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image - TREC graduate students for graduate housing fundraiser

Community moved to sponsor UF/IFAS graduate housing, tomorrow’s scientists

  • On Nov. 6, the University of Florida research facility that has attracted world-class scientists and graduate students from all around the world to Homestead, will serve as the host site for the 7th annual One Night in the Tropics.
  • This one-of-a-kind celebration, at UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Tropical Research and Education Center (UF/IFAS-TREC), blends the local flavors in food, drink and live music to support the research center’s Graduate Dormitory Campaign.
  • If you can’t make it to the event, there are many ways to support the build of a new residence hall by using this Graduate Dormitory Campaign link. In the meantime, here is what sponsors have to say about supporting much-needed housing for graduate students on their current journeys to becoming tomorrow’s scientists at UF/IFAS-TREC.

HOMESTEAD, Fla. – It takes the support and advocacy of community members and philanthropists to get programs and facilities off the ground.

image - TREC grad dormitory layout

A rendering of the graduate housing dormitory. On November 6, the 7th annual One Night n the Tropics event will continue to raise funds.

On Nov. 6, the 7th annual One Night in the Tropics will take place at UF/IFAS Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead. Amid tropical fruit-filled orchards and ornamental plants that grace the grounds of the campus at 18905 SW 280 St. in Homestead, the event will feature silent auctions and live music from 6 p.m. to midnight for an evening of local flavors in food and live entertainment. Ron Magill of Zoo Miami, also known as The Mami-Dade Zoological Park and Gardens, will emcee the stellar event. Sponsorship opportunities and tickets are still available from this link www.tinyurl.com/onit2021 and walk-ins are welcome to purchase tickets the night of the event.

As TREC’s premier fundraising event, proceeds are dedicated to the Graduate Housing Campaign. Launched in 2019 with a goal of $600,000 to be met by 2022, the plan is to build a new dormitory. The dormitory is vital to recruiting talented and qualified graduate students who support scientists. In their learning roles, they work with scientists to help develop crucial solutions to sustainably cultivate food for a growing population, protect our environment and conserve our natural resources. Now in its third year, the campaign has raised more than half of the goal.

image - TREC - Grad housing exterior

An exterior rendering of the UF/IFAS graduate housing dormitory at Tropical Research and Education Center. Proceeds from the Nov. 6, 2021, One Night In the Topics event and donations will support the build.

Since there are neither federal nor state funds allocated to complete the proposed accommodations, TREC must raise funds for the new construction at the property. Several community leaders, businesses, organizations have joined the campaign and continue to encourage others to join. Sponsors for the event include Railroad Nursery, Mix’d Greens Inc., Dade County Agri Council, DiMare Fresh, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Danielle Cohen Higgins, Dade County Farm Bureau, Brooks Tropicals, Somerset Academy-SoHo, Plant Life Farms, Coconut Palm Growers, Everglades Tractor Supply, Arazoza Brothers, Grove Services, Inc., Andersen Farms, the Fair, Tamiami Orchid Festival, BASF, Rose of Sharon Nursery, Native Tree Nursery, Tropical Fruit Growers of South Florida, LMB Groves, and Dogfish Head Beer.

Here is what sponsors had to say about the need for graduate student housing.

“The UF/IFAS Tropical Research and Education Center is such an important institution for South Dade,” explains Higgins, a sponsor at the event. “One of the best ways to support our local agricultural community is to support research centers like UF/IFAS that then, in turn, help our community with best practices, shared knowledge and expertise of our environment. As a UF graduate, I am proud to represent and have the UF/IFAS Tropical Research and Education Center here in District 8.”

For the family of Ida L. and Robert T. McMillan, Jr., professor emeritus at UF/FAS TREC, supporting the dormitory fund has special meaning. They spent their days at what was then called The Experiment Station. The couple’s commitment to furthering the education of adults, all the way from elementary-age children, was a life-long commitment. They were always ready to give their time and their money toward that cause. On behalf of the couple, the donation to the graduate housing campaign is funding two rooms complete with amenities. It is the intention of the family for the couple’s legacy to carry on so that students worry less about housing and focus more on their education and being the future research leaders of tomorrow.

UF/IFAS TREC sits at the heart of Homestead and as a research facility and education arm is unique to the fabric of UF/IFAS that is dedicated to agricultural growers of all branches and its future scientists.

Known in its beginnings as the Experiment Station more than 92 years ago, the Tropical Research and Education Center is where UF/IFAS scientists, faculty, graduate students, and staff have collaborated with the growers, businesses and the South Florida community.

“Industries are only as strong as the future leaders they train, support and inspire,” said Barney Rutkze, owner of Railroad Nursery and a dedicated advisory board member of UF/IFAS TREC. “Grad students are the next generation of researchers our industry will be dependent on. If we don’t value the next class of researchers, we are devaluing the future success of our industry.

With support from the community and event sponsors, TREC’s rich history of research and Extension outreach has consistently focused on an extensive list of commodities — from avocadoes to hemp — that make South Florida a tropical paradise. Its mission is also rooted in finding solutions to environmental and agricultural challenges that plague our communities today, from sea-level rise to water quality and natural resource conservation.

“As the plant industry continues to grow and evolve, I would like to see TREC continue to shift its research towards the changing face of Agricultural in the South Dade area and the challenges we are all facing,” said Rutzke.

The role of graduate students goes beyond conducting research at UF/IFAS TREC, as is the case at many institutions of higher education. They expand and develop on the faculty’s ongoing inquiries, they collaborate with students in different disciplines to ensure that their research is academically sound and they make south Florida home, explained Edward “Gilly” Evans, the longtime agricultural economist at UF/IFAS and director at UF/IFAS TREC.

“To attract the most talented and qualified graduate students, TREC seeks to provide modern accommodations for students who decide to live on-site,” he said.

“The next generation of scientists and researchers ARE our future. If we don’t invest and plan for the next generation to live, work and stay in South Dade, we are failing both them and ourselves,” added Higgins. “We have such a bright future in South Dade and it’s the inspirational work and dedication of these students that adds incredible value to just how great South Dade has been, is now, and will be in the future.”

For more information on the event, use this link www.tinyurl.com/onit2021. To donate to the Student Housing Campaign, use this link https://trec.ifas.ufl.edu/friends-of-trec-endowments/

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By Lourdes Mederos, rodriguezl@ufl.edu

The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS)
is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make
that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than
a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty
in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS brings science-based solutions
to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents.

ifas.ufl.edu  |  @UF_IFAS