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The Caminos - Thesis Competition - Program

The “Caminos: Thesis Competition” Program

Nifa Authors
Guest Author, Communications Office
Guest Author
Olga Gerhart and Jaime Chahin, Texas State University

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) supports cutting-edge discoveries from research laboratories to farms, classrooms, and communities. The “Caminos: Thesis Competition” program helped prepare young Hispanic scholars to pursue a career in the food and agricultural sciences.

“Caminos,” which ran from 2016 – 2020, was a successful student development program directed by Dr. Jaime Chahin at Texas State University. The goal of Caminos was to recruit, engage and motivate young, Hispanic graduate Fellows to pursue a career in the food and agricultural sciences.  The program’s goal was achieved by accomplishing these objectives:

  • Implement a Career Preparation Institute designed to facilitate Fellows’ entries into doctoral programs and/or the labor force. The Caminos project developed a partnership and sponsorship for the Career Preparation Institute at the National American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education Conference in March 2017.Fellows networked with nationally recognized faculty researchers and USDA agency representatives. Fellows also visited a USDA Agricultural Research lab at Riverside, California.
  • Create a Master’s Thesis Award Program in Agriculture, Natural Science and Technology. The Award program was developed in partnership with AAHHE. Twenty Fellows were selected and sponsored to an AAHHE National Conference, where they were invited to a thesis competition. Three winners presented their research.
  • Promote research by developing mini-grant research projects that engage Fellows with USDA agencies and mentors. Fellows identified research topics and presented their research at professional meetings. Three Fellows presented at a National AAHHE Conference.
  • Recruit Fellows for USDA internships. All Fellows applied for USDA internships or participated in USDA programs.

Accomplishments and Impact
The Caminos program has had a tremendous impact. The program served 61 Fellows from schools in nine states: California, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, New Mexico, North Dakota, Texas, Wisconsin, and Wyoming, and Puerto Rico.  Their successes are as follows:

  • Three published manuscripts
  • 39 oral and conference presentations
  • 13 poster presentations at conferences
  • 19 enrolled in PhD programs
  • Five completed internships with USDA
  • Two employed by federal departments, including USDA and DOD
  • Two completing USDA Fellowships
  • Five students collaborated with the USDA on research projects

For more information on the “Caminos” program, please see the Texas State University website.

This post is part of a series highlighting the accomplishments of grantees of the Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI) Education Grants Program. This competitive grants program is intended to promote and strengthen the ability of Hispanic-Serving Institutions to carry out higher education programs in the food and agricultural sciences and attract outstanding students and produce graduates capable of enhancing the Nation's food and agricultural scientific and professional work force.

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