate with USDA. Alison Bray, a 2014 De La Garza fellow and chemistry associate professor from Texas Lutheran University, said the experience “opened up a completely new pathway for my research.” She added that spending time in an ARS lab also “allowed me to bring exciting new projects to my students” and “opened doorways for my students to intern with ARS in Beltsville and Fargo, N.D.”

The 2022 De La Garza fellows join participants going back to 1998 in creating a nation-wide network of educators who are working with USDA to help grow the next generation of American agriculture.

Learn more about USDA’s Hispanic-Serving Institutions National Program.

Category/Topic: Research and Science