Highlands gets USDA funding

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Highlands University was awarded a new $290,000 USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture grant aimed at increasing student interest in science majors and professions.

“The primary purpose of this new grant is to motivate students to major in science, technology, engineering, agriculture and math — the STEAM disciplines,” said Edward Martinez, a Highlands University natural resources professor who is the project administrator for the grant.

Martinez said an important component of the new grant is a partnership with natural resource agencies like the U.S. Forest Service, where presentations about career opportunities will be made at high schools in northeastern New Mexico. The students will also learn about natural resources in the area.

“In addition, this new grant will help bring cutting-edge science curriculum to high schools in Northeastern New Mexico, building a stronger partnership between Highlands and these area schools,” Martinez said. “This is also a recruitment strategy to encourage local students to study science at Highlands.”

The USDA grant will also allow the university to continue successful programs like a free hands-on science immersion program for high school students from Northeastern New Mexico.

Since 2007, the university’s two-week summer science institute has provided experiential science learning for teens, with much of the time spent in field work rather than classrooms.

Martinez established the summer science institute with a different USDA grant that expired this year.