Dr. Lyda G. Garcia’s, assistant professor of Meat Science in the Department of Animal Sciences, efforts to promote higher education and the Ohio State Meat Science program has led to a unique opportunity for two Puerto Rican students to achieve a bachelor’s degree in Meat Science at The Ohio State University. The Multi Scholars Program allows two students from the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez (UPRM) to complete the final two years of their Bachelor of Science degree in the Departments of Animal Sciences (majoring in Meat Science) and Agricultural Communication, Education, and Leadership (ACEL) (minoring in Leadership Studies). At the end of the program, students would return to their island ready to contribute to the missing link in meat science, the rebuilding of the sector using modern livestock practices.
“I had been working with professors in the Animal Science area from UPRM for three years. My role was to assist in adding value to their beef cattle as meat in an effort to promote Puerto Rican beef within their island,” said Garcia. “The agricultural industry was devastated in Puerto Rico because of Hurricane Maria. It could have been the end of three years of work with my colleagues at UPRM. In protecting my time and tackling my own responsibilities at home, I felt the best way to continue my efforts was to share my knowledge with the younger generation, the students. When this USDA grant was made public, I immediately called my colleagues and began to brainstorm.”
Garcia had been working on a grant proposal for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for the Multi Scholar Program. After Hurricane Maria hit in September 2017, she tailored the proposal to include opportunities for student participants to return to Puerto Rico and help in rebuilding efforts. Garcia recruited Dr. Stephen Boyles, professor in the Department of Animal Sciences, for his knowledge in beef nutrition and Extension, and Dr. Mary T. Rodriguez, assistant professor in ACEL, for her expertise in community leadership and development, to help with the grant development and program.
“While Animal Sciences will equip students with the technical knowledge and skills needed to engage in more sustainable and profitable practices, ACEL will support their growth in 21st century transferable skills and the knowhow to affect behavior change,” Rodriguez said.
Garcia submitted the grant application to the USDA in October 2017; in March 2018, she received notification that the proposed program received a $44,000 grant. In April, Garcia made a trip to meet with faculty and students to begin the recruiting process. Six students applied for the program; Garcia reviewed and evaluated all of the paperwork and then decided on the top two applicants, who happened to be female. Garcia sees this program as an opportunity to provide additional opportunities for LatinX students at Ohio State, with an added bonus of bringing more diversity to the male-dominated agricultural industry in Puerto Rico, because the top two applicants were female.
Ivanelys “Iva” Martinez Santana and Katiria “Kat” Peréz Fernández first learned about the Multi Scholars Program via emails from UPRM Professor Aixa Rivera.
“Professor Rivera sent out an email to our meat science class. The email mentioned the opportunity to extend my knowledge in meat science, which included an internship. At that time, I was very worried about the availability of an internship in Puerto Rico,” said Martinez Santana.
“I got the weirdest email about doing a meat science program in a place I hadn’t ever heard of,” Peréz Fernández said. “I went to Professor Rivera and she said ‘You have to do it, you have to apply’.”
Both Martinez Santana and Peréz Fernández have an interest in meat science; UPRM only offers one course in meat science. Martinez Santana would like to continue her work in the meat industry, possibly, with the USDA; Peréz Fernández is not sure what she wants to do, but she knows she wants to further her education in meat science.
“I find meat science so interesting! Ohio State offers a lot more opportunities than other universities through a variety of undergraduate meat science courses and the opportunity to do an internship,” said Peréz Fernández. “You have to do the internship, that’s how many students find their first job.”
During the spring 2019 semester, Martinez Santana and Peréz Fernández will begin an undergraduate research project with the guidance of Boyles and Garcia. Both students will complete an internship during the summer 2019 semester in the federally inspected Ohio State Meat Lab, under the direction of Meat Laboratory Manager Ron Cramer and Garcia. They will also attend the American Meat Science Association’s annual conference with Garcia in June. They will spend the 2019-2020 academic year participating on the Meat Judging Team, where they will compete nationwide against twenty other universities; Garcia serves as the faculty advisor. In addition, both students will attend 2019 summer and autumn carcass shows with Garcia, to evaluate livestock projects for counties, including a carcass competition. On average, Garcia will have seven shows per month between the months of July through October. Boyles will also include them in his extension programs with beef producers in Ohio. Additionally, Boyles and Garcia serve as Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) Coordinators for Ohio, where they will include the students in activities. Rodriquez will include the students in leadership speaking opportunities throughout the year.
Both Martinez Santana and Peréz Fernández will be busy, and it may be a little overwhelming at times, but they are receiving opportunities unique to the Multi Scholar Program. However, both students applied to the program based on the multitude of opportunities.
“I really like Ohio State just as much or more than my university in Puerto Rico,” Martinez Santana said. “Ohio State is so pro-student. There are so many opportunities for my career that I couldn’t get at UPRM and the professors really seem to care about the students. They want to make sure you understand everything.”
With all of the offerings for the Multi Scholar Program participants, the $44,000 USDA grant would not cover all of the experiential learning opportunities. Garcia explained that the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES), the Department of Animal Sciences, and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion have offered to “fill in the monetary gaps.”
“I really started this as a way to promote our unique Meat Science major and minor at Ohio State, we’re one of the few schools in the nation who have a meat science major and I am really proud of that. I strive to share all I can about the meat science world in an attempt to recruit,” Garcia said. “To me, meat science is the end of the road for livestock because at the end of the day, they will become a meat product and that is what makes meat science so important.”
Right now, the Multi Scholar Program funding is for two years, but Garcia hopes it will become a long-term opportunity for Puerto Rican students to come to Ohio State and learn about meat science, eventually creating a long-standing program.
“My colleagues and I have created a program that provides nothing but a ‘win-win’ opportunity for Puerto Rico, CFAES, and the Department of Animal Science. This is an “outside the box” approach, in an attempt to introduce a new agricultural sector to Puerto Rico by filing a void, and to connect the dots from livestock practices to meat products and meat quality. I hope that this allows continuous collaboration between the Meat Science section of the Department of Animal Sciences, CFAES and UPR-Mayaguez. This program will contribute to the meat science major while assisting in diversity within CFAES and the Department of Animal Sciences, and help us continue the legacy and prestigious reputation of CFAES.”
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Source: Lyda G. Garcia firstname.lastname@example.org