Tifton Laboratory honored for program that serves underrepresented rural communities
A University of Georgia laboratory at Tifton was recognized in August for its efforts to increase the number of underrepresented first generation and rural students choosing careers in science, technology, math and engineering.
The University of Georgia’s Tifton Veterinary Diagnostic & Investigational Laboratory’s Exploratory Academy received a 2021 Inspiring Programs in STEM Award from Insight into Diversity, the oldest and largest diversity publication in higher education.
According to a recent analysis of U.S. government data by the Pew Research Center, there is a lack of diversity in STEM workplaces, especially among black and Hispanic workers. This problem must first be addressed in the education system. The UGA exploratory Academy is the first laboratory-centric teaching model for students and high school students from underserved rural communities in South Georgia.
The Academy is a full-day series of workshops that gives participants an insight into careers in veterinary medicine, biotechnology, molecular biology, microbiology, and pathology through interactions with the faculty and the technologists working in the laboratory.
Explore career opportunities
“Our goal is to give these students an idea of the career opportunities that exist alongside the profession of veterinarian,” said Hemant K. Naikare, laboratory manager and associate professor of infectious diseases. “Students learn about infectious diseases, public health, food security, etc. We raise awareness and awareness of veterinary medicine with an emphasis on laboratory diagnostics.”
With the help of a New Approaches Diversity and Inclusion Scholarship awarded by the Office of the President and the Office of Institutional Diversity of the UGA, the laboratory was able to organize several full-day series of workshops as well as a competitive two-week paid internship in each of the four microbiological disciplines: bacteriology, Molecular diagnostics, serology and virology; clinical pathology and anatomical pathology. Selected students observe and accompany the faculty and the staff and receive practical experience and training in various veterinary paraclinical specialties.
A total of 150 pupils took part in the workshops, including several pupils from the 4-H courses in the surrounding middle and high schools.
Increase UGA’s footprint
The Tifton Laboratory is surrounded by several undergraduate schools that have students from rural communities in South Georgia, including Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, which enrolls many first-generation college students from underserved communities, and Fort Valley State University, a historically black one University in Peach District.
Most students are medical or animal sciences majors, Naikare said. “They are amazed because they see real clinical cases in which the diagnostic laboratory plays a role. We are trying to increase our presence in South Georgia, improve educational opportunities and encourage students to graduate from UGA. “
The UGA’s Exploratory Academy was one of 79 programs to receive this award, which recognizes the efforts of colleges, universities and external organizations. From hands-on learning activities to mentoring and community support, each of the winning programs developed strategies to introduce a diverse group of students to academic, extracurricular and professional opportunities in STEM and prepare them for some of the most in-demand careers in the country.