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E. Kika De La Garza Fellowship Breaks Down Silos

Posted by Carrie Knight, Public Affairs Specialist, USDA Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement in Equity Initiatives
Jan 23, 2024
Dr. Kalyani Maitra

Dr. Kalyani Maitra is an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at California State University – Fresno, where she teaches and mentors undergraduate and graduate students. Last summer, she also became an E. Kika De La Garza (EKDLG) Science Fellow.

She first learned about U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) EKDLG Program after receiving information from the USDA Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement. She then attended a campus presentation where colleague and 2021 EKDLG Education Fellow Maral Kismetian shared her experience in the program. Maitra learned that the fellowship is designed to create opportunities for faculty and staff from Hispanic-serving institutions (those with at least 25 percent Hispanic student enrollment) to collaborate with USDA staff to gain insight into the resources available to their respective institutions and their students. She was impressed with what she heard and decided to apply.

She spent one week at USDA Headquarters in Washington, D.C., where she learned about the diverse programs and opportunities USDA offers to students and researchers. During her visit, Maitra spoke with USDA staff and leadership who shared stories about their work.

“The experience provided a great opportunity to learn about the expanse and operational capacity of USDA,” she said.

After her week in D.C., she spent a second week at the USDA Agricultural Research Service Honey Bee Lab in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where she was partnered with Research Entomologist Vincent Ricigliano. The two scientists share an interest in algae and its diverse applications. “I could see how my research could apply to this work,” she said. She plans to investigate these possible applications in her future work.

Until then, she is sharing all that she’s learned with students and colleagues.

“I share information about USDA programs and opportunities all the time – in a Zoom call, in the hallway, during class,” she said. Two of her students recently attended the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) Annual Conference at her suggestion.

Maitra is inspired by how the EKDLG fellowship encouraged her to think outside traditional academic boundaries – such as by interacting with other professionals in different fields – and she is sharing that mindset with her students and colleagues.

“My fellowship was so helpful at breaking down silos between disciplines,” she said.

The application deadline for the 2024 E. Kika De La Garza Fellowship is March 4, 2024. To learn more or to apply, visit Hispanic Serving Institutions National Program.

Category/Topic: Equity Initiatives