Agri​cultural Research Graduate Diversity

Research Assistantship Program

Revised January 2019
The purpose of the Ag Research Graduate Diversity Research Assistantship Program is to assist faculty members and departments in the Colleges of Agriculture, Health and Human Sciences, and Veterinary Medicine at Purdue University to attract and support promising graduate students from groups that are underrepresented in higher education careers including women, domestic minorities, students with disabilities, African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Alaskan Natives, Pacific Islanders and other individuals with backgrounds that contribute significantly to the diversity and quality of the educational experience for all students. 

We believe that a diverse community of researchers is needed to foster the creativity and spectrum of novel ideas needed to promote research that provides solutions to the current and future challenges facing our nation and world. The goal of this assistantship program is to facilitate the entry, persistence and success of underrepresented groups in graduate programs and to ensure their full development as professionals through a combination of financial support and mentoring by engaged faculty. 


​Student eligibility

  • Must be a graduate of an accredited U.S. high school
  • Only new incoming students are eligible.
  • Admission as a degree seeking student to a graduate program in either the College of Agriculture, Health and Human Sciences, or Veterinary Medicine.
  • Students do not apply directly for the Graduate Diversity Research Assistantship Program. Graduate programs and individual faculty within the Colleges of Agriculture, Health and Human Sciences, and Veterinary Medicine will submit students for consideration to the Ag Research assistantship selection process.
  • Selection for awards will be conducted by a panel selected from the graduate faculty in the Colleges of Agriculture, Health and Human Sciences, or Veterinary Medicine.
  • To receive full consideration, students must submit completed Graduate School admission application materials, including the diversity essay, by the program deadline. The diversity essay should respond to the statement: ‘Describe your leadership, work experience, service experience, or other significant involvement with racial, ethnic, socio-economic, educational communities or other groups that have traditionally been underrepresented in higher education and how these experiences would promote a diversity of views, experiences, and ideas in the pursuit of research, scholarship, and creative excellence.’ Underrepresented groups have traditionally included, women, domestic minorities including African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Alaskan Natives, and Pacific Islanders, students with disabilities, and first generation students.

Faculty​ Mentor Eligibility

  • Tenured and tenure-track faculty in the Colleges of Agriculture, Health and Human Sciences, and Veterinary Medicine are eligible.
  • Faculty identified as mentors for Ag Research Graduate Diversity Research Assistantships recipients MUST have an approved Hatch, Animal Health, or McIntire-Stennis project that is consistent with the mission areas of USDA-NIFA. More information on NIFA’s priority areas may be found at:

Gen​​eral Information

  • Students do not apply directly to the program but where possible should indicate an interest as part of their Graduate School application package.
  • Graduate programs within Colleges of Agriculture, Health and Human Sciences, and Veterinary Medicine will assemble application materials and forward eligible candidates to Ag Research and Graduate Education. Individual faculty members can also forward materials as long as the application is complete and faculty mentor and student criteria are met.
  • There is no limit on the number on applications by single program as long as the eligibility requirements are met.
  • The Ag Research Graduate Diversity Assistantship stipend amount will be $19,100 per year and associated waiver of tuition and fees.
  • Funds will be available on the first day of the semester for the academic session when the student initiates their graduate program (typically Fall or Spring semester).
  • Assistantships provide one year of support for MS students and 2 years of support for PhD students from Ag Research. Programs must provide an additional year of support for MS students and an additional 2 years of support for PhD students.
  • Mobility of the student to a different mentor is permitted as long as the mentor meets the criteria above.
  • Awards are limited to Ag Research-affiliated departments and to tenure-track faculty with an approved USDA-NIFA Hatch, McIntire- Stennis, or Animal Health (Federal-formula) research project. If a faculty member does not have an approved Federal-formula project, one may be developed at the time of application for the Ag Research Graduate Diversity Assistantship or prior to an award. However, assistantship funds will be released only after approval of the Federal-formula funded research project.
  • Supplemental travel funds ($1000) are available to enable assistantship recipients to attend at least one professional meeting per year. Requests for travel funds can be made through Ag Research and Graduate Education and should include a brief statement on the nature of the meeting, role of the student (i.e. poster presenter, oral presentation etc.) and amount of funds requested.
  • Funds are to support research activities. Students may engage in instructional and extension activities as part of an integrated graduate program as long as they are part of a (for credit) course.
  • Individual faculty and graduate programs are encouraged to recruit students for this funding opportunity. The Office of Agricultural Research and Graduate Education and the Office of Multicultural Programs in the College of Agriculture will help to facilitate connections between faculty, programs, and eligible students.

Application M​aterials Required

  • Student provided application materials (from the Graduate School application materials)
         - A completed Purdue University Graduate School application including transcripts, letters of recommendation, and statement of purpose in pursuing graduate education.
        -  A diversity essay (described above) by the student explaining how their background and experiences would contribute to enhancing the diversity of graduate programs in the Colleges of Agriculture, Health and Human Sciences, or Veterinary Medicine.
  • Application materials provided by the graduate program
         - Nomination by the chair of the graduate program highlighting the attributes of the student, and how the student would contribute to the diversity and quality of the graduate program.
         - A brief description of how the student will select a research topic and major professor(s) including the anticipated role of the student in research planning, implementation, and analysis.
         - A brief description of a proposed approach to developing a mentoring plan with the student. Examples may include, but are not limited to assistance with: strengths assessment, goal setting, career exploration, skills in grant proposal writing, publications and presentations, teaching and mentoring skills; development of skills for collaboration with researchers from diverse backgrounds and disciplinary areas, and professional practice experiences.
  • Coversheet
  • Upload nominations electronically here via qualtrics

Evaluation​ Criteria

Applications will be ranked based on the overall academic achievements, contribution of the student to the diversity of graduate programs and quality of the proposed mentoring plan. Reviewers will consider the mentoring plan and the commitment of the graduate program and faculty in guiding the scientific and professional development of the student. The research identified as part of the application must be consistent with the USDA-NIFA mission areas, e.g., agriculture, rural communities, nutrition, food, rural health, animal diseases, and/or natural resources. Attempts will be made to distribute assistantship awards across academic disciplines within the participating colleges.

Agricultural Research and Graduate Education, 615 West State Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907 USA, (765) 494-8370

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