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Near-Peer Mentoring to Attract and Recruit Young Rural Women and Minorities in Forestry STEM Disciplines to Diversify Forest Industry Workforce (WAMSFOR)

Funding: USDA Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) 
Year: 2023 - 2026

Our project supports two educational need areas of this funding opportunity: (1) Student Recruitment, Retention, Mentoring and Educational Equity and (2) Student Experiential Learning. By addressing these areas of need, our near-peer mentorship program will better prepare K10-14 women and minorities (W&M) students in rural Arkansas for Forestry STEM studies in college, leading to successful degree completion and hiring into STEM industries post-college.
Each year, 11 K10-K14 W&M students in rural Arkansas will be paired with 11 current W&M CFANR students. They will work on their preferred science projects and compete in competitions such as 4-H, Future Farmers of America (FFA), and Science Fair. The competition winners will be eligible to pursue numerous forestry specific scholarships in CFANR. With a college degree and more science exposure, these W&M are expected to be the future leaders in a competent and qualified forest sector workforce.

Grant: WAMSFOR: About
Grant: WAMSFOR: Pro Gallery
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Grant: WAMSFOR: Image

Research team

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Dr. Pipiet Larasatie

Project Director (PD)

Dr. Larasatie (she/her) is an Assistant Professor of Forest Products Marketing at CFANR UAM. She is an interdisciplinary scholar and social scientist with a program of diversifying forestry workforce in Arkansas. As the lead PD, she will be responsible for the successful conclusion of the project by providing leadership, strategically managing risk, monitoring finances, and making sure that each phase of the project starts and ends on schedule. When she did her PhD (2017-2021), the PD became a near-peer mentor for three PhD students, four MS students, and two BS students. All of them are W&M students, and either student parent (30+ y.o. with kids) or the first-generation students. She was involved with Oregon State University’s Research and Extension Experiences for Undergraduates (REEU) through support from the USDA Education and Workforce Development program. Her assessment of the success of mentor–mentee relationships and how the program benefits the mentees’ career has been published in a peer reviewed journal. Her co-authors and she find that students who participated in the REEU program improved their research skills and soft skills such as adaptation, writing, and communication. As a result of their participation, students are more likely to attend graduate school.

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Dr. Elena Rubino

Co PD

Dr. Rubino (she/her) is an Assistant Professor of Conservation Social Science at CFANR UAM, with experience in program evaluation using quantitative and qualitative methods. Her responsibilities in this project will include managing the technical aspects, as well as leading the pedagogical training for mentors. She has experience managing The Society for Conservation Biology’s Social Science Working Group mentorship program over the past two years (90+ mentor-mentee pairings during this time period). Personally, she currently serves as a mentor to three graduate students and two undergraduate students in her lab at CFANR (all of whom are either W&M and/or first-generation college students), as well as several other graduate students at UAM, Texas State University, North Carolina State University, and the University of Florida. She is also a yearly mentor to underrepresented high school students seeking guidance on college essay writing.

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Jolene Hammock, MA

Co PD

Jolene Hammock (she/her) is the Outreach & Engagement Coordinator at CFANR UAM. For this project, she will be responsible for managing administration and internal communication as well as leading the whole summer camp activities. She holds a B.S. in Natural Resources-Wildlife Management as well as a M.A. in Teaching. She has taught Agriculture/Natural Resources and Science based courses to local high school students for over 10 years before shifting to the CFANR as a departmental recruiter. In this position, she mentors incoming students on the admissions process and as a career coach for the various degree programs of study and career paths available.

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Ana Gutierrez, MS

Project Evaluator

Ana Gutierrez (she/her) is a Research Associate at Arkansas Center for Forest Business (ACFB). Her responsibilities in this project are to evaluate the program, analyze the data, and lead the report writing. Gutierrez earned a B.A. in Business Administration and Economics and an M.S. in Agricultural Economics. She has seven years of forest economics experience working with forest plantation financial modeling, family forest landowners’ management preferences, and loggers and haulers’ operation challenges. Currently, she co-advises one W&M forestry graduate student in the CFANR. Before working at ACFB, she was a research associate at Louisiana State University, and supported her peer graduate and undergraduate students in the conduction of their research projects, from data collection to manuscript writing.

Grant: WAMSFOR: Team Members
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