WMU receives $2 million grant to assist farmworker community

Contact: Jeanne Baron
Photo of Diana Hernández.

Diana Hernández

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Western Michigan University has been awarded more than $2 million over the next five years to support first-year, first-generation undergraduate students who are migrant or seasonal farmworkers, or the children of such workers.

The U.S. Department of Education and its Office of Migrant Education awarded the grant to fund their long-standing College Assistance Migrant Program. The University is one of only 10 institutions in the country and the only one in Michigan to receive grant money for CAMP's new funding cycle.

WMU's CAMP project, which is housed in the Division of Multicultural Affairs, will receive $416,293 for the 2017-18 academic year and $2,107,988 overall. It focuses on science, technology, engineering and mathematics—STEM—education.

WMU-CAMP project

Diana Hernández, director of the Division of Multicultural Affairs and principal investigator for WMU-CAMP, reports that the program will enroll an average of 40 eligible students during each year of the 2017 through 2022 grant period. Nationwide, CAMP helps out about 2,000 students each year.

"Migrant and seasonal farmworkers are essential to the agricultural industry in the United States and in Michigan, yet they continue to be one of the most impoverished and underserved populations in this country," Hernández says. "Our unique, holistic service plan for the CAMP program provides participants with the comprehensive academic, financial, school-transition and other support services they need to successfully complete their first year of college and continue their college education."

STEM component

Photo of Dr. Jorge Rodriguez.

Dr. Jorge Rodriguez

The WMU-CAMP program is designed to address a federally identified priority that calls for increasing the number of students who are prepared to enter STEM fields. With that end in mind, the University's Division of Multicultural Affairs and College of Engineering and Applied Sciences have teamed up to give new WMU-CAMP participants increased access to STEM coursework and activities.

"Teaming up creates another good opportunity for WMU to emphasize STEM education," says Dr. Jorge Rodriguez, WMU-CAMP's co-principal investigator and an associate professor of engineering design, manufacturing and management systems.

"The collaboration between Diana and her team and the engineering college is a win-win situation for participating students, the seasonal farmworker community and WMU," Rodriguez says. "STEM education is a priority in the global environment we live in, and it's something that will have a significant positive impact in our region."

CAMP-related facts

Hernández notes that southwest Michigan is at the center of the state's stream of migrant and seasonal farmworkers, according to data from the Michigan Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers Enumeration Profiles Study, conducted in 2013 for the State of Michigan Interagency Migrant Services Committee.

She says other facts also point to the need for programs such as CAMP, including:

  • Michigan ranks No. 1 in the production of 18 agricultural commodities, including blueberries, cherries and cucumbers.
  • The state's farmers employ an estimated 49,000 migrant farmworkers during a typical summer, resulting in a large population that is eligible for CAMP services.
  • WMU-CAMP participants had an overall GPA of 3.19 and a retention rate of 97.5 percent for the 2015-16 academic year.

For more information, visit the WMU-CAMP website at wmich.edu/camp or contact Diana Hernández in the Division of Multicultural Affairs at diana.hernandez@wmich.edu or (269) 387-4420.

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit wmich.edu/news.