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March 6, 2017


Mesa SEEDS Scholars Travel to New Mexico to Present Research

By Lauren J. Mapp

Four San Diego Mesa College SEEDS (STEM Engagement for the Enrichment of Diverse Students program) students presented their research projects at the 2017 Principal Investigator’s Meeting Feb. 16-18 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Four San Diego Mesa College SEEDS (STEM Engagement for the Enrichment of Diverse Students program) students presented their research projects at the 2017 Principal Investigator’s Meeting Feb. 16-18 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

 

The theme for this year’s conference, hosted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and National Institute of Food and Agriculture was, “Workforce Diversity and Career Opportunities within the USDA for Current and Recent Graduates.” The students participated in three days of student and professional track activities, some of which involved meeting employees from various USDA agencies.

 

Students at the conference received information about potential career opportunities with the USDA and the U.S. Department of the Interior. Mesa students were eligible to participate in the conference because the Mesa College is a Hispanic Serving Institution.

 

“Our SEEDS Scholars met with professionals to learn tips for networking, writing winning resumes and preparing for graduate school,” said Dr. Waverly Ray, SEEDS co-coordinator and Geography professor. “By meeting with students and professors from four-year universities and federal employees, the SEEDS Scholars widen their perspective on what their future could hold.”

 

Out of the 69 poster presenters at the conference, Biology major Claudia Nieto, Chemistry major Joe Avalos, Agriculture and Environmental Science major Cassie Casares and Environmental Studies and Economics major Sara Ramirez were the only students from a community college invited to speak.

 

Ramirez, who hopes to transfer to UC Santa Cruz in the fall, presented her poster on “Experiential Learning” outside of the classroom through field trips to various farms. She said that seeing the presentations by students from bachelor’s and graduate degree programs will help in the future of her career as a student and an environmentalist.

 

“It’s definitely eye-opening to see the research – the graduate students and other undergraduate students had a lot of detailed research, and I thought it was really cool that they were interested in this and they put in so many hours into the research,” Ramirez said. “It taught me the ‘soft skills,’ like how to talk to professionals, how to network – so I think that’s definitely going to be very useful in the future.”

 

Nieto, who would like to transfer to either UC Davis or UC Santa Cruz, said that she felt inspired by her participation at the Principal Investigator’s Meeting. During the conference, she presented her research on outdoor classrooms and gardens at elementary schools near Mesa College through her volunteer work with the Clairemont Mesa Education Foundation.

 

“I’d like to encourage younger students to be more aware of environmental issues and healthy attitudes,” Nieto said of her research. “The purpose of these gardens is also to engage more students in STEM careers, starting at a younger age.”

 

Casares’ poster presentation was on the 2016 SEEDS Sustainability Summit at Mesa and Avalos discussed the vegetable and herb garden at Mesa. Ray also presented in a poster session at the conference about the success of the SEEDS program at Mesa College and how it is “creating pathways to USDA-related careers.”

 

The trip was primarily funded by the SEEDS Scholars program grant, made possible by a four-year USDA-NIFA HSI grant.

 

Applications for the fall 2017 SEEDS program are now being accepted and are due by May 8, 2017 at 11:59 p.m. If selected as one of the 20 scholars for the program, students will get hands on experience working in STEM-related fields, including sustainability, global food security and hunger.

 

“SEEDS is an enriching experience for our underrepresented students to engage in diverse experiences where students can apply their expertise in an environmental way,” said Leticia Lopez, HSI Title III grant director. “It appeals to students who study multiple disciplines, not just our STEM discipline students.”

 

For more information about the SEEDS program at Mesa College visit their webpage online, or contact Waverly Ray at (619) 388-2408 or wray@sdccd.edu.

 

 

Photo by Rick Chavez

Tags: STEM, SEEDS