U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) awarded a $4.5 million grant to LaGuardia Community College (LAGCC) and Rutgers University-New Brunswick to support The Animal Science Discovery (ANSCId) Program: A Summer Experiential Learning, Career Development, and Scholarship Pipeline Between LAGCC and Rutgers.
ANSCId is one of 33 programs funded under a $262.5 million investment announced by the USDA-NIFA NextGen program to provide training and support to more than 20,000 future food and agricultural leaders.
The five-year ANSCId program will be led by Aparna Zama, associate teaching professor and director of the undergraduate program in Animal Sciences, along with Thomas Leustek, professor in the Department of Plant Biology at the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences (SEBS). The LAGCC portion of the grant will be headed by Preethi Radhakrishnan, professor of Biological Sciences and director of the two-year Environmental Science program at LAGCC.
LAGCC, part of the City University of New York (CUNY) system, is a federally designated Hispanic-serving institution in New York City that serves low-income, inner-city students. Approximately 375,000 high school and 13,500 two-year NYC students will be targeted through advertising and outreach activities combined with paid experiential learning opportunities, transfer scholarships, peer mentoring, and career development via this grant.
The ANSCId program strengthens an existing partnership between LAGCC and the nationally ranked Animal Sciences program at SEBS. Earlier this year, Rutgers announced a new articulation agreement that would enable LAGCC students who earn an associate’s degree in environmental science to seamlessly transfer and earn an undergraduate degree in animal sciences at Rutgers. LAGCC launched its new animal science option in February 2023.
“I am overjoyed to see the collaboration between Rutgers University and LAGCC develop into what it is today. Both of our institutions are committed to diversifying the next generation of agricultural professionals,” said co-program director Leustek.
“A key component of ANSCId is a three-week summer residency on the Rutgers Cook campus for 20-25 LAGCC students, each year, starting in 2024. LAGCC students in their first or second years will join the immersive program to explore all aspects of animal sciences, including health professions; biomedical research; and companion, equine, and production animal science-related curricula and careers along with a focus on USDA workforce development,” said program director Zama.
“This inclusive summer learning experience provides students who are interested in animal care access to Rutgers’ outstanding Animal Sciences program, and providing access to academic excellence is what Rutgers is all about,” said Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway. “I am proud Rutgers is fostering the next generation of diverse agricultural professionals.”
The Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station Animal Care program operates as a ‘hybrid’ of production farm, research facility, and teaching operation that supports a wide variety of livestock. These farm resources and the expertise of the faculty and staff provide a unique experiential learning environment for Rutgers Animal Sciences undergraduate students and prepares them to be leaders in a wide range of fields in human and animal health, biomedical research, and sustainable agriculture.
“The USDA-NIFA-supported ANSCId program will now provide a mechanism to expand these educational opportunities to underepresented populations that might not otherwise have access to these experiential learning resources to further prepare them to be leaders in the field of animal science,” said Nicholas Bello, professor and chair of the Department of Animal Sciences.