This session will provide participants who have an interest in increasing STEAM (science, technology, engineering, agriculture, and math) diversity through the development of collaborative partnerships with Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs). Particular focus will be on MSIs designated as Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) though lessons learned from this presentation can be applied to partnership development activities with any type of MSI. In particular, I will provide attendees with an understanding of how to develop reciprocal and equitable partnerships with HBCUs. To achieve the goal, I will highlight three areas: 1) successes related to programs developed to enhance diversity, equity, inclusion, and access for STEM graduate students from historically underrepresented backgrounds, 2) highlights from a USAID-supported project focused on increasing collaboration between USAID Feed the Future Innovation Labs and MSIs, and 3) a current USAID project that will train underrepresented students from MSIs to become next-generation leaders in global crop improvement.

About the speaker

Dr. Levon Esters is a Professor and Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and Faculty Affairs in the Purdue Polytechnic Institute at Purdue University. Levon also serves as Director of the Mentoring@Purdue (M@P) program which was designed to increase the representation of students from marginalized and minoritized backgrounds receiving advanced post-secondary STEM-based agricultural and life sciences degrees in Purdue’s College of Agriculture. Levon is a nationally recognized scholar on mentoring, equity, and diversity in the STEM-based agricultural and life sciences disciplines.

As the Minority Serving Institutions (MSI) Partnership Advisor at the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Crop Improvement housed in the Department of Global Development at Cornell University, Levon leads a graduate fellowship and faculty mentorship program that promotes collaboration between MSIs and Cornell University.

Levon’s research focuses on issues of educational equity and access to education for marginalized and minoritized students with a concentration on the mentoring needs of Black graduate students; STEM career development of students attending Historically Black Land-grant Colleges and Universities; and educational and professional mobility and development of Black graduate students and faculty. In addition to being selected as a Fulbright Scholar, Levon also serves as a Senior Research Associate at The Rutgers Center for Minority Serving Institutions (CMSI) at Rutgers University which has afforded him opportunities to engage in research related to Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Levon earned degrees in Agricultural Business (B.S., Florida A&M University), Agricultural Education (M.S., North Carolina A&T State University) and Agricultural & Extension Education (Ph.D., Pennsylvania State University).

Date & time

October 26 at 12:25 p.m.


This is a hybrid seminar. Cornell guests are welcome to join us in Emerson 135. The event is open to the public via Zoom.

  • Meeting ID: 957 4016 6793
  • Passcode: 445725

Best practices for Zoom etiquette

  • Please ensure your mic is muted and camera off during the presentation
  • Be aware of noise around you, and try not to watch in a busy location. This will make it easier for you to hear as well as everyone else in the session if you come off mute
  • Camera and mic can be used for questions at the end of presentation
  • Remember, if your camera is on everyone can see you
  • Please do not share link on social media to avoid zoom bombing

The seminar is hosted by the Cornell University SIPS Plant Breeding and Genetics Section as part of their Fall 2021 Weekly Section Seminar Series.