U.S. Agriculture Department Honors Colorado State’s Discovery Program with National Award

An innovative program that brings minority students from across the nation to study and do research at Colorado State University was recognized with a 1997 Honor Award from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The award, given to the Discovery Program organized by the College of Agricultural Sciences, is the agency’s most significant award recognizing outstanding contributions to agriculture. The awards were presented by Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman in a ceremony in Washington, D.C., this week.

"To receive this award is an honor for the Discovery Program and the coordinators who have worked hard to make it so successful," said Kirvin Knox, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences. "I am proud this program has earned the national recognition it so truly deserves."

Faculty members in the College of Agricultural Sciences launched the Discovery Program in 1992 as a way to prepare undergraduate minority students for graduate school in agricultural disciplines. The first participants were students from Lincoln University in Missouri, Jones County Junior College in Mississippi and Southern University in Louisiana. Selected students are invited to Colorado State University for eight weeks in the summer to take courses and conduct research with assigned faculty mentors.

The program has since grown to include other colleges on campus, including the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Applied Human Sciences and Natural Resources. Student participation has expanded to include a number of other universities from across the country as well as a wide range of cultural backgrounds. In addition to working in the classroom and laboratory, participants attend workshops to improve communication and computer skills and prepare for the graduate record examination.

Of the 60 Discovery Program participants who have completed the program, more than one-third have transferred into undergraduate or graduate programs at Colorado State, said Elaine Roberts, a program coordinator.

"The whole aim of this program is to prepare undergraduate college students who show promise as leaders in their field for the next level of their academic career," Roberts said. "This program increases the understanding of our faculty and students, but also provides an opportunity for minority students from other parts of the country to learn what Colorado State’s graduate programs have to offer them."

The 1997 program is currently in session and involves 18 students. Financial support has come from a number of sources, including the USDA’s Challenge Grant program and a variety of private companies in agriculture and other industries.

Program coordinators include professors Roberts and Glen Rask, and James Heird, associate dean for the College of Agricultural Sciences.