Special to The Truth
Central State University is a partner institution on a $10 million award from the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture, through the From Learning to Leading: Cultivating the Next Generation of Diverse Food and Agriculture Professionals (NEXTGEN)  program.
A coalition of two Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs),
Central State University and Lincoln University; one Hispanic-serving
institution (HSI), Texas A&M University; and one Research University (RIU),
Missouri University of Science and Technology are working together on
award-winning project, “HBCU-HSI-RIU Consortium: A Synergistic Paradigm
for Training the Next Generation Agriculture Workforce for a Sustainable
The project aims to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, nationwide
labor shortages, climate change, increasing food safety concerns, and the
under-representation of minorities in agriculture-related fields. Team
members from partner institutions consist of research, education, and
extension professionals to maximize the impact on minority populations from
grades K-12 to graduate school.
Dr. Hongmei Li-Byarlay, research associate professor of entomology and
project director for Pollinator Health, Agricultural Research Development
Program, serves as the principal investigator (PI) for Central State. The
Central State co-PIs are Drs. Sakthi Kumaran Subburayalu, Sharath Krishna,
and Prosper Doamekpor — each of whom has a wealth of knowledge and
expertise in agriculture and minority workforce development.
Central State’s major project goal is to establish an inter-institutional
collaborative graduate program that emphasizes soil sciences and
entomology. This initiative complements Central State’s existing programs
in sustainable agriculture , water resources management ,
environmental engineering , and experiential learning. Undergraduate
students currently conduct research in soil conservation, integrated pest
management, pollinator health, horticulture, and other relevant topics.
In addition to the new graduate program, the project will support courses
on precision agriculture and drone application, yearly geospatial
information science activities, a summer workshop on regenerative
agriculture, professional learning and scholarships, youth programming, and
other related initiatives across the four consortium institutions.
“The NEXTGEN project presents an exciting opportunity for Central State
to increase its impact on the next generation of agricultural workers by
supporting increased minority participation and knowledge attainment. The
grant will also help us to recruit outstanding students for the
agricultural workforce,” said Li-Byarlay.
Central State University: Central State University is a public HBCU
and 1890 Land-Grant Institution with a 136-year tradition of preparing
students from diverse backgrounds and experiences for leadership, research,
and service. Central State ranks among U.S. News & World Report’s best
colleges in five categories, including Best Undergraduate Engineering
Program and Top Public Schools. The University fosters academic excellence
within a nurturing environment and provides a solid liberal arts foundation
and STEM-Ag curriculum leading to professional careers and advanced studies