College of Agriculture


USDA awards more than $2M in grants to 7 Ag Faculty

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE — The U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded more than $2 million in Teaching, Research and Extension Capacity Building Grants to seven Tennessee State University professors in the College of Agriculture.

The funds will be dedicated to developing research and extension activities designed to increase and strengthen food and agricultural sciences through integration of teaching, research and extension.

The seven professors, who competed in a competitive grant writing process, are Suping Zhou, Ankit Patras, Aliyar Fouladkhah, Jason de Koff, Aditya Khanal, Matthew Blair, and Hongwei Si. Read more.

Agriculture, engineering students volunteer for new STEM Scouts program

STEMstudentsSix College of Agriculture students are trading their free Friday afternoons to teach young people in an innovative scouts program that exposes youth to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) activities.

Instead of exploring the woods, STEM Scouts, funded by the Scoutreach Division of The Middle Tennessee Boy Scouts of America, is a co-ed program offering kids the opportunity to explore the lab. The desired result is that more students might pursue a career in science – a field that offers countless jobs needing to be filled.

“The lack of programming (in education) and the lack of American workers going into programming has become an issue of national security,” said Rhyan Preyer, STEM Executive and leader of the new program. “If we recruit for athletics, why not recruit our talent for the sciences?”

The College of Agriculture students and six additional students from the College of Engineering are working with 45 children at three different locations: East Park, Sevier Park, and McFerrin Park in Nashville.

It’s a win-win situation for all involved. The college students gain experience teaching in a classroom and lab setting (which reinforces their knowledge), while young people learn the scientific method conducting their own research with scientific equipment.

“Over the past year, we have delivered drones and small colorful coding robots called Ozobots to the children,” Preyer said. “They work with VEX robotic units and we are teaching coding, engineering, and budget management.”

TSU Assistant Professor Dr. De’Etra Young was instrumental in connecting the College of Agriculture students with STEM Scouts. Through connections, Dr. Young met with Dawanna Hughes, Nashboro District Executive and Scoutreach Advisor.

“It’s an opportunity for us to give back to the community, but it also allows our students to get hands-on experience,” said Dr. Young, who advises top talented students in the College of Agriculture. “It’s wonderful that we have the ability to expose young kids to STEM and perhaps increase the student’s desire to pursue a career in science.”

Freshmen Kristin Day has accepted the role of TSU’s College of Agriculture ambassador for the STEM Scouts program in Nashville. She reaches out to her fellow students and other students at local universities to recruit them as volunteers. She is already in discussion with a service fraternity at Vanderbilt University to get them involved.

Day said it’s an added bonus to be handed this responsibility in her freshman year.

The other students who have volunteered as lab managers or assistant lab managers are Nia Gordon, Jenna Jones, Kanita Hutchinson, Ryan Smith, and Braxton Simpson. The six students from TSU’s College of Engineering are Charlie Green, Jr., Kevin Scott, Larry Perdue, Joshua Campbell, Rayshawn Robertson, and Christian Robinson.

“The program is doing better than we expected,” Hughes said. “What we have seen is phenomenal, the way these kids have attached themselves to this program. They really owned it.”

Following the holiday break, the college students and their young aspiring scientists will reconvene, meeting Friday afternoons at the three parks. They have high hopes that they will see them later in a university classroom and a professional lab one day. 


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