USDA National Diversity in Extension Award earned by MSU SRDC-supported initiative

Contact: Sasha Steinberg

Red, orange and yellow Coming Together for Racial Understanding logoSTARKVILLE, Miss.—Coming Together for Racial Understanding, a nationwide effort coordinated by Mississippi State’s Southern Rural Development Center, is being recognized with the USDA’s 2021 National Diversity in Extension Award.

A group of Extension specialists and administrators from Mississippi State and 21 other land-grant universities, as well as national representatives involved in the dialogue initiative, received the honor this month at the annual Food and Agriculture Excellence Awards, hosted by the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities.

The USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, along with Cooperative Extension, presents the National Diversity in Extension Award to recognize significant contributions and accomplishments in achieving and sustaining diversity and pluralism.

The Coming Together for Racial Understanding team developed a curriculum to help Extension professionals facilitate dialogues on race in communities across the country. To date, 29 teams have participated in a national train-the-trainer workshop to help launch efforts within their own states.

Rachel Welborn, SRDC associate director, helps coordinate Coming Together for Racial Understanding. MSU Extension Professor Laura Downey also helped shape the effort.

Welborn said the project seeks to empower communities to work together across racial and ethnic lines to foster understanding, build trust, and take informed, collective action.

“Investing ourselves in the important task of trust-building through dialogues is essential for meaningful change,” she said.

NIFA Director Carrie Castille said each year, the Food and Agriculture Excellence Awards showcase the impact Cooperative Extension makes in society.

“This important partnership and excellent programs like these are a testament to the true value of Cooperative Extension capacity funds more than a century after the Smith-Lever Act created this unparalleled system of outreach and education that enriches every community across the nation,” she said.

For more on MSU’s Southern Rural Development Center and its role in Coming Together for Racial Understanding, visit

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Tuesday, November 16, 2021 - 2:57 pm