The FFAR Fellows Program

Hector Fajardo, FFAR Fellow.

Hector Fajardo, 2023-2026 Fellow, NC State University

The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at North Carolina State University and the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) created the FFAR Fellows Program to provide professional development and career guidance to the next generation of food and agriculture scientists across FFAR’s challenge areas and strategic initiatives.

The consensus among employers is that U.S. universities could better prepare a career ready STEM workforce by breaking down the disciplinary silos and increasing the focus on professional development and “soft-skills”, which would result in more well-rounded graduates. By providing early career support to graduate students, the program cultivates supportive relationships between graduate students and industry, government, and NGO peers to equip students with the skills needed to facilitate their transition to the workforce and prepare future leaders for food and agriculture. Fellows are co-mentored over the 3-year program by university and industry representatives and engage with their peers in professional development programming both virtually and at five in-person sessions.

Cohorts of ~25 Fellows train together and support each others as they continue through their respective graduate programs. One-hundred and thirty fellows from 30+ institutions across the U.S. and Canada have participated in six cohorts. Recruitment for the seventh cohort begins November 1, 2023.

Each Fellow is supported by an industry or analogous sponsor, which funds half of the student’s expenses related to the fellowship’s professional development programming. Students can also apply for one of six scholarships funded by the Foundation for Food and Agriculture’s Rockey FFAR Fellows Fund. For eight Stipend Fellows, sponsors also fund half of the student’s stipend, fees, tuition, and related costs. The remaining half of these funds are matched by the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research.

The FFAR Fellows program has connected me to a network of outstanding peers interested in leveraging agricultural research for change. With the community and professional development skills I’ve gained, I know I’ll leave this program with the skills to succeed [in my future career].

Dhruv Patel, 2019-2022 Fellow, AAAS Science & Technology Fellow, USDA

The FFAR Fellows Program has endowed me with the tools and skills needed to take my graduate education to the next level through both professional development and personal accountability in setting and achieving my goals, for my degree and my future career.

Alison Deviney, North Carolina State University, 2018-2021 Fellow

Being a FFAR Fellow has fundamentally enhanced my graduate school experience. The program connected me to a diverse, driven and supportive cohort of friends and colleagues, created opportunities for dialog with my advisors and mentors I would not have had otherwise, and helped hold me accountable for goals I’ve set.

Zach Dashner, Penn State University, 2018-2021 Fellow

Participating as a FFAR Fellow has been transformational in evolving my professional skills, notably communication, networking and leadership skills. It has provided me the tools and resources to get out of my ‘grad bubble’ and think outside the box. I feel empowered to consider career choices outside academic research.

Lovepreet Singh, University of Maryland, 2018-2021 Fellow

The FFAR Fellows program has given me the chance not only to build my professional development skills, but also to meet a network of creative and intelligent students working in all branches of food and agriculture research.

Gwen Donley, 2019-2022 Fellow, National Poverty Fellow, Institute for Research on Poverty

The FFAR Fellows program made me a better researcher, communicator, public policy advocate, and as a whole, a better human being. It introduced me to inspiring mentors, innovative tools and strategies, and a group of scientific peers who are going to change the world for the better.

Ekramul Ehite, 2020-2023 Fellow, Principal Scientist at GSK

Through the FFAR Fellows Program I met extraordinary peers and professionals, and had the opportunity to develop a unique set of skills that considerably helped me have a positive impact on my work environment and beyond.

Francesco Cappai, 2018-2021 Fellow, Transformation Scientist, Aferna Bio
In grad school, you can tend to stay in your own bubble or zone. The FFAR Fellows is an opportunity to get out of the zone and look at the ‘big picture.’ What I mean by that is in terms of disciplines – you get to interact with other fellows who are working in different aspects of agriculture. It offers you opportunities for collaboration, to understand multi-disciplinary research.
A 2018-2021 Fellow, from the program evaluation
The individualized attention I’m getting as a grad student because of the FFAR Program has made a huge difference in my grad school experience. The people who are organizing FFAR, and also my mentors – their whole attention is on the development of my career. That is really special.
A 2019-2022 Fellow, from the program evaluation
I used to be a shy person, a person who was not that confident. But through the trainings and the goals that I have set for my Professional Development Plan, I think it is helping me to change some of the habits that I had before. The way I used to stand in front of people last year is different to how I stand now.
A 2019-2022 Fellow, from the program evaluation
Because of the FFAR Fellows, I can see that there is a difference between me and the other grad students across my department. Everyone knows what I am working on. I am grateful that I have gained the communication skills to share my work.
A 2018-2021 Fellow, from the program evaluation

Meet the 2023-2026 FFAR Fellows!

North Carolina State University and the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research are pleased to present the 2023-2026 FFAR Fellows! This year the Fellows program invited 30 students from across the U.S. and Canada. Twenty-four Fellows are supported by an industry or analogous sponsor, which funds half of the student’s expenses for a 3-year intensive in-person and virtual professional development program. Six fellows are funded by the the Rockey FFAR Fellows Fund, established at the retirement of the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research’s first executive director, Dr. Sally Rockey.

2023-2026 FFAR Fellows

Graduate students gathered together on campus for a group photo.