FVSU joins ‘historic’ consortium to advance minority students in natural resources

University first HBCU to join initiative aimed at diversifying conservation career fields

Feb. 22, 2023

(Fort Valley, Ga.) – Fort Valley State University is making history as it becomes the first HBCU to join a groundbreaking national consortium aimed at advancing underrepresented students in conservation career fields

In a virtual signing ceremony on Feb 6, 2023, FVSU joined forces with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, New Mexico State University (NMSU), and the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) to increase diversity in the environmental sciences and natural resources industries. An earlier virtual ceremony was hosted in April 2022 for NMSU and UTSA.

Last week’s virtual event included dignitaries from the three universities and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, including Martha Williams, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director. FVSU Provost Olufunke Fontenot, NMSU Regents Professor Martha Desmond, and UTSA professor and chair of the Department of Integrative Biology at UTSA participated in the ceremony. Also joining the ceremony from FVSU were Dr. Fares Howari, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences; Dr. Keith Howard, dean of the College of Agriculture, Family Sciences and Technology; Dr. Beth Day-Hairston, dean of the College of Education and Professional Studies; Dr. Robert Dibie, associate provost and dean of Graduate Studies; Dr. Kermelle Hensley, executive director for Strategic Academic Partnership.

“We are excited about this opportunity for our students to explore a career in wildlife and conservation, a profession in which minorities an underrepresented,” Fontenot said. “This partnership with the U.S. Wildlife and Fisheries will provide internship and permanent placement opportunities for FVSU students. The consortium will also open avenues for collaboration with other member institutions of the consortium.”

With this agreement, FVSU, NMSU, and UTSA will take the lead in creating programs and initiatives to help underrepresented students excel in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The consortium is dedicated to creating a one-stop recruitment source for underrepresented students and preparing them for competitive careers within the agency. The universities will also establish peer-to-peer mentoring and experiential networks to support students, faculty, and early career professionals.

The agreement represents the first time the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has entered into a nationwide agreement focused on promoting workforce diversity. The consortium is expected to continue growing with more HBCUs, TCUs, and HSIs joining as partner institutions across the South and Southwest. Tuskegee University has already expressed interest in becoming a part of this initiative.

The partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services will provide minority students with internship and permanent placement opportunities and open avenues for collaboration with other institutions.

FVSU’s involvement in the consortium is a result of more than a year of discussions and the vision of FVSU Alum Dr. Benjamin N. Tuggle, former Southwest Regional Director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, who met with Fontenot and Dr. Isaac Crumbly, director of FVSU’s Cooperative Developmental Energy Program. CDEP is a one-of-a-kind initiative established in 1997 that focuses on providing more minority and women students the chance to graduate in STEM fields.

With this groundbreaking partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, FVSU is offering its students an exciting opportunity to explore wildlife and conservation careers and make a real impact in a field where minorities are underrepresented.

The consortium’s goal is to build a lasting relationship between historically Black colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, tribal colleges and universities, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Organizers said this is a significant step towards creating a more diverse and inclusive workforce in the natural resources industry.

FVSU signs historic MOU with U.S. Wildlife and Fisheries