RMC Research Corporation is serving as the external evaluator for the 5-year NSF-funded Research Traineeship Program (NRT) – Innovation at the Nexus of Food, Energy, and Water Systems (INFEWS) (Award #173562) at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL). The NRT award to UNL establishes a new graduate training program that focuses on understanding the resilience of agricultural systems. Nebraska’s agricultural system in the Platte River Basin is of economic, social and natural value; but the river basin’s ability to resist damage from outside threats (e.g. pollution, pest, drought) and recover rapidly is unknown. The training program at UNL will examine resilience of agricultural landscapes through the disciplines of agronomy, natural resources, computer sciences, engineering, and public policy. The program anticipates training 25 PhD and 25 MS students, including 23 funded trainees from natural resources, environmental science, agronomy, entomology, plant sciences, geosciences, biosystems engineering, computer science, and public policy. Trainees will engage with external partners from the agricultural industry, government agencies, and other organizations that have an interest and stake in maintaining productive agricultural systems. It is anticipated that the training will help develop a workforce and agricultural industry better capable of managing future demands on food, energy, and water systems.
The external evaluation will involve data collected through questionnaires, interviews, and project materials. RMC Research will analyze data using descriptive statistics and trends analysis and will work with the UNL leadership team to support the use of evaluation data in long-term planning and guidance. Annual reports with program information, impacts, and recommendations will be provided to support continuous project improvement. A final summative report will document progress toward project goals, highlighting effective strategies, and providing recommendations for sustaining, improving, and replicating practices.