Our nation is faced with two education problems: ethnic disparity in postsecondary degree recipients and too few qualified graduates to fill requisite positions in the agriculture workforce. 3eX-Ag addresses these problems by positioning underrepresented students majoring in Agricultural Sciences at Texas State University for academic and professional success.
3eX-Ag is a collaborative effort between Dr. Merritt Drewery and Dr. Ryan Anderson of Texas State University and Dr. Tryon Wickersham of Texas A&M University. Through the program’s four years (2020-2024), students at Texas State University complete original research with program directors, participate in a tour of production agriculture in the Texas panhandle, and/or interface with agricultural producers. Students involved in 3eX-Ag are underrepresented, representing either ethnic minority, first-generation college students, and/or economically disadvantaged populations.
Despite pandemic challenges during the first two semesters of 3eX-Ag, here are some program successes:
- Two manuscripts led by undergraduate students were published in North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture (NACTA), a peer-reviewed journal; five additional manuscripts will be submitted this summer
- One undergraduate honors thesis was completed
- Three undergraduate students presented their research at a university conference, one of which won the first-place prize
- Six abstracts were submitted by undergraduate students to national conferences
- One student completed a Communications and Marketing internship
- Three students received institutional scholarships to award their scholarly efforts
Impact on Students
Four students have graduated from Texas State University and the 3eX-Ag program, all of whom are beginning graduate school at Texas State University or Texas A&M University in the 2021-2022 or 2022-2023 academic year.
When asked: “What is working well with 3eX-Ag?” during our annual evaluation, students reported the mentoring from program directors, the opportunity to conduct research and manage a project, developing relationships with professors and with other students. One student said: “I have sincerely enjoyed my time as a member of the 3eX-Ag program and have learned an immense amount about agriculture and working with others in the past year. The whole research process has been so rewarding and has really made me excited for my future (hopeful) career in ag research.”
What’s Next for 3eX-Ag
The first 3eX-Ag graduate student is attending Texas A&M University this summer conducting her thesis research. She will disseminate her data and mentor undergraduate students in their scholarly efforts during the coming academic year. We will retain three undergraduate students currently involved in 3eX-Ag and hire three more this academic year.
Texas State University will host the Southern Family Farmers and Food Systems Conference in August. 3eX-Ag students will be involved in this effort, presenting research and volunteering at the conference. This will introduce students to an estimated 500-plus farmers, ranchers, and food systems professionals. In summer 2022, Drs. Drewery and Wickersham will lead an inter-institutional tour of production agriculture in the Texas Panhandle. The four-day tour will be part of curriculum offered by either university to expose students to practical applications of and careers in agricultural sciences. We anticipate these experiences will result in employment and professional/personal development for students.
We will continue to evaluate our activities under the guidance of Dr. Manuel Piña Jr., of Texas A&M University, and will publish the program’s lessons learned, impacts, and outcomes at the end of our second year of funding, July 2022.
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.