Three individuals from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences were recently recognized for their commitment to promoting diversity within the college and Virginia Tech.

The College Diversity Council honored,  Stephanie “Nikki” Lewis of Newport News. Va., staff member Susan Rosebrough, and Emeritus Professor Randolph Grayson in an award ceremony on May 29.

“We are extremely grateful for the work these individuals have done over the years to ensure our college is a reflection of our larger community,” said Dean Alan Grant, a member of the council. “This diversity and inclusion helps us all gain a deeper understanding of our world.”

The Diversity Council presents the annual awards to students, faculty, and staff who have been selfless ambassadors of diversity initiatives within the college and the university. This year, the student award was renamed the Dr. Randolph Grayson Student Diversity Enhancement Award after students continually cited the encouragement and support Grayson has given them over the years.

Grayson, a professor emeritus of plant pathology, physiology and weed science and program coordinator for the George Washington Carver Program for Graduate Students, has made a lifelong priority of ensuring that the college and university benefit by cultivating a diverse student population through recruitment and retention efforts. The Carver program provides assistantships to encourage students from historically black colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, tribal colleges, universities, students from the Appalachian region, and nontraditional students to enroll in a graduate program in the college. The assistantships are awarded to students who have demonstrated excellence in academic achievement, scholarship, and community service. This year alone, Grayson has set a personal goal of recruiting 25 students of color into various programs at Virginia Tech and has made recruitment trips to schools in North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and Mississippi.

As a genetics, bioinformatics, and computational biology graduate student, Lewis has excelled in her academic pursuits, but she has also made a significant commitment to making Virginia Tech a more inclusive community. Lewis is the preeminent diversity point-of-contact on campus for students in the Initiative for Maximizing Student Development — a program supported by the National Institutes of Health through the National Institute of General Medical Sciences that supports underrepresented students who want to pursue a Ph.D. and a research career in biomedical or behavioral fields in science or engineering. Lewis was intimately involved in selecting the cohort of scholars this year and taught a class called Entering Research to the scholars as well. Outside of the Virginia Tech community, she has also been active in recruiting underrepresented students and establishing relationships with minority-serving institutions.

Rosebrough, academic programs coordinator for the Department of Biological Systems Engineering, has also been active in the Virginia Tech community in promoting diversity initiatives. She was recently appointed to serve on the University Commission on Equal Opportunity and Diversity, an organization established to address issues affecting students from historically underrepresented groups and international populations in all aspects of student life.  In addition, Rosebrough is a member of the Virginia Tech Safe Zone initiative, a program that educates the university community on topics related to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning community. Safe Zone members are individuals committed to providing a more inclusive and accepting environment for LGBTQ communities and their allies.

All three recipients of the award received a letter of commendation, a plaque, and a monetary award of $500.



Written by Amy Loeffler.

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