Closeup of Naidu Rayapati
Naidu Rayapati, scientist and director at WSU’s Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center

Naidu Rayapati, scientist and director at Washington State University’s Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center (IAREC) at Prosser, has joined a $2.5 million effort helping Hispanic and Native American students build careers in STEM.

Led by educators in the Yakima Valley, the $2.5 million National Science Foundation-funded project, called “Culturally Responsive Education in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics” seeks to increase the number of Hispanic and Native American students in the science, technology, engineering and math workforce.

Headed by scientists at Heritage University, an Hispanic Serving Institution at Toppenish, Washington, the project begins this September and runs through summer 2024.

It combines professional development of STEM faculty, curriculum enhancement through institutional partnerships, hands-on research experiences and community outreach, and development of support services to grow the number and diversity of students pursuing higher education in STEM.

“WSU’s Prosser-based research center is well placed to introduce science and discovery to students of all ages,” Rayapati said. “Working with partners at Heritage University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Yakima Valley Community College, we hope to offer learning experiences that give under-represented students a confident start to STEM careers that can build communities, serve industries, and change lives.”

The project will also offer graduate students at IAREC an opportunity to improve teaching, mentoring, and other essential skills for advancing their career prospects in research and academics, Rayapati added. On a broader scale, this project will lay a strong foundation to expand the university’s foot-print across the Yakima Valley, helping advance its land-grant mission.