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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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US Department of Agriculture - National Institute of Food and Agriculture

Deadline Date:

06/20/18 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.

Executive Summary:

NIFA requests applications for the Higher Education Multicultural Scholars Program (MSP) for fiscal year (FY) 2018 to conduct scholarship programs leading to either baccalaureate degrees within the Food, Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Human (FANH) Sciences or Doctors of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M.) in order to meet national and international needs for training scientists and professionals in the FANH science fields.

This notice identifies the objectives for MSP projects, deadline dates, funding information, eligibility criteria for projects and applicants, and application forms and associated instructions needed to apply for a MSP grant.

Purpose and Priorities:

1. Program Purpose

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is designated as the lead Federal Agency that supports higher education in FANH sciences. In this context, NIFA has specific responsibility to initiate and support projects to strengthen higher education teaching programs.

The purpose of the MSP is to provide scholarships to support recruiting, engaging, retaining, mentoring, and training committed multicultural scholars, resulting in either baccalaureate degrees within the FANH disciplines or the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M.) degree. The scholarships are intended to encourage outstanding students from groups that are historically underrepresented and underserved to pursue and complete baccalaureate degrees in FANH Sciences, or achieve a D.V.M., that would lead to a diverse and highly skilled work force.

Underrepresented/underserved groups are those whose representation among FANH 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.).

By developing the next generation of a highly-skilled workforce for FANH sciences, MSP directly aligns with:
-USDA Strategic Plan 2018-2022, specifically addressing Goals 2 and 4;
-USDA Research, Education and Economics (REE) Action Plan, specifically addressing Goal 6-
-NIFA Strategic Plan (2014-2018), specifically addressing Strategic Goal No. 1;
-The 2015-2020 Employment Opportunities for College Graduates in Food, Renewable Energy, and the Environment Report which indicates shortages of graduates, in the FANH 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.

Through scholarships, MSP aims to increase the participation of any group historically underrepresented in USDA mission areas and prepare them for the professional and scientific workforce in the FANH sciences.

NIFA is soliciting applications for student education that will:
a. Prepare graduates to meet the demand for highly qualified personnel entering the workforce related to the FANH sciences;
b. Support more undergraduates in transitioning to graduate education in USDA mission sciences;
c. Contribute to the reduction of the disparity among underrepresented and underserved populations entering graduate schools to reflect the demographics of the U.S. and enable higher education to remain globally competitive;
d. Promote student success within FANH disciplines at the undergraduate/D.V.M. level; and
e. Focus on social support structure, and professional mentoring to ensure entry into FANH science 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 MSP scholars are exposed to a wide spectrum of careers in the FANH sciences.

2. Program Priorities

a. Leadership Skills Development:

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:

1) Developing practical applications to increase understanding of leadership roles, including critical thinking, problem solving, and communication skills, ethics and professionalism, and working in teams;

2) Connecting the academic classroom experience with daily leadership roles and organizational activities;

3) Providing opportunities for mentoring and shadowing; and

4) Organizing leadership academies, workshops, trainings, etc.

b. Incorporation of Social Sciences and Enhancing Impacts:

MSP supports social and behavioral science disciplines as well as projects that integrate social and biological sciences to provide education and experiential learning opportunities for students in applied research, and related community development programs. 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.

c. Global Engagement:

NIFA supports global engagement that advances U.S. agricultural goals. To attain the agency's goals for U.S. agriculture, global competence of the nation’s agricultural workforce, and safe and nutritious food security in a growing world, NIFA recognizes that collaboration with international partners can contribute to advances in U.S. agriculture. In an increasingly interconnected world, these U.S. advances may have global importance. Thus, applications in response to NIFA programs are strongly encouraged to include collaborations with international partners, but may only be submitted by eligible U.S. institutions. Such applications may include subcontracts to international partners or other institutions and must clearly demonstrate benefits to the U.S.

Program Area Description:

Under the MSP FY 2018 program, NIFA intends to support scholarship and training for baccalaureate degrees within the FANH Sciences and/or the D.V.M. degree with Multicultural Scholarship (MSP) grants and Special Experiential Learning (SEL) grants or a combination of the two.

1. Multicultural Scholarship Program (MSP) Grants

MSP supports Scholars through scholarships. Applicants are strongly encouraged to respond to this request with training that will use USDA investment to:

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

b. 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, nonprofit enterprises), or other learning opportunities in relevant topics;

c. Offer professional mentoring in undergraduate degree programs in the food and agricultural sciences and/or D.V.M.;

d. 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;

e. Provide leadership skills opportunities for all projects.

f. Develop performance measures for evaluating the overall effectiveness of the undergraduate and/or D.V.M. training that the Scholars will receive. This includes assessing expertise, with clear demonstration of pipelining to workforce or further educational training in the identified core competencies

Institutions can support MSP Scholars in the following manner: freshmen (or first-year D.V.M.) can receive support for 4 years, sophomores can receive support for 3 years, and juniors can receive support for 2 years. Institutions may apply for funds to support any combination of two-, three-, and/or four-year scholarships.

Two-year colleges that are legally authorized to offer a two-year or equivalent program of college-level studies, which are creditable toward a baccalaureate degree, may be awarded a MSP grant in cases where an articulation agreement, bridging agreement, or other type of collaborative arrangement exists between a 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 and is responsible for disbursing grant funds to any MSP Scholars at collaborating two-year institutions.

2. Special Experiential Learning Grants (SEL)

SEL funded activities provide opportunities for MSP Scholars to participate in: (a) research projects focused on relevant topics 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; (c) study abroad programs relevant to their majors; and (d) other relevant activities.

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 Programs.

MSP grantees are able to apply and hold one SEL grant in the lifetime of their MSP grant.

3. Combined Multicultural Scholarship Program (MSP) Grants and Special Experiential Learning Grants (SEL) - Combined grants include both the MSP and the SEL components.

Project Types:

Applicants may only submit proposals for Single-function Education 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 FANH sciences.

Single-function Education Projects must show direct alignment with one of the following: a. Increasing the number of graduates with the necessary technical skills for entry-level positions in FANH sciences;

b. Improving the technical competencies needed for the workforce to ensure that U.S. agriculture remains globally competitive; or

c. Enhancing the diversity of the workforce in food, agriculture, natural resources and human sciences.

Responsible and Ethical Conduct of Research:

In accordance with sections 2, 3, and 8 of 2 CFR Part 422, institutions that conduct USDA- funded extramural research must foster an atmosphere conducive to research integrity, bear primary responsibility for prevention and detection of research misconduct, and maintain and effectively communicate and train their staff regarding policies and procedures. In the event an application to NIFA results in an award, the Authorized Representative (AR) assures, through acceptance of the award that the institution will comply with the above requirements. Award recipients shall, upon request, make available to NIFA the policies, procedures, and documentation to support the conduct of the training.

GrantWatch ID#:

GrantWatch ID#: 160554

Estimated Total Program Funding:


Estimated Size of Grant:

Total Maximum Award:
-MSP: $200,000
-SEL: $20,000
-Combined MSP and SEL: $220,000

Term of Contract:

Project Duration:
-MSP: 5 years
-SEL: 1 year
-Combined MSP and SEL: 5 years

The anticipated start date for successful applications under this RFA is January 2019.

Additional Eligibility Criteria:

Eligible Applicants:

Applications may only be submitted by (1) Land-Grant Institutions, (2) Colleges and universities having significant minority enrollments, (3) Other colleges and universities, and (4) Institutes or research foundations maintained by an eligible college or university. Institutions that have not previously applied are especially encouraged to do so. Applicants must be institutions that confer a bachelor’s or D.V.M. degree in at least one of the disciplines in the FANH sciences.

Awards are made to eligible colleges and universities. Individuals are not eligible to apply for these grants.

Due to statutory restrictions, no extensions beyond the 5-year period are allowed. Any eligible institution may, however, apply for a new award with a different scope of work in any fiscal year(s) in which appropriated funds are available for this program.

Award recipients may subcontract to organizations not eligible to apply provided such organizations are necessary for the conduct of the project.

Applicants applying for an SEL grant (project type 2), must be a current MSP grantee who has not yet received funding for an SEL. Projects are entitled to one SEL grant in their lifetime.

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 Scholars:

Awards to Scholars are made by eligible institutions (grantees) receiving funds under this program. Scholars must:

1. Be citizens, national, or permanent residents of the United States as determined in accordance with Federal law;

2. Have been accepted for enrollment, or be enrolled, at an institution that was 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;

3. Be enrolled as a full-time student, as defined by the institution, in a program of study in the FANH sciences leading to an undergraduate degree or D.V.M. 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;

4. Maintain good academic standing and satisfactory degree progress as determined by their institution;

5. Not have been enrolled previously in an academic program in the FANH sciences at the same degree level; and

6. Have a strong interest, as judged by the institution, in pursuing a career as a food or agricultural scientist or professional.

Within the framework of these guidelines, all decisions with respect to the appointment of MSP Scholars will be made by grantees. Scholars must be identified and scholarships must be awarded within twelve (12) months of the effective start date of a grant. Grantee must notify and obtain approval from the NIFA Program Office if scholarship funds cannot be allocated within this twelve-month period. Failure to obtain this approval will result in the loss of funding for the unawarded scholarships.

A MSP Scholar who finds it necessary to interrupt his/her program of study because of health, personal, or other reasonable non-academic and non-disciplinary cause(s) must be allowed to resume funded study at any time within 12 months of the interruption, provided there is adequate time remaining before the award expires. A MSP Scholar who finds it necessary to interrupt his/her program of study more than one time cannot exceed 12 total months of cumulative leave without forfeiting MSP eligibility.

A MSP Scholar at a two-year institution, who participates in the MSP through an articulation agreement, bridging agreement, or other type of collaborative arrangement with a four-year grantee institution, is subject to the same provisions as a MSP Scholar at the four-year grantee institution.

A replacement MSP Scholar is a student who is recruited into the program to take the place of a MSP Scholar who left the program prior to completion. The tenure of such a replacement MSP Scholar is limited to whatever time is remaining on the grant before it expires; however, an institution may not appoint a replacement MSP Scholar unless there is time for the student to complete at least one semester/quarter of study before the expiration date of the grant. Replacement MSP Scholars must meet all of the eligibility criteria and other requirements established for MSP Scholar selection and are subject to the same provisions as other MSP Scholars during their tenure in the program.

Pre-Application Information:

Applications must be received by 5 p.m. Eastern Time on June 20, 2018. Applications received after this deadline will normally not be considered for funding

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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.

Programmatic Contact:

Dr. Ariela Zycherman, National Program Leader
Division of Community and Education
Institute of Youth, Family, and Community
Phone: (202)531-0643/ (202) 720-0384
Fax: (202) 720-2030

Administrative/Business Contact:

Rochelle McCrea, Team Leader
Office of Grants and Financial Management
Phone: (202) 401-2880

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