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Food Safety and Agroterrorism Training: Education Our Future Workforce

Morrish, Douglas
Texas State University
Start date
End date
Objective 1. Create and implement a Joint Admissions Agreement with Texas State University and Laredo Community College / Palo Alto College / Northwest Vista College to increase the transfer rate of Hispanic students to a 4 year university.

Objective 2. Encourage Hispanic community college students to develop early linkages with Texas State University through the newly established University Transfer Centers, mentorship websites, summer camps, faculty networking, and experiential learning fieldtrips and have a retention rate at or higher than that of the University.

Objective 3. Develop early linkages and a strong pipeline for K-12 students by visiting 10 schools a year with a high representation of Hispanic students. Discussion and activities regarding USDA employment will be performed.

Objective 4. Train 50 scholar Hispanic students in the course "Preparing Communities for Agroterrorism".

Objective 5. Retain and place 90 percent of the student participants in job shadowing and internship opportunities within USDA agencies.

Objective 6. Graduate 50 Hispanic students who are well trained and ready to enter employment in the food safety / inspection areas with APHIS, FSIS, or another USDA agency.

Objective 7. Provide funding for 6 graduate students to complete a thesis and a degree within the Department of Agriculture, thus allowing them to be competitive for USDA employment.

Objective 8. Form "Academic Research Clusters" (directed by faculty and graduate students) to create a mentoring component and allow Hispanic students to collect data and present their findings at one research conference.

Participants will increase their credentials by being trained in an agroterrorism course entitled Preparedness and Response to Food and Agriculture Incidents thus increasing their chances of being employed by FSIS, APHIS, or other USDA agencies. The newly created Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences (MANRRS) organization will travel to secondary schools with a high representation of Hispanic students and discuss the many employment opportunities available within USDA.

The project creates many safety nets to increase retention of Hispanic students. University Transfer Centers will be created at Laredo Community College and Palo Alto College, thus making a "one-stop shop" for students to get information about transferring, admission requirements, and USDA job shadowing or internship opportunities. "Academic Research Clusters" of 4 or 5 students will be paired with a faculty member creating a "research team". A "travelling classroom" component to the Southwest Border Food Safety and Defense Center in Las Cruces, NM gives students hands on experience with the day to day operations of inspection, safety, and agroterrorism threats in dairies, Mexico livestock border crossing, food processing facilities, etc.

All 50 participants will be provided and required to participate in and complete job shadowing and/or USDA internships during the life of the project, thus increasing possible employment with USDA and alleviating underrepresentation of Hispanic workers in the agency.

More information
Following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, much attention by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) has been put on agroterrorism and the safety of our food supply (House Research Organization, 2001). These alerts are still present today. Many jobs are available for students who are trained in this specific area, but the Hispanic population is often underrepresented in the food safety and inspection area. The proposed project will fund 50 undergraduate college students' education from Texas State University, Laredo Community College, Palo Alto College, and Northwest Vista College and 6 graduate students to help administer the program. The community college students will then transfer to Texas State University Department of Agriculture. During this funding period, 50 scholar Hispanic students will be involved in training to become certified in agroterrorism by completeing the course entitled Preparedness and Response to Food and Agriculture Incidents: Management and Planning Level. The 50 scholar students will participate in a one week "travelling classroom" to the Southwest Border Food Safety and Defense Center where they will be introduced to food safety vulnerabilities through field trips to dairies, food processing factories, the United States/Mexico Livestock Border Crossing, and others. During the course of the project, students at all of the participating community colleges will be required to attend mandatory teleconference seminars until they physically transfer to Texas State University. These seminars will be used for mentoring, tracking, and presenting materials completed. "Academic Research Clusters" will be formed and students will work with a faculty member on a research project. This research will be presented at the local institution and at regional and national conferences. Additionally, all participating students will participate in job shadowing and internship opportunities with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the Food Safety and Inspection Service, or other USDA agencies. Students funded through this innovative program will gain a valuable certification and an immense amount of experience with food safety and agroterrorism, thus increasing their chances of employment with USDA and helping narrow the gap of underrepresented Hispanic students in food and agricultural sciences and USDA agencies.

The project will be initiated by formulating and signing a Joint Admissions Agreement between the institutions. The next process will be creating marketing materials and an application addressing Hispanic/Latino recipients based on underrepresentation, need and merit. One of the marketing strategies will be to create a project website displaying opportunities, announcements, best practices, experiential learning activities, and USDA information. Each community college (Laredo Community College, Palo Alto College, and Northwest Vista College) will receive 13 slots for the program. The additional 11 slots will be used at Texas State University. The project will have to be advertised and publicized at each campus. This portion of the project will be managed by the newly created Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences (MANRRS) organization. This organization will be managed by two bilingual graduate students. Three graduate students will be recruited for Fall 2011 / Spring 2012. This organization will make 2 to 3 recruitment trips to each institution to talk to classes, faculty, administration, and individual students about the opportunities available with the project. An application deadline of October 15th will be implemented with intentions to fund the participants Spring and Summer 2012. University transfer centers will also be created at Laredo Community College and Palo Alto College. Bilingual clerical help will also be advertised and hired. All 50 project participants will participate in a 7 day summer workshop at Texas State University during Summer 2012. The workshop will consist of training and certifying the students in agroterrorism, creating "Academic Research Clusters," guest speakers from USDA, and faculty guest speakers. Each student will be issued an IPAD during the 7 day stay to manage and complete assignments during the camp. "Academic Research Clusters" will be formed and students will work with a faculty member on a research project. A stipend will be provided to both the student and the faculty member to manage the team. This research will be presented at the local institution and at regional and national conferences. During Summer 2 of the project, students will attend a 7 day "travelling classroom" component of the project. All 50 students will travel to the Southwest Border Food Safety and Defense Center to experience food safety and vulnerabilities at multiple locations. The IPAD will be re-issued to the students during the 7 days to keep a working journal of their experiences. Year 3 and 4 of the project is where students will be immersed in to job shadowing and internships with USDA agencies with the ultimate goal being decreasing the underrepresentation of Hispanic students in USDA jobs . Yearly evaluations will be conducted by the local evaluator and a meta-analysis evaluator will compile the local evaluator's results.

Funding Source
Nat'l. Inst. of Food and Agriculture
Project source
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Project number
Accession number
Natural Toxins
Food Defense and Integrity