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USDA Welcomes 2024 Class of E. Kika De La Garza Fellows


The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) welcomed 32 faculty and staff from Hispanic-Serving Institutions and Hispanic-Serving School Districts around the nation to the 2024 class of E. Kika De La Garza (EKDLG) Fellows.

The EKDLG Fellows came to Washington, D.C. to learn how USDA services and programs can benefit them, their students, and their communities. This effort is part of USDA’s commitment to advance equity in professional development opportunities and build a more diverse pipeline into public service and the agricultural sector. “This year’s class of fellows is the largest so far and a testament of the program’s success,” said Dr. Lisa R. Ramírez, director of USDA’s Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement.

E. Kika De La Garza Education, High School, and Science Fellows will spend one week meeting with leaders from different USDA agencies in the Washington, D.C. area learning more about national and regional issues, policy making and research. Following that weeklong session, E. Kika De La Garza Science Fellows will spend an additional week collaborating with top scientists from USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, Food Safety and Inspection Service, or the U.S. Forest Service.

Since the E. Kika De La Garza Fellows Program was established in 1998, USDA has hosted more than 400 faculty and staff, in a key effort to strengthen relationships with Hispanic-Serving Institutions. All E. Kika De La Garza fellows are faculty or staff at Hispanic-Serving higher education institutions (HSIs) or Hispanic-Serving School Districts (HSSDs). These are higher education institutions and K-12 school districts with Hispanic student enrollment of 25 percent or more. Currently, there are more than 600 Hispanic-Serving Institutions nationally serving more than 2 million students.

The 2024 E. Kika De La Garza Education Fellows are:

  • Venkatesh Balan, University of Houston, Sugar Land, Texas
  • Cynthia Bejarano, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, New Mexico
  • Amanda Bogden, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona
  • Hikmet Budak, Arizona Western College, Yuma, Arizona
  • David A. Byrd, Coastal Bend College, Beeville, Texas
  • Reilly Caldwell, Adams State College, Alamosa, Colorado
  • Denise Crosswhite, California State University, Chico, Chico, California
  • Lauren M. Dinour, Montclair State University, Montclair, New Jersey
  • Maria Consuelo Donato Molina, Texas A&M University, Kingsville, Kingsville, Texas
  • J. Michael Gaspar, Mesa Community College, Mesa, Arizona
  • Belen Gonzales, Hartnell College, Hartnell, California
  • J.E. Jason Headrick, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas
  • Joe Hinton, City Colleges of Chicago, Harold Washington College, Chicago, Illinois
  • Rafael Landaverde, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas
  • Alyssa M. McKenney, Maricopa Community Colleges, Tempe, Arizona
  • Liliana Oliveira, University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut
  • Franklin Ortega-Palaguachi, Waubonsee Community College, Sugar Grove, Illinois
  • Kitchka P. Petrova, Northern Arizona University, Yuma, Arizona
  • Mayra Puente, University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, California
  • Jennifer C Schriber, Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo, California

The 2024 E. Kika De La Garza Education High School Fellows are:

  • Curtis Guaglianone, Mt. Adams School District #209, White Swan, Washington
  • Robert Markuske, The Urban Assembly New York Harbor School, New York, New York
  • Patrycja Zbrzezny, John Bowne High School, Flushing, New York

The 2024 E. Kika De La Garza Science Fellows are:

  • Mark Eppinger, University of Texas, San Antonio, San Antonio, Texas
  • Ivan L. Guzman, CUNY New York City College of Technology, Brooklyn, New York
  • Akira Kawamura, CUNY, Hunter College, New York, New York
  • Amir Ali Khoddamzadeh, Florida International University, Miami, Florida
  • Cynthia Klobodu, California State University, Chico, Chico, California
  • Santanu Maitra, California State University, Fresno, Fresno, California
  • Subhankar Mandal, Arizona State University, Mesa, Arizona
  • Rosalyn A. Shim, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas
  • Veerachandra K. Yemmireddy, University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley, Edinburg, Texas

The E. Kika De La Garza Fellows Program is part of USDA’s Hispanic-Serving Institutions National Program, which is committed to supporting a 21st century agricultural workforce through professional development, workforce development and exposure to opportunities for faculty, staff and students. Through this program, USDA also partners with the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities to provide high quality internship experiences, placing more than 3,000 interns since 1994. This program demonstrates USDA’s commitment to ensuring equitable access to the Department’s programs, services and resources by underserved groups.

USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit


USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender.

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