ARE Launches New Diversity and Inclusion in Research, Education, and Career Training (DIRECT) Program
May 24, 2021
A new ARE program led by associate professor of teaching Kristin Kiesel and associate professor Steve Boucher aims to enhance and expand pathways to the professoriate for historically underrepresented populations.
With five years of funding from the University of California’s Hispanic Serving Institution (UC-HSI) Doctoral Diversity Initiative Project, the Diversity and Inclusion in Research, Education, and Career Training (DIRECT) program will launch in 2021. Working to expose, encourage, prepare, and involve Hispanic and other African Americans/Blacks, Hispanic/Latinx, and Native Americans/Alaskan Natives (AHN) students in agricultural economics, program activities aim to develop multi-level mentee-mentor networks that build community and provide mutually beneficial experiential learning and research opportunities for all program participants.
“We are beyond excited and extremely honored that our program proposal was selected and will be fully funded. I believe our department can play a vital and unique role in increasing diversity in higher education. Economics as a discipline, especially the field of agricultural economics, would benefit greatly from attracting new talent and supporting student initiative along the entire pipeline to the professoriate,” said Kiesel.
There is tremendous demand for recent college graduates with a degree in agricultural programs to fill high-skilled job openings in the food, agriculture, renewable natural resources, and environment fields. Yet most young Californians growing up in disadvantaged communities comprised of farm and food workers equate agricultural jobs with hard physical labor, and little opportunity for managerial positions, scientific exploration, technological advancement, and ultimately professional growth. This perception has created a phenomena in which the traditional path of success is to eschew a career in agriculture, despite the presence of cutting-edge and high growth opportunities. To change this, DIRECT will directly address information and personal constraints that hinder the academic success of AHN and first generation students and offer additional encouragement and support. And to better serve students and strengthen its long-term impact, the program will learn from and work closely with on-campus partners (e.g., Transfer Opportunity Program, Feminist Research Institute, Center for Educational Effectiveness) and include outreach and mentoring activities with off-campus collaborators (e.g., Woodland Community College, Sacramento City College Davis Center, and the Economics Department at the University of California, Merced).
The UC Davis ARE department’s uniquely structured degree programs coupled with its research expertise in a wide range of topics including agricultural production and labor markets, environmental regulation and protection, international trade and development, and food quality, security and nutrition, put it in a unique position to attract new talent, especially from rural California where these issues are directly relevant to AHN communities. The program targets partner community college (CC) students through an annual Research Connections event and in-class presentations by ARE faculty at partner CCs as well as CC student participation in activities on the UC Davis campus including a summer Applied Economics Research Course that provides experience participating in a team research project. The program also encourages students in the Managerial Economics major through a week-long Microeconomics Math Camp held the week prior to the start of the Fall quarter, and a weekly Student Café offering mentoring and tutoring help to students in the major.
Additionally, the program’s Diversity in Agricultural and Resource Economics (DARE) fellowship offered to qualified Master’s applicants, will support a more diverse graduate student body. Ph.D. students will play a crucial teaching and mentoring role in the DIRECT program and will gain valuable mentoring and teaching experience. Lastly, program activities will converge in the Applied Economics for California Communities Conference where students will share their gained insights, UC faculty and faculty at the partner HSI’s will spark new ideas and build on existing collaborations, and all DIRECT program participants will come together.
The ARE Department serves as the administrative home of DIRECT, and will implement the proposal under the leadership of program directors Kristin Kiesel and Steve Boucher, counsel of senior advisor Dan Sumner, and the commitment and dedication of all faculty members, staff and graduate students.
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