Women and minorities are underrepresented in STEM-related agriculture (agSTEM) fields, such as agricultural engineering, agricultural technology management, and crop science. Despite support and demand by industry to increase diversity, there is a limited pool of qualified candidates from diverse backgrounds to fill these positions. A group of faculty and staff from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln received funding from the Women and Minorities in STEM program of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture to support the effort to increase participation of women and minorities in agSTEM careers. The Cultivate ACCESS (Agricultural Career Communities to Empower Students in STEM) program was deployed in the fall of 2018 and designed to highlight a range of STEM careers in agriculture while developing employability skills identified by industry. The objective of this program is to increase diversity in agSTEM fields and provide recommendations for future mentoring programs targeting underrepresented groups. Cultivate ACCESS engages high school students (scholars) from communities in Nebraska with undergraduate students (ambassadors), and industry professionals (mentors) in an online mentoring and development program during the academic year. Ambassadors and mentors are from underrepresented groups in agSTEM majors and careers. Scholars received virtual and face-to-face mentoring from ambassadors and mentors. Program topics and activities included career pathway exploration in agSTEM, employability skill development, and self-efficacy. Ambassadors enrolled in an experiential learning course focused on training in cross-age peer mentoring, diversity and inclusion, and leadership skill development. Virtual training provided to mentors equipped them with the skills necessary to be effective mentors. A website was developed to serve as a source of information on the program and agSTEM careers that is accessible past the lifetime of the project. Scholar outcomes indicated by information gathered throughout the program are increased understanding and awareness of agSTEM careers, self-efficacy, and employability skills including teamwork, communication, and leadership. Focus-group interviews with ambassadors indicated increased leadership and mentoring skill development through their participation in the program. Mentors increased their mentoring ability as a result of their interactions with the Cultivate ACCESS scholars. The findings from this program can guide development of future mentoring programs designed to target underrepresented groups in the agSTEM fields. Youth matched with mentors from similar backgrounds more strongly identify with their mentors as a role model and are inspired to pursue careers in fields that they may not have felt confident to enter before. Development of employability skills in youth are critical components of mentoring programs as underrepresented youth have limited access to training of these skills. Cross-age mentoring using college students can significantly enhance the overall impact of youth-adult mentoring programs.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Journal||ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings|
|State||Published - Jun 22 2020|
|Event||2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference, ASEE 2020 - Virtual, Online|
Duration: Jun 22 2020 → Jun 26 2020
ASJC Scopus subject areas