Instructor Claire Carpenter selected to participate in fellowship in Washington DC

Longtime YVC Biology Instructor Claire Carpenter has been selected to participate in the prestigious E. Kika de La Garza Fellowship Program through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The fellowship introduces faculty, like Carpenter, from Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) to USDA resources available to them. Fellows will receive access to long-term collaboration opportunities, and then share what they learned with students and colleagues at their home institutions.

Eligible applicants are faculty or staff at an HSI or Hispanic-Serving School District. HSIs are accredited colleges and universities with at least 25% Hispanic student enrollment. Currently, there are more than 500 HSIs in 30 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, serving more than 3 million students.

“These fellowships are part of USDA’s commitment to equity and inclusion, ensuring that all of our customers can fully access and participate in programs and services,” said Lisa Ramirez, director of USDA’s Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement. “More than 350 fellows have participated in this program, sharing their knowledge with their institutions and communities.”

Science fellows collaborate with leading scientists from either USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) or Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Participants attend a one-week program in Washington, D.C. (July 11-15, 2022), and then, depending on their field of interest, spend an additional week at either a USDA ARS research center or with the USDA NRCS Soil Science Lab in Lincoln, Neb. (July 18-22, 2022).

“Agriculture is an important part of the Yakima Valley,” said Carpenter. “Tree fruit, hops, grapes, asparagus and hay are all keystones to the economy of our community, so the students we serve at YVC generally have deep roots in agriculture.”

Carpenter believes early advocacy for alternative career paths could make a big difference for YVC students, and is excited at the opportunity to become a better advocate for agriculture through this experience.

“Many students are not considering agricultural research or policy as a career, probably mostly because they have little conception of it as a viable scientific career path,” Carpenter said. “Most YVC students are seeking opportunities to earn living wages while giving to their community — many who could have an interest or ability to do science tend default to medical professions without recognizing that there are other career options that provide meaningful work.”

For the last several years, Carpenter has mentored YVC students during undergraduate research projects, an experience she has found very rewarding and hopes to expand in the future.

“[Undergraduate research projects] have been a deeply satisfying experience, and I believe that the opportunity to work with USDA researchers will inspire future research projects that could provide an opportunity for students to experience authentic science research early in their scientific and academic careers,” she said.

Carpenter earned her bachelor’s degree in biology from Colorado College and her master’s degree in biology from the University of New Mexico, where she researched the ecological correlates of heat shock expression. Carpenter taught at Spokane Community College before joining YVC in 2003.

The fellowships have been awarded yearly since 1998 and recognize highly accomplished staff and faculty at Hispanic-Serving Institutions. Fellows are selected based on the compatibility of their interests with USDA mission areas, as well as the value their experiences will add to their institutions’ educational capacities.

Press Release Contacts:
Dustin Wunderlich / 509.574.6870 /
Stefanie Menard / 509.574.4646 /