September 26, 2023

WILBERFORCE — Central State University is partnering with three other universities to receive a $10 million award from the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

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CSU is receiving a $2.5 million grant to recruit, educate, and retain the next generation of diverse food and agriculture professionals, a university spokesperson said.

“The goal is to train our undergraduate students to become the essential workforce for the future of agriculture in the United States,” said Dr. Hongmei Li-Byarlay, CSU’s principal investigator (PI) for the project, research associate professor of entomology at CSU, and project director for Pollinator Health, Agricultural Research Development Program. “The grant will provide a lot of training opportunities and research internships for students to explore a variety of topics in agriculture, especially in soil science, entomology, and life science.”

The From Learning to Leading: Cultivating the Next Generating of Diverse Food and Agriculture Professionals (NEXTGEN) award was given to Central State and Lincoln University, two Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), according to the university.

“The NEXTGEN project presents an exciting opportunity for Central State to increase its impact on the next generation of agricultural workers by supporting increased minority participation and knowledge attainment, said Li-Byarlay. “The $2.5 million grant will also help recruit outstanding students for the agricultural workforce.”

“For the people of Ohio, this award is important. Our university is building a workforce for agriculture and Ohio is predominantly an agricultural state,” said Dr. Sharath Krishna, co-PI and professor of biology and agricultural and life sciences at CSU. “We need to train citizens of Ohio to do research, to study and extend scientific knowledge on agriculture to the farmers. That is the main intent of this project.”

The award was also given to a Hispanic-serving institution (HSI), Texas A&M University, and a Research University (RIU) Missouri University of Science and Technology.

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