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
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
“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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo by Rick Chavez
Tags: STEM, SEEDS