What was once a program exclusively offered through the CSU's four colleges of agriculture, the Agricultural Research Institute (ARI) has now expanded to all 23 campuses – providing CSU students across the state an opportunity to take part in preserving California's agriculture.

Through applied research, ARI's mission is to increase the profitability of agriculture and natural resources, two of California's largest economic sectors.

ARI was established in 1991 with programs available to CSU students at the Chico, Fresno, Pomona and San Luis Obispo campuses. The institute employs undergraduate and graduate students studying agriculture to conduct research focused on solving the state's agricultural issues. Most of ARI's funding comes from federal sources and state-funded organizations, including the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

This is the first year ARI is open to all CSU students across all majors. Executive Director David Still said the institute's expansion teaches students, regardless of major, how to utilize their knowledge and skillset to preserve California's food supply.

Students studying computer science, for example, can assist with developing drones and sensors for monitoring large fields; biologists can participate in research pertaining to controlling parasites that harm crops and farm animals; and public policy students can examine how agricultural policies impact the state's society.

"ARI shows students how they can play a valuable role in the agriculture industry," said Still. "Agriculture touches every part of our lives. All sorts of people from almost every discipline have the potential to make worthwhile contributions to California's agricultural endeavors."

ARI Aids in Greater Student Success

Student engagement and well-being is a key tenet of CSU's university-wide Graduation Initiative 2025. Undergraduate research as a high-impact practice is one of the key strategies the CSU is employing to improve student engagement and, ultimately, timely graduation. Students involved in research have higher GPAs and are more likely to land careers that are closely aligned to their majors, compared to their peers who are not involved in research.

As students focus on the state's agricultural sustainability, ARI pairs each student with a faculty mentor to support their research and encourage innovation.

"Through participation in research, students are more deeply involved in the learning process than just strictly classroom learning, which leads to a sharpened critical thinking," adds Still. "They perform better in their studies and have a better chance of completing their degrees on time."

Developing Agents Against Climate Change

The future of California's economic condition relies heavily on agriculture. As CSU students conduct research through ARI, they are addressing high-priority issues of today while developing as experts for tomorrow in the agricultural and natural resource industries.

Climate change, explains Still, requires highly-trained professionals for solving problems that did not exist in the past.

"In recent years, we've experienced heavy droughts and more frequent heatwaves, both of which are predicted to worsen in the next few decades," said Still. "This will lead to less available water and will require us to change how we plant, grow and harvest crops. We can't wait for the problem to take place, we must act now. CSU students can make this happen."

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For more information on the Agricultural Research Institute, visit https://www2.calstate.edu/impact-of-the-csu/research/ari