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Higher Education Multicultural Scholars Program (MSP)

Grants to USA IHEs for Scholarship Programs in
Veterinary Medicine and Agricultural Sciences

Agency Type:


Funding Source:

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United States Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture

Deadline Date:

10/31/17 5:00 PM ET Receipt


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Grants to USA colleges and universities to support historically underserved or underrepresented groups by offering scholarships in veterinary medicine and agricultural sciences. Scholarships will promote the recruitment, engagement, retention, training, and mentoring of committed, eligible multicultural scholars, resulting in either baccalaureate degrees within the food and agricultural sciences disciplines or Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M.) degrees.

Through these scholarships, the goal of the MSP is to increase the participation of any group historically underrepresented in USDA mission areas and prepare them for the professional and scientific workforce in these areas. Underrepresented/underserved groups are those whose representation among food and agricultural professionals is disproportionately less than their proportion in the general population as indicated in standard statistical references, or as documented on a case-by-case basis by national survey data (e.g. the U.S. Department of Education's Digest of Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Agricultural Education Information Systems, etc.).

To accomplish this goal, the MSP provides competitive grants to colleges and universities that have: (1) a demonstrable capacity to carry out the teaching of the food and agricultural sciences, and; (2) proven capabilities for achieving representation of diverse, multicultural groups in the Food, Agricultural, Natural Resources, and Human Sciences. NIFA is soliciting applications for student education that will:

(i) Prepare graduates to meet the demand for highly qualified personnel entering the workforce within the food and agricultural sciences domain;
(ii) Pipeline more undergraduates into graduate education in USDA mission sciences;
(iii) Contribute to the reduction of the disparity among underrepresented and underserved populations entering graduate schools to reflect the demographics of this country and enable the American system of higher education to remain globally competitive;
(iv) Promote student success within food, agricultural and related science disciplines at the undergraduate/D.V.M. level; and
(v) Focus on student learning, academic preparation, social support structure, and professional mentoring to ensure entry into food and agricultural sciences areas and completion of graduate education or high level of competitiveness for the workforce.

In addition to coursework and related experiences that prepare students for graduation, grantee institutions will be expected to identify and develop opportunities through partnerships with food and agricultural research programs at other academic institutions, and cooperate with public and private entities, to ensure Scholars are exposed to a wide spectrum of careers in the food and agricultural sciences. Such plans should include increasing knowledge about academic, governmental, private sector and non-profit enterprises that involve Scholars and will strengthen the likelihood of successfully meeting the goals of the MSP grants program.

The MSP also provides funding through Special Experiential Learning (SEL) opportunities to further the development of student scientific and professional competencies through programs that provide MSP Scholars with hands-on opportunities to solve complex problems including policy development and management, in the context of real-world situations. SEL is a component of the MSP competitive grants program that will support MSP Scholars for one- or two-year experiential learning activities that would not normally be available to students without support.

All MSP projects are required to provide leadership skills opportunities. The development of leadership skills, knowledge and qualities are necessary for preparing students for agricultural related careers in private sector, government and academia. Projects must demonstrably incorporate a leadership development component to ensure that students are equipped with both technical and leadership abilities. Specific activities may include:

-Developing practical applications to increase understanding of leadership roles, including critical thinking, problem solving, and communication skills, ethics and professionalism, and working in teams;
-Connecting the academic classroom experience with daily leadership roles and organizational activities;
-Providing opportunities for mentoring and shadowing; and
-Organizing leadership academies, workshops, trainings, etc.

MSP supports social and behavioral science disciplines. Projects that integrate social and biological sciences to provide experiential learning opportunities for students in applied research, and related community development programs are encouraged. Incorporation of social and behavioral sciences is important for addressing many of the challenges facing agriculture and rural communities, such as increasing global demand for food production in the face of limited natural resources; improving health and reducing obesity by engaging in heathy diets; and alleviating poverty by fostering economic opportunity.

MSP is intended to promote advances in U.S. agriculture and forestry. Agriculture, however, is increasingly worldwide in scope and reach. To attain MSP’s goals for U.S. agriculture, applicants may include international partnerships or engagement in proposals as appropriate. Any international activity proposed under MSP such as partnerships, study abroad, exchanges, training, trips, etc., must first and foremost support MSP’s domestic program goals. Applicants must clearly describe and demonstrate how international activities proposed in applications submitted to MSP will contribute to and support advances in American agriculture.

If international activities (e.g., partnerships, exchanges, travel) are proposed, then applicants shall describe indicators that will be used to assess those activities. Appropriate indicators include, but are not limited to, those posted at the U.S. Government's Feed the Future Food Security initiative Web site (

NIFA encourages, but does not require, projects that develop content suitable for delivery through eXtension.

By developing the next generation of a highly-skilled workforce for the food, agricultural, natural resources, and human sciences, the Higher Education Multicultural Scholars Program (MSP) directly aligns with:

-The FY 2014-2018 USDA Strategic Plan;
-The USDA Research, Education, and Economics Action Plan and specifically addresses Goal 6; and
-The 2014-2018 NIFA Strategic Plan, specifically addressing Strategic Goal 1 – Science and Sub-goal 1.7.
-The 2015-2020 Employment Opportunities for College Graduates in Food, Renewable Energy, and the Environment Report indicates shortages of graduates, specifically in the food, agriculture, natural resources and human sciences disciplines, to fill the estimated 57,900 annual openings for individuals with baccalaureate or higher degrees in food, renewable energy, and environmental specialties between 2015 and 2020. The MSP aligns with the effort to produce graduates from colleges of agriculture and life sciences, forestry and natural resources, and veterinary medicine for careers in the food, agriculture, natural resources and human sciences.

Program Area Description:

Under the FY 2017 program, NIFA intends to support scholarship and training for baccalaureate degrees within the Food, Agricultural, Natural Resources, and Human Sciences disciplines and/or D.V.M. degrees with MSP grants and SEL awards, as applicable.

FY 2017 MSP Program Areas of Emphasis (PAEs):

Applicants should propose training projects at the undergraduate and/or D.V.M. levels to support scholarships and/or SELs in the following PAEs:

(1) Veterinary Medicine (First Professional Degree in Veterinary Medicine, i.e. D.V.M.)
(2) Agricultural Sciences and Engineering
(3) Natural Resource Sciences Training
(4) Human Sciences Training
(5) Food Science and Human Nutrition Training
(6) Agrosecurity Science Training
(7) Agricultural Education

Institutions that have not previously applied are especially encouraged to do so (see eligibility information in Part III of this RFA). Applicants should be institutions that confer a baccalaureate degree in at least one of the areas of food and agricultural sciences, and/or Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. Awards are made to eligible colleges and universities. Individuals are not eligible to apply for these grants to support their D.V.M. and/or baccalaureate education in food and agricultural sciences.

Applicants are strongly encouraged to respond to this request with training that will use USDA investment to:

(1) Establish innovative frameworks, grounded in curricula, for D.V.M. and/or undergraduate training with collaborative knowledge and technology transfer components that transcend traditional disciplinary boundaries in agriculture;

(2) Establish baccalaureate and/or D.V.M. degree programs in which Scholars can pursue related summer research opportunities (especially at other colleges/universities, industry or federal agencies, non-profit enterprises), or other learning opportunities in topics related to the identified Program Areas of Emphasis;

(3) Provide professional mentoring in D.V.M. and/or undergraduate degree programs in the food and agricultural sciences;

(4) Increase the numbers of students from underrepresented/underserved groups who attain baccalaureate and/or D.V.M. degree level programs with scientific and professional competencies to meet the technologically advanced needs of the 21st century food and agricultural systems workforce;

(5) Provide leadership skills opportunities for all projects (required, see above);

(6) Develop performance measures for evaluating the overall effectiveness of the D.V.M. and/or undergraduate training that the Scholars will receive. This includes assessing expertise in the Program Areas of Emphasis, with clear demonstration of pipelining to workforce or further educational training in the identified core competencies for: (a) subject matter and related disciplines; (b) skills in 21st century communication; and (c) aptitude to operate in a globally-oriented and technologically-driven world economy.

In lieu of indirect costs, institutions receive an annual cost-of-education allowance for each Scholar supported by an award.

Special Experiential Learning (SEL) Funding:

SEL funded activities may include, but are not limited to, those that provide opportunities for eligible MSP Scholars to participate in: (a) research projects focused on multidisciplinary topics of national importance at institutions or organizations other than their own; (b) apprenticeships, internships, or similar participatory learning experiences including, but not limited to, practicums for DVM students, internships abroad or externships in the private or public sector; and (c) study abroad programs relevant to their majors.

SEL funds may be used only to pay living expenses, travel expenses, additional tuition (e.g. practicum credits for courses that would not have been taken if not for this experiential learning activity), and/or a cash stipend for SEL-supported Scholars during SEL-approved experiential learning activities. SEL funds cannot be used to increase annual stipend amounts for MSP Scholars participating in activities that have already been approved and funded by the MSP Program.

Project Types:

Applicants may only submit proposals for Education/Teaching Projects.

Single-function Education Projects develop human capital relevant to overall program goals for U.S. agriculture. Projects must focus on developing skills necessary for entry- and mid-level technical employment or for entering graduate programs in food, agriculture, natural resources and human sciences.

Educational activities must show direct alignment with one of the following:
-Increasing the number of graduates with the necessary technical skills for entry-level positions in food, agriculture, natural resources and human sciences;
-Improving the technical competencies needed for the workforce to ensure that U.S. agriculture remains globally competitive; or
-Enhancing the diversity of the workforce in food, agriculture, natural resources and human sciences.

GrantWatch ID#:

GrantWatch ID#: 160554

Estimated Total Program Funding:


Estimated Size of Grant:

Each MSP application may request any combination of D.V.M. and/or undergraduate degree level scholarships. There is no limit to the number of applications an institution may submit. NIFA reserves the right to fund fewer Scholars than requested in an application.

1. Regular Grant No. 1 – Single Institution Application - An eligible applicant can request $6,500 in scholarship support per Scholar per year for up to four (4) years. In addition, the applicant may request $2,500 per Scholar per year for up to four years as a cost-of-education institutional allowance (in lieu of indirect costs). Each applicant may request NIFA/USDA funding for a minimum of $108,000 for scholarship support for a cohort of students. A cohort of students can be comprised of any combination of two- year, three-year, or four-year appointments. The appointments must conform to the MSP eligibility requirements (Part I, C, a, (1)). For this project type, $4,000 may be requested in SEL support, for to-be-recruited USDA MSP Scholars (See Part II C. 3.). A single application may propose D.V.M. and/or baccalaureate level training that addresses any of the seven (7) Program Areas of Emphasis (Part I, B.); – singly or in combination, up to a maximum of $200,000 per application in Award Category No. 1.

2. Regular Grant No. 2 – Student Experiential Learning (SEL) – One-time $4,000 for each eligible USDA MSP Scholar that may be used for approved activities (Part I, C, b, (1)), over the active period of the award. Funds requested in this category may not exceed $20,000. This support may be provided through multiple grant awards.

Term of Contract:

To allow for maximum flexibility under the program, institutions may apply for funds to support any combination of two-, three-, and/or four-year scholarships.

The anticipated start date for successful applications under this RFA is May 15, 2018 and the duration is 60 months.

Scholars must be identified and scholarships must be awarded within twelve (12) months of the effective start date of a grant.

Additional Eligibility Criteria:

Eligible Applicants:

Pursuant to section 1417 of the NARETPA of 1977 (99 Stat. 1548; 7 U.S.C. 3152), applications may be submitted by: (1) land-grant institutions, (2) colleges and universities having significant minority enrollments and a demonstrable capacity to carry out the teaching of food and agricultural sciences, and (3) other colleges and universities having a demonstrable capacity to carry out the teaching of food, and agricultural sciences. Research foundations maintained by an eligible college or university are eligible to submit undergraduate and/or D.V.M. training proposals under this RFA. Applicants should be institutions that confer an undergraduate or D.V.M. degree in at least one of the disciplines in the food and agricultural sciences.

Students attending two-year colleges that are legally authorized to offer a two-year or equivalent program of college-level studies which are principally creditable toward a baccalaureate degree, may be awarded a MSP Scholarship from eligible baccalaureate institutions in cases where an articulation agreement, bridging agreement, or other type of collaborative arrangement exists between the subject baccalaureate-level institution(s) and the two year college. MSP Scholars from 2-year colleges are expected to transfer and complete their baccalaureate degrees in the partner 4-year institution(s). In such instances, the baccalaureate-level institution must be the applicant.

Award recipients may subcontract to organizations not eligible to apply provided such organizations are necessary for the conduct of the project. Failure to meet an eligibility criterion by the application deadline may result in the application being excluded from consideration or, even though an application may be reviewed, will preclude NIFA from making an award.

Student Eligibility as Beneficiary Scholars:

Awards to Scholars are made by eligible institutions (grantees) receiving funds under this program. No NIFA awards will be made directly to students; therefore, students cannot apply directly to USDA/NIFA for MSP scholarships. Persons eligible to be appointed as Scholars must:

(a) Be citizens or nationals of the United States as determined in accordance with Federal law;
(b) Have been accepted for enrollment, or be enrolled, at an institution awarded a project grant under this program, or at a two-year institution which has entered into an articulation agreement, bridging agreement, or other type of collaborative arrangement with a baccalaureate-level institution that has been awarded a project grant under this program;
(c) Be newly enrolled in a course of study leading to a baccalaureate degree, or to a D.V.M degree, in the food and agricultural sciences;
(d) Not have been enrolled previously in an academic program in the food and agricultural sciences at the same degree level; and
(e) Have a strong interest, as judged by the institution, in pursuing a baccalaureate degree, or D.V.M degree, in the food and agricultural sciences, and in a career as a food or agricultural scientist or professional.

A MSP Scholar must be enrolled as a full-time student, as defined by the institution, in a program of study in the food and agricultural sciences during each semester or quarter that he/she receives MSP support. However, the requirements for formal registration during part of this tenure may be waived if permitted by the policy of the grantee, provided that the MSP Scholar is making satisfactory progress toward degree completion and remains engaged in appropriate full- time scholarship activities such as study abroad experiences or internships. MSP Scholars are entitled to the normal term breaks and holidays observed by the institution. MSP Scholars may, but are not required, to take summer classes.

First-year DVM degree students and freshmen (including those participating in the program at two-year institutions) receiving scholarships may be supported for a total of four academic years (defined as eight semesters or 12 quarters of full-time study) within the five-year grant period, provided they maintain their eligibility. Enrolled students changing their majors to a discipline in the food and agricultural sciences, transfer students from two-year and baccalaureate-level institutions, and students enrolling at the grantee institution, may be supported for a proportional number of years based upon their academic level at the time they enter the program (i.e. three years for sophomores and two years for juniors), provided they maintain their eligibility under the program. For Scholars finishing the baccalaureate program early, the institution has options for utilizing the unexpended monies prior to the expiration of the grant, as described later in the RFA.

In summary, MSP Scholars are to be supported in the following manner: freshmen (or first-year DVM) are to receive support for 4 years, sophomores are to receive support for 3 years, and juniors are to receive support for 2 years.

The scholarship is to be awarded to the same student for the time that correlates with that student's academic classification in a food and agricultural science baccalaureate program or in the DVM program.

Scholars may be selected, and MSP scholarships awarded, without regard to student financial need. Selection of students to receive scholarships will be based on academic ability, commitment to a career in the food and agricultural sciences, and enhancement of cultural diversity. Other considerations may include a student's status as a first-generation college student, socioeconomic status, chosen major in relation to the needs of the college or university, or projected human resource requirements of the food and agriculture industry. Students from all racial and ethnic groups are eligible for scholarships.

An MSP Scholar may seek and accept employment during the grant period; however, the intent of the program is for MSP Scholars to devote their full energies to their studies wherever possible. Therefore, grantee institutions are expected to monitor MSP Scholars' employment demands so their academic progress is not jeopardized.

SEL Funding Eligibility:

In FY 2017, applications for SEL funding may be submitted by colleges and universities that:

(1) Are current MSP grantees, who have at least one year remaining in the grant period, to support a current, eligible MSP Scholar, under Award Category 2 (see Part II, C, 3); or (2) are new applicants to Award Category No. 1 (see Part II, C, 1) for future To-Be-Recruited MSP Scholars. Applicants with current MSP awards must use a stand-alone application to request SELs for current, eligible MSP Scholars.

(a) Current MSP Scholars. To be eligible to receive SEL support, a current Scholar: (1) must have completed one academic year of full-time study, as defined by their institution, under the MSP appointment; (2) must have sufficient time remaining in their grant to complete proposed experiential learning activities prior to the termination of their award; and (3) must have a NIFA Form 2010 – Student Appointment Form for the current, eligible MSP Scholar(s) submitted to NIFA, prior to submitting an application for SEL support (see Part IV, B.3).

(b) To-Be-Recruited MSP Scholars. To be eligible to participate in a SEL activity, a MSP Scholar recruited after the award has been made to the institution must: (1) have been appointed as a MSP Scholar and the NIFA Form 2010 – Student Appointment Form for the eligible MSP Scholar(s), been filed, with NIFA; (2) have completed one academic year of full-time study, as defined by their institution, under the MSP appointment; (3) have, at the time of participation in the SEL, sufficient time remaining in their grant to complete proposed experiential learning activities prior to the termination of their award; and (4) have provided to NIFA, the specific information about the SEL for evaluation at least 90 days prior to travel.

Pre-Application Information:

Applications must be received by 5:00 PM Eastern Time on October 31, 2017.

Only electronic applications may be submitted via to NIFA in response to this RFA.

Prior to preparing an application, it is recommended that the Project Director/Principal Investigator (PD/PI) first contact an Authorized Representative (AR, also referred to as Authorized Organizational Representative, or AOR) to determine if the organization is prepared to submit electronic applications through If not (e.g., the institution/organization is new to the electronic grant application process through, then the one-time registration process must be completed PRIOR to submitting an application.

It can take as long as two weeks to complete the registration process so it is critical to begin as soon as possible.

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Contact Information:

Before starting your grant application, please review the funding source's website listed below for updates/changes/addendums/conferences/LOIs.

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Programmatic Contact:

Dr. Ray A. Ali, National Program Leader
P: (202) 720-2727
F: (202) 720-2030

Dr. Ariela Zycherman, National Program Leader
P: (202) 720-0384
F: (202) 720-2030

Administrative/Business Contact:

Rochelle McCrea, Team Leader
(202) 401-2880

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URL for Full Text (RFP):

Geographic Focus:

USA: Alabama;   Alaska;   Arizona;   Arkansas;   California;   Colorado;   Connecticut;   Delaware;   Florida;   Georgia;   Hawaii;   Idaho;   Illinois;   Indiana;   Iowa;   Kansas;   Kentucky;   Louisiana;   Maine;   Maryland;   Massachusetts;   Michigan;   Minnesota;   Mississippi;   Missouri;   Montana;   Nebraska;   Nevada;   New Hampshire;   New Jersey;   New Mexico;   New York City;   New York;   North Carolina;   North Dakota;   Ohio;   Oklahoma;   Oregon;   Pennsylvania;   Rhode Island;   South Carolina;   South Dakota;   Tennessee;   Texas;   Utah;   Vermont;   Virginia;   Washington, DC;   Washington;   West Virginia;   Wisconsin;   Wyoming