Martinez Earns Prestigious USDA Fellowship
Aug. 16, 2022
SHSU Media Contact: Campbell Atkins
Rafael E. Martinez, assistant professor of animal science in the School of Agricultural Sciences at Sam Houston State University, was one of 20 faculty and staff members selected by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) from Hispanic-serving institutions (HSI's) and Hispanic-serving school districts around the nation as a new E. Kika De La Garza Fellow. The prestigious distinction sent Martinez to our nation’s capital in July to meet with a host of leaders from different USDA agencies.
“This fellowship provided an educational experience that was also filled with professional development for me” Martinez said. “I think the main takeaway from the whole thing was how can I come back and start collaborating with these newly formed and existing colleagues in preparing research and educational grants here at SHSU to try and fulfill the needs of the USDA”.
Martinez, who teaches a variety of courses related to animal and equine sciences at SHSU, was selected as an Education Fellow. The program is designed to help build awareness in Hispanic communities that the USDA serves as well as provide resources and employment opportunities. The chance to meet and learn from diverse USDA leaders provided Martinez with the ability to not only assist himself but, most importantly, his students through connections and exercises.
“We all obtained a lot of valuable information that is going to allow us to better prepare students in the classroom in order to seek and fill those career opportunities outside of academia” Martinez said.
Following that weeklong session, the science fellows stayed an additional week collaborating with scientists from USDA’s Agricultural Research Service or the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Soil Survey Center. All fellows interacted directly on national and regional issues, policy making and research.
“It was a huge honor to be a part of a very diverse and prestigious group of fellows” Martinez said. “I was able to establish relationships that will assist me to better serve this community through many collaborative efforts”
Martinez has had a passion for horses and agriculture throughout his entire life and is thrilled to share his vast knowledge with a new generation of students.
“My family allowed me to grow up with horses and other livestock, and that goes back many generations,” Martinez said. “My grandparents were ranchers on both sides. It is really cool being able to stay within the agriculture industry, as I grew up on a farm back home in East Texas.”
Since 1998, the annual E. Kika De La Garza fellowship program has recognized highly accomplished staff and faculty at HSI’s, which are accredited and degree-granting institutions of higher education with a full-time Hispanic student enrollment of 25 percent or more.
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