The Bridge Adventure project is funded by a grant from USDA-NIFA.
When Texas Tech University officially achieved Hispanic-Serving Institution status in 2019, one of the main benefits of the designation was the eligibility of federally funded grant support available under Titles III and V of the Higher Education Act of 1965 and the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 designed to enhance educational opportunities for students.
Researchers in the College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources (CASNR) are showing their commitment to that opportunity and have received funding from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in order to fulfill that commitment.
Led by Nathan Gill, an assistant professor in the Department of Natural Resources Management (NRM), the Bridge Adventure Program will create educational opportunities designed to promote diversity and inclusion in agricultural and natural resources fields. The program will provide transformative learning experiences related to the natural environment for all Texas Tech students.
"Texas Tech is particularly well-positioned to strengthen diversity and inclusion throughout West Texas and beyond, and to provide learning experiences that can truly shape students' futures as they select a career path and develop skills that are valuable in any workplace," Gill said. "This program will make the strengths of the university readily accessible for diverse students, ultimately contributing to a more equitable and vibrant society."
The program is funded by a $275,000 grant from the USDA-National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Cooperative State Research Education and Extension Service. Joining Gill on the project are assistant professor of practice Lindsay Kennedy and professor and chair Scott Burris in the Department of Agricultural Education & Communications, and associate professor Carlos Villalobos in NRM. Courtney Meyers, a professor in agricultural education & communications, will serve as an external evaluator.
Funded through 2024, the program consists of student participation in three major experiential-learning excursions each year – a service-learning trip, a mentored field-research trip and an excursion, such as backpacking, canoeing or mountain biking. Each trip will last between three and seven days.
"Through student reflection activities on the excursions, we will also gauge how effective the program is in helping participants hone their skills, appreciate the outdoors and build a sense of community with each other, with faculty and with regional partners," Gill said.
Gill said the program is designed to offer participants opportunities to build community, value diversity, learn about caring for the natural environment, connect with regional partners and develop skills for their future careers.
In the mentored field-research trip, students will work directly with CASNR faculty to run a research project identifying a problem, developing a methodology, collecting and analyzing data and presenting the findings.
"The Bridge Adventure program will provide high-impact learning opportunities for Texas Tech students through transformative outdoor experiences to promote leadership development, personal growth and community," Kennedy said. "This unique program will expose students to the intersection of agricultural sciences and the natural environment. Experiential education opportunities are a cornerstone of CASNR teaching and learning, and we are eager to launch this exciting new program."