Fort Valley State awarded NextGen grant to cultivate student success

Published By: Latasha Ford December 8, 2023

Dr. Mohammed Ibrahim, associate dean for academics, is shown with animal science major Nallely Mendez at the 2023 FVSU Research Day.

Fort Valley State University (FVSU) will share in the benefits of an $18 million grant awarded to 1890 land-grant partner Tennessee State University’s (TSU) College of Agriculture to support the next generation of professionals in agricultural careers.

This U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) grant is through the NextGen grant program. The purpose is to enable minority serving institutions to build and sustain the next generation of the food, agriculture, natural resources and human sciences workforce. TSU’s project entitled, “NEXTGENeration Inclusion Consortium for Building the Food, Agriculture, Natural Resources and Human Sciences Pipeline (FANHP)” is led by principal investigator Dr. John C. Ricketts, professor in the Department of Agricultural Sciences at TSU.

FVSU’s College of Agriculture, Family Sciences and Technology (CAFST) received a $1,316,596 subaward from this NIFA-funded grant for five years. Dr. Hari Singh, professor in the Department of Agricultural Sciences, is the principal investigator, and Dr. Mohammed Ibrahim, associate dean for academics in the CAFST, is the co-principal investigator.

Singh and Ibrahim explained that their main goal is to provide paid summer internships for high school students interested in attending FVSU and hands-on research engagements at other institutions for current students. Annual study abroad opportunities are part of the grant as well.

In addition, the FVSU research duo plan to establish and fund academic scholarships rewarding underserved students in-state and out of state involved in 4-H, Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS), Junior MANRRS and Future Farmers of America (FFA). This will help build student leaders in areas of need to support their development academically and professionally. Singh noted FVSU will also offer a USDA NIFA-funded College of Agriculture course sharing network called Parchment. This system will allow students to have access to different curricula in agriculture.

Dr. Hari Singh, professor in the Department of Agricultural Sciences, reviews poster presentation by Marian Perez, 2023 plant science biotechnology graduate and valedictorian, at the 2023 FVSU Research Day.

“The possibilities of this grant will boost the interest of students and help develop a workforce for the next generation,” Singh expressed. “The course serving network will be a major advantage.”

He and Ibrahim are excited about the scholarships, which is a financial benefit, but also the outreach students will experience through networking and developing relationships.

“Students acquiring soft skills will be tremendous,” Ibrahim said, referring to their participation in conferences and traveling abroad to immerse themselves in diverse cultures.

In addition to FVSU, TSU is partnering with faculty from Alcorn State University, the University of Houston, Chief Dull Knife College, Middle Tennessee State University, University of Tennessee – Martin, University of Tennessee – Knoxville, Virginia Tech, Vanderbilt University and the MANRRS organization.

The NextGen grant program is a part of USDA NIFA’s $262.5 million investment in institutions of higher education to develop future diverse agricultural professionals. The program is funded by President Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act. Of the 33 awarded projects across 24 states, only five were awarded in Tier 3, projects up to $20 million and including at least three institutions across two states.