STU launches new agriculture training program

Wednesday, August 2, 2017 0 Comments

STU launches new agriculture training program
Local college students pursuing an agriculture career will be doing a lot of digging next semester.
St. Thomas University’s School of Science, in collaboration with Florida International University, Miami-Dade College, and Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico, has launched a new program, I-CATCH (Innovative Curriculum for Agriculture Training and Career for Hispanics, which trains students in agriculture, plants, herbs and other natural resources, and prepares them for jobs with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), as well other federal agencies.
The program also offers internships with the USDA, community engagement and collaborative learning.

At St. Thomas, students participated in a pilot program, creating a large garden on the north side of the Miami Gardens campus. 

“We offer many opportunities such as tuition scholarship stipends, developing expertise in molecular biology, tissue culture, bioinformatics, field studies, and developing soft skills,” said STU biology professor Dr. Pilar Maul, who’s also director of the Institute of Plant Biology and Agricultural Research. “Soft skills include creativity, analytical thinking, multitasking, verbal and written communications, time management, teamwork and collaboration.” 

Maul indicated the garden is more than just a garden. She said it is a research garden where several students will have class each week. The garden is home to several scientific experiments arranged in different plots, and experiments range from testing organic fertilizers, growing carrots and other vegetables, and medicinal plants. 

Maul said her focus this year is to expand the current garden to grow medicinal plants such as yarrow, aloe, Echinacea and marshmallow. She challenges students by allowing them to use different growing techniques for their choices of plants.

Maul said when plants are harvested, they assess the final product by measuring its length, width and mass. 

STU student, Luis Cendan, said the program has helped him grow professionally and personally.
“The I-CATCH program changed me in many ways,” he said. “I grew as a scientist, learned to design experiments, analyze data, and present my research in symposia. This kind of hands-on learning simply cannot be replicated by the mere reading of a book or watching videos, and I know I have grown considerably in the two years I’ve been involved in I-CATCH.”

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