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ASTEMA - Paid Fellowship 2024-2025

ASTEMA - Paid Fellowship 2024-2025

Program Description:

Modern agriculture is a highly technical field of science that often requires an interdisciplinary approach involving professionals with specializations in chemistry, biology, environmental science, and engineering, along with traditional agriculture and food science specialists. The workforce demand for well trained professionals in agriculture and food science is very high. Special efforts are made by USDA to attract minority students to the field. However, students majoring in the science disciplines often do not correlate their professional training with opportunities in careers within food and agriculture. To bridge this gap, for the last four years we have successfully run USDA funded FANE and REEU projects that train high school and college students, their educators, in collaboration and mentorship with graduate students for STEM EDUCATION WITH PURPOSE – to build careers in agriculture and food science, addressing all levels of preparation as one segregated pipeline. We focus our activities around one central interdisciplinary research topic related to a new generation of super-fruit called aronia berries. We practice interdisciplinary active experiential learning (AEL) principles in a frame of group pedagogy.

Our project, called ASTEMA – Advancing STEM in Agriculture in HBCUs, is designed to attract high school and undergraduate STEM students majoring or planning to major in chemistry, biology, environmental sciences, and technology majors to careers in high-tech agriculture using active experiential learning techniques, that has proven to be a powerful tool to increase student’s awareness, involvement into studies, leadership, and critical thinking abilities. During the academic year program trainees participate in bi-monthly webinars in STEM in agriculture topics addressing agricultural engineering, genomics, biotechnology, along with professional development and leadership topics including choice and preparation for college, application package, writing the resume, successful interviews, patenting workshop, application to federal jobs and more. This is followed by summer experience on campus for five weeks for college students and three weeks for high school students and their educators, where they form interdisciplinary teams and work on active experiential learning problems that cannot be solved by one major only. Their summer activities are organized in week-long, theme-focused sequences of webinars, laboratory, and field active experiential learning research activities. A series of pre- and post-workshop assignments, reports, and presentations helps in the assessment of program effectiveness. Two graduate students-mentors and some faculty mentors participate in all activities. All trainees receive certificates by the end of the program upon completion of all program requirements and a modest stipend. Travel camp transportation and housing are covered and limited food allowance is provided to each participant.

Jookender Community Initiatives Inc. is responsible for the logistics of the summer travel camp and participate actively in recruitment and training of participants.

The program has external evaluator that attends part of activities and observe the performance of participants and mentors.

Request for Application for the 2024-25 Cohort

Two positions for teachers/educators working with high school students are available at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore in collaboration with Jookender. The program is for high school students who are planning to attend college and major in STEM disciplines, and who are interested in exploring how such majors can be applied to build a career in agriculture with USDA. The program consists of online meetings twice a month during the months of October-May, followed by the in-person three weeks of travel camp activities on and off UMES campus. There will be a set of pre- and post-activities assignments that will be submitted anonymously for evaluation but not grading purposes. Part of online activities will include lectures and discussion in STEM science in agriculture, genomics, biotechnology, phytochemistry and use of technology and engineering in agriculture. The other online meetings will be devoted to professional and leadership development and preparation for college. Travel camp will include team active experiential learning led by trained college students and their mentors, workshops in small electronic devices building, 3D printing, drones in agriculture, soil analysis, medical herbal teas and many others, field trips to agricultural and demonstration facility, wet experiments in the lab, reporting and final presentations by teams of trainees. Travel and housing expenses and food allowance will be provided during the travel camp, while the stipend of total of $1,500 will be paid to each participant upon completion of all program activities.

Criteria for the program participants selection is as following:

  • Committed to participate in all webinars and travel camp above.
  • Teaching in school/after school program that works with minorities underrepresented in science, women interested in agricultural careers, new immigrants in US, first generation in US college students, and Ukrainian refugees.
  • Willing to act not only as an educator, but also as a chaperon during the travel camp.
  • Interested in incorporating materials on STEM in agriculture into at least one of classes/after school activities. For this purpose, teachers will be required to submit one page proposal of activity that will be used for selection criteria.
  • Willing to submit a final report of implementation of such activity in classroom during two months from the end of travel camp.

The applicant must match all of the criteria above.

To apply, please, follow the link Educator application form.docx - Google Drive, download the application, and have the following documents ready: one page essay explaining your interest to STEM in agriculture and how the internship will help advancing your career, resume (must include applicant’s email), one page proposal on what and how will be implemented in the course or after school activity – please describe the activity, the place where it will be delivered or conducted, and the population that will be involved.

The application deadline for 2024-25 cohort is October 20th, 2024, at 5 PM EST - documents required:

  • Resume
  • One page essay describing why are you interested in the program and how this program would advance your career goals
  • Proposal for materials implementation in at least one of your courses
  • Proof of being educator
  • Proof of eligibility to work in US for any employer will be required for all accepted participants.

Before you apply, please, have all required documents ready as MS word or google.doc files - combine all documents into one file. Send the file and the cover letter directly to the project PI - Dr. Victoria Vokis of the University of Marylan Eastern Shore. Email: The application form and the workbook for high school students on how to write the resume are available below.

If you have any questions, please, address it to the project PI – Prof. Victoria V. Volkis by email to On October 2nd, 2023, at 8:30 PM EST we will be conducting the Q&A webinar via zoom for all potential applicants. The link is published on this web site in the 'Announcement' tab.

Link to download application forms from google drive:

This event is free, but donations are welcome. Would you like to donate today?

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