Agricultural Export Market Challenge

2024 Spring Semester

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) is excited to offer an experiential learning opportunity to junior and senior year undergraduate students attending a minority-serving educational institution.

About the Challenge

The Agricultural Export Market Challenge (the Challenge) is an immersive learning experience using the case study method and role playing to simulate the work that FAS subject matter experts perform every day to increase export opportunities for U.S. food and agricultural products. The simulation will help students accrue knowledge and skills across the disciplines of economics, diplomacy, scientific analysis, marketing, and trade policy.

What’s Expected of Students and Faculty

FAS will provide students with a packet of background materials describing the simulation. As a team of 3-5 individuals, students will be asked to conduct basic research and outreach to experts simulating the experience of an FAS professional as they solve real world trade problems. 

We ask that the sponsoring faculty member work with FAS to reinforce learning outcomes for the students and expose them to potential future career paths.

When and How to Apply

The Challenge will take place online mid-semester in Spring 2024 over the course of four to six weeks from start to finish. There will be a kick-off session and a workshop during which student teams will present their work and hear from FAS officials.

  • September 2023 - Recruitment begins
  • September 25 – Expression of Interest form opens
  • September 29, October 11, and November 9 - Virtual information session held for faculty to learn about the Challenge (details below)
    • September 29 (Friday): First information session (1 hour), 3PM EST. Zoom Access Link
    • October 11 (Wednesday): Second information session (1 hour), 3PM EST. Zoom Access Link
    • November 9 (Thursday): Third information session (1 hour), 3PM EST. Zoom Access Link
  • December 1 - Deadline to submit Expression of Interest form
  • December 2023 - Selected teams notified 
  • January 2024 - University information sessions held for teams to receive background materials on the simulation
  • February 2024 - Official kick-off and orientation session
  • February-March 2024 - Teams work with mentor to develop a solution to the Challenge
  • March 2024 - Final workshop for teams to present their solution to FAS leaders and the winning team announced
  • TBD - Winning team travels to Washington D.C. to meet with FAS leadership

Each team should be comprised of a minimum of 3 students and no more than 5 students. Student teams must be supported by the “sponsorship” of a faculty member (school professor or administrator) who will help guide the team through the Challenge.

Send Questions to:

Frequently Asked Questions


This will be extra work in a busy semester. Why should my students participate?

There will be some extracurricular work involved in developing a deeper understanding of the students’ assigned roles on this project. However, we expect that most of their time will be spent engaging each other and external experts to develop a real-world strategy and build professional communication skills, which will support the students as they interview for and serve in their early professional roles. Students will acquire insights to careers in government and the private sector engaged in international trade, while building the foundation of a valuable network of seasoned professionals who are interested and invested in their success.


How much will be asked of me and what are the benefits for faculty?

USDA will prepare all materials associated with the case study, provide a USDA professional mentor for each team, facilitate the hands-on workshop, and provide programming with USDA officials. We ask that the sponsoring faculty member organize the student teams, help us maintain communication with the teams throughout the exercise, and offer valuable feedback to improve the program. We hope the material and experiential learning will enhance your curriculum and offer a unique experience that provides real world incentives.


Is there a fee to participate?

USDA is hosting the program. There is no fee to participate, but we do ask that teachers ensure participating students are willing to dedicate the time needed to derive full benefits from the program.


Will the program be in-person or virtual?

The program will be conducted fully online. The winning team will receive the opportunity to travel to USDA headquarters in Washington, D.C., to meet with FAS leaders and Challenge mentors.


Will students earn academic credit for their participation?

Each institution has different requirements and opportunities for earning academic credits. USDA will offer a certificate for participation and completion of the Agricultural Export Market Challenge that students may add to their resumes, which will be of value to students interested in U.S. Government pathways programs.


Can two-year institutions or underclassmen participate?

Yes, 2-year institutions and underclassmen may be eligible to participate in the Challenge.  However, the case study material is written for a junior or senior level college students, so underclassmen may find the material more difficult.


How are applicants selected to participate?

Applicants must have fully completed the Expression of Interest form by the deadline.  Submissions are screened for eligibility.  When the Challenge is oversubscribed, with more eligible applicants than we can host, USDA will employ a blind lottery system based on geography and duplicity of interest from the same institution.

2021-2022 Participating Institutions

The following minority-serving institutions participated in the Challenge during the 2022 Spring semester. 

  1. California State University, Chico*
  2. California State University, Fresno
  3. California State University, Stanislaus
  4. Columbia Basin College
  5. Florida A&M University
  6. Fort Valley State University
  7. Northeastern Illinois University
  8. North Carolina A&T State University
  9. Prairie View A&M University
  10. Southern University and A&M College
  11. St. Mary’s University
  12. University of Maryland Eastern Shore
  13. West Texas A&M University

*Winning team 

2022-2023 Participating Institutions

The following minority-serving institutions were selected to participate in the Challenge during the 2023 Spring semester. 

  1. Alverno College, Milwaukee, Wis.
  2. California State University, Chico, Calif.
  3. California State University, Fresno, Calif.
  4. California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, Calif.
  5. Columbia Basin College, Pasco, Wash.
  6. Dominican University, River Forest, Ill.
  7. Kean University, Union, N.J. (two teams)
  8. Lincoln University, Jefferson City, Mo.
  9. New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, N.M.
  10. North Carolina A&T State University, Greensboro, N.C.*
  11. North Shore Community College, Danvers, Mass.
  12. St. Mary's University, San Antonio, Texas
  13. Sul Ross State University, Alpine, Texas
  14. University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Nev.
  15. West Texas A&M University, Canyon, Texas

*Winning team 

2023-2024 Participating Institutions

The following minority-serving institutions participated in the Challenge during the 2024 Spring semester.

  1. Alverno College, Milwaukee, Wis.
  2. California State University, Fresno, Calif.
  3. Cal Poly Pomona, Pomona, Calif.
  4. Florida International University, Miami, Fla.
  5. Fort Valley State University, Fort Valley, Ga.
  6. Hartnell College, Salina, Calif.
  7. Howard University, Washington, D.C.
  8. Inter American University of Puerto Rico – Aguadilla, Aguadilla, Puerto Rico*
  9. Lincoln University, Jefferson City, Mo.
  10. New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, N.M.
  11. North Carolina A&T State University, Greensboro, N.C.
  12. Prairie View A&M University, Prairie View, Texas
  13. Regis University, Denver, Colo.
  14. San Diego Mesa College, San Diego, Calif.
  15. St. Mary's University, San Antonio, Texas
  16. Texas A&M University – Kingsville, Kingsville, Texas

*Winning team