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Deadline: June 8, 2017

U.S. Department of Agriculture: Women and Minorities in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Fields Program

The Women and Minorities in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Fields Program (WAMS) Grants Program for fiscal year (FY) 2017 will support research and extension activities that increase the number of women and underrepresented minorities from rural areas who will pursue and complete a postsecondary degree in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) disciplines. Projects should have a target audience of K-14 students. WAMS-funded project activities must support the creation, adaptation, and adoption of learning materials and teaching strategies to operationalize what we know about how students learn.

Applications recommended for funding must highlight and emphasize a competent and qualified workforce to guide the food and agricultural sciences system. WAMS-funded projects should improve the economic health and viability of rural communities by developing research and extension initiatives that focus on new and emerging employment opportunities in STEM occupations. Hence, the goal of WAMS projects is to meet the national challenge to increase the number and diversity of students entering food and agriculture-related STEM disciplines (i.e. having a food and agricultural sciences workforce representative of the nation’s population). Projects that contribute to the economic viability of rural communities are also encouraged.

All WAMS projects are required to provide leadership skills opportunities. The development of leadership skills, knowledge, and qualities are necessary to prepare students for agricultural and related careers in the private sector, government, and academia.

WAMS applicants are encouraged to submit applications that will result in building linkages with other institutions (including other colleges and universities, units of State government, and private sector entities) having a significant, ongoing commitment to the food and agricultural sciences generally and to the specific need areas(s) for which a grant is requested. The goals of such a joint initiative should include:

  • Maximizing the development and use of limited resources (including faculty, facilities, and equipment) by generating a critical mass of expertise and activity focused on a targeted need area(s)
  • Increasing cost-effectiveness through achieving economies of scale: strengthening the scope and quality of a project’s impact
  • Promoting coalition building likely to transcend the project’s lifetime and lead to future ventures

A proposed project must address one or more Educational Need Areas and/or be an Applied Project that addresses research, outreach and capacity building to benefit the communities served, especially that of their students.

Educational Need Areas

a. Curriculum Design, Materials Development, and Library Resources: Promotes the development of courses of study and degree programs, new and improved curricula, and instructional materials and technology; to promote the acquisition of library resources including books and journals relating to the food and agricultural sciences; and to stimulate the use of new approaches to the study of traditional subjects, new research on teaching and learning theory, and new applications of knowledge. The overall objective is to increase the quality of, and continuously renew, the academic programs of the eligible institutions in the food and agricultural sciences.

b. Faculty Preparation and Enhancement of Teaching: Advances faculty development in the areas of teaching competency and leadership, subject matter expertise, or student recruitment and advising skills. Applications may emphasize, but are not limited to: obtaining experience with recent developments and new applications in a field; expanding competence in innovative technologies and new methods of instruction delivery; developing new skills in a field of science or education including student advising skills; or pursuing graduate-level study in a field related to the food and agricultural sciences. Each faculty recipient of support for developmental activities must be an “eligible participant.’

c. Instruction Delivery Systems: Encourages the use of alternative methods of delivering instruction to enhance the quality, effectiveness, and cost efficiency of teaching programs. Applications may emphasize, but are not limited to: incorporating alternative instructional methodologies that respond to differences in student learning styles; inter-institutional collaborations that deliver instruction in ways that maximize program quality and reduce unnecessary duplication; and consideration and implementation of innovative instructional techniques, methodologies, and delivery systems in response to advances in knowledge and technology.

d. Scientific Instrumentation for Teaching and Research: Provides students and faculty in science-oriented courses with suitable, up-to-date equipment in order to involve them in work central to scientific understanding and progress. Applications may emphasize, but are not limited to acquiring new, state-of-the-art instructional, laboratory, classroom, and research scientific equipment to help assure the achievement and maintenance of outstanding food and agricultural science education programs, upgrading existing equipment, or replacing non-functional or obsolete equipment.

e. Student Experiential Learning: Furthers the development of student scientific and professional competencies through experiential learning programs that provide students with opportunities to solve complex problems in the context of real-world situations. Applications may emphasize, but are not limited to: preparing future graduates to advance knowledge and technology, enhancing quality of life, conserve resources, and addressing community and economic development issues. Projects should focus on advancing student decision-making and communications skills, and improving real-life technological expertise. Activities may include, but are not limited to, internships, practicum experiences, study abroad opportunities, leadership skill development, and participation with faculty on applied research and related community development projects.

f. Student Recruitment, Retention, and Educational Equity (including the provision of student financial assistance): Enhances educational equity for under-represented students, and to strengthen student recruitment and retention programs in order to promote the future strength of the Nation’s scientific, professional, and technical workforce in the food and agricultural sciences.

Applied Projects

In addition to the Education Need Areas, applicant may choose to develop studies that have relevancy and application within the communities that these institutions serve.

a. Applied Studies in the Food and Agricultural Sciences: Apply the body of knowledge in those natural and social sciences that comprise the food and agricultural sciences to address real-world problems, including applied research activities focused on community and economic development issues related to food, nutrition, conservation, and renewable natural resources.

b. Applied Research Support Systems: Establish centralized support systems to meet state, regional, or community needs, or serve clientele that cannot otherwise afford or do not have ready access to the support in question, or to provide such support more economically thereby freeing up resources for other applied research

c. Technology-based Information Delivery Systems: Promote innovations and improvements in the delivery of benefits of food and agricultural sciences to producers and consumers, particularly those who are currently disproportionately low in receipt of such benefits.

d. Other Applied Research and Community Development Applications: Encourage other creative projects, outside the areas previously outlined, that are designed to provide needed enhancement to the capacity of WAMS institutions to conduct applied research and related community development projects.

Amount: Up to $400,000 is expected to be available. An applicant may request up to $100,000. There is no commitment by USDA to fund any particular application or to make a specific number of awards.

Eligibility: State agricultural experiment stations; colleges and universities; university research foundations; other research institutions and organizations; Federal agencies; national laboratories; private organizations or corporations; and individuals.

Link: https://nifa.usda.gov/funding-opportunity/women-and-minorities-science-technology-engineering-and-mathematics-fields

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