Thurgood Marshall College Fund STEM Internships Funded by $400,000 USDA Grant

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has awarded the Thurgood College Fund $400,000 to underwrite a 10-week summer internship program to enable public HBCU undergraduates to work in agriculture-related fields within the USDA/APHIS. This program will place 37 public HBCU students in internships. Students are expected to receive extensive hands-on training in one of 20 locations across the country where they will have the opportunity to work in their selected program area.

“APHIS, like USDA, is committed to and values a diverse workplace. Investing in students and student internships like those sponsored by the Thurgood Marshall College Fund will help ensure APHIS’ future workforce is as diverse as it can be,” Dr. Gregory L. Parham, Administrator, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, USDA, said in a statement.

Created in 1972, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is a relatively new federal agency within USDA. For much of the 20th century, the early animal and plant health bureaus within USDA operated independently of one another. The establishment of APHIS grouped together these functions. Since 1972, APHIS has continued to expand its mission in order protect and preserve American agriculture.

As part of its mission to further the interests of public historically Black colleges and universities, officials at the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) have been encouraging employers across the U.S. to recruit minority students for job opportunities within science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines.

“As we celebrate 25 years providing support to public HBCUs, we have renewed our focus on identifying premium job opportunities for our best and brightest students. The USDA/APHIS program is a wonderful example of the first step in the process. TMCF interns will have the chance this summer to show USDA staff what public HBCUs are producing. Our goal is that many of these internships will lead to full-time jobs,” Johnny C. Taylor Jr., TMCF’s president and CEO, said in a statement.

In 2010, Bayer Corporation disclosed in a STEM research report that “significant numbers of women and underrepresented minorities are missing from the U.S. STEM workforce today because they were not identified, encouraged or nurtured to pursue STEM studies early on.”

According to the Bayer research, although Black and Latino students express as much interest in STEM careers as do their White and Asian peers, the underrepresented minorities are failing to be educated in math and science fundamentals during the elementary school years, and therefore lack the preparation to take STEM courses in high school and college.

“Many students start out pursuing STEM degrees, but they often end up discouraged, and change their major,” Taylor said in a statement. “We want to help ensure these students get the attention and guidance they need to not only graduate, but to find good jobs in their chosen STEM fields.”