May 31, 2024

Arkansas State University Agriculture Department

Arkansas Delta Informer Staff – May 30, 2024 – An Arkansas State University professor in the College of Agriculture is part of a team that has received a grant of nearly $300,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to create new teaching opportunities for HBCU and African-American teachers.

Dr. Nina Crutchfield, assistant professor of agricultural education, along with two researchers from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB) have been awarded a USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Capacity Building Grant (CBG) for 1890 institutions.

The Capacity Building Grant (CBG) was awarded to Crutchfield and UAPB co-principal investigators Dr. Nina Lyon-Bennett, assistant dean for academics in the School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Services, and Dr. Kimberly Davis, dean of the School of Education.

The three-year CGB grant was awarded for their project, “Creating a New Pathway for Increasing the Presence of African American Teachers in Ag Teacher Education Programs.”

“This will be what Dr. Bennett calls a ‘study-away’ program for five UAPB undergraduate students majoring in agriculture. The grant funds will support the students during the summers of 2025 and 2026 as they attend courses in agricultural education at A-State,” said Crutchfield, who will teach the classes.

“This is a well-planned experience for students, and we proudly embark on this transformative journey with UAPB,” added Dr. Mickey LaTour, dean of the College of Agriculture.

The visiting students will graduate from UAPB with an agriculture degree and the equivalent of a minor in agricultural education. 

“We are also fortunate to be approved to support a graduate student for the duration of the grant to gather data on the entire experience of the five students, to determine if this model of instructional collaboration has replication potential for other 1890 land-grant institutions where agricultural education does not currently exist,” said Crutchfield.

The 1890 land grant institutions are historically Black universities established under the Second Morrill Act of 1890.  
“The grant application highlights how the collaborative teaching and education project will incorporate curricula design and material development, strengthen instructional delivery systems, faculty preparation, and enhancement for education, and encourage the development of new student learning opportunities,” added Crutchfield.

The research and educational team will address CBG priority areas in several sectors including workforce development, rural community development and positive youth development. 

“Our goals include advancing cultural diversity of the agriculture, food and natural resources (AFNR) workforce by educating more students from underrepresented areas. We also want to increase the opportunities for collaboration between colleges of agriculture at UAPB and A-State by sharing faculty. In doing so, we can recruit, train and graduate agricultural educators from UAPB,” Crutchfield continued. 

“Another goal is to increase opportunities for African American college graduates to find employment in or near their local community. We want to increase their lifetime earning potential and secure 12-month teaching employment in the Mississippi Delta region.” 

Crutchfield shared that this fall, UAPB and A-State faculty will collaborate to recruit a cohort of five culturally diverse students to complete their agriculture degree while satisfying the requirements to be a licensed agricultural educator.

“One of the primary goals is for the selected students to complete their educational goals through their home university, the campus shaping their personal and professional identities while engaging with the A-State faculty and community. By attending courses at both universities, students will grow their professional networks across the Arkansas Delta region as they develop their teaching skills and talents,” she continued.

Crutchfield said they also want to provide agriculture industry mentorship for all participants. 

UAPB and A-State faculty will collaborate to recruit a cohort of five culturally diverse students to major in agricultural education at UAPB.  “Students will satisfy degree requirements for technical agriculture courses at UAPB, then, for two summer terms, students will complete agricultural education courses at A-State,” she added.

Through the program, they hope to elevate the stories of under-represented agriculturists in the state and develop agricultural industry mentorships to enhance future teachers’ classroom instruction.

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