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$9.5 Million Grant to Cultivate CSU's Future Leaders in Agriculture

In a significant stride towards advancing agricultural research and nurturing the next generation of leaders in the field, the California State University Agricultural Research Institute (CSU ARI) recently secured a five-year, $9.5 million grant from the United States Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA) NextGen competitive grant program.

The CSU ARI, guided by its mission to collaborate with students for applied research, is committed to expanding its impact on California’s agriculture, natural resources and food systems.

The grant is set to elevate its mission to new heights. Faculty members supported by ARI funds currently engage around 250 students annually in ARI-funded projects. With the NIFA NEXTGEN grant, the number will increase by 30 percent, fostering a more extensive network of students contributing to the cutting-edge research they desire to do.

“This is a highly competitive program and is open to any student across the CSU,” said CSU ARI Executive Director David Still.  “To be selected for the program is a distinction that should be proudly included on a student’s curriculum vitae.”

A distinguishing feature of this grant is its commitment to allocating 89 percent of funds directly to students involved in research and professional projects. While the program is open to all CSU students, there is a special focus on recruiting first-generation, low-income and traditionally underserved individuals in the industry. Master’s students in the ARI-NEXTGEN program will receive a $25,000 fellowship, while undergraduate students will receive $11,000.

Each student will participate in a research or professional project, guided by a faculty or professional mentor. The aim of the one-year fellowship program is to provide a platform for in-depth discipline learning while enhancing critical thinking skills. The project ranges from developing methods for precision agriculture to evaluating forest management practices for wildfire mitigation and habitat preservation.

Integral to the success of the ARI-NEXTGEN program is the mentorship provided to each student.  This mentorship extends beyond the project itself, incorporating professional development, networking opportunities and insights into often-overlooked career pathways.

“Because of the high quality of applicants and the good work they and their mentors are doing, the ARI and CSU benefit as it increases our capacity to do good science and we are training students that will soon be engaged in a career, most often in California.  This is a great investment into the future of California,” said Still.

Interested students can apply through the ARI Ag Commons website, navigating to the “ARI Student Fellowship” carousel. The application requires students to outline their proposed project, identify a mentor and articulate their approach and expected outcomes.

For those eager to learn more about the ARI program or the NIFA NEXTGEN grant, inquiries can be directed to David Still, CSU ARI executive director, at