Virginia Tech graduate becomes first African-American woman to earn degree in nanoscience
On May 11, Ginai Seabron became the first African-American woman to earn a B.S. in nanoscience from the College of Science at Virginia Tech.
As one of only 20 graduating seniors in the nanoscience major, which is part of the college's Academy of Integrated Science, Seabron accepted her degree at the Biocomplexity Institute in Steger Hall among shouts of support and cheers from her peers, friends, and family.
Social media has proven that more than just her personal connections are proud of her accomplishment.
“I didn’t expect it at all,” Seabron said of her post going viral. “It’s overwhelming, but I love it.”
Hours before commencement, Seabron spoke through tears as she reflected on her Virginia Tech experience.
“It is not easy at all being the only African-American in the room,” she said. “It’s intimidating.”
She chose not to give up, and in doing so inspired others to pursue the degree. “I’ve actually helped a few other people in my black community transfer into the nanoscience department.”
“I met Ginai during her freshman year while talking to students about our shared interest in nanoscience,” said Virginia Tech President Tim Sands, who also has a nanotechnology background. “We’re proud of her success, and I greatly appreciate her many contributions to the university community. Her strength and insight have been very helpful to me in our efforts to make the Virginia Tech experience more inclusive. I have no doubt that great things are ahead for her.”
Her advice to future students comes from lessons she’s learned along the way.
“Continue to push,” she said. “Rely on your family and your friends. Reach out to your professors. Go to office hours. Create your own office hours if you have to. Be social. Step out of your comfort zone. Get to know the people in your class — they could become your study buddies. You’ll think you’re the only person struggling, but as it turns out, everybody’s struggling.”
With the term “family,” she’s referring to more than just relatives. While her kin have been an incredible support system, the relationships she built through her involvement on campus have sustained her on long days and even longer nights.
“The black community at Virginia Tech is wonderful,” she said. “The Black Cultural Center and everyone in the cultural and community centers are all amazing. They know me as Auntie Nai here. They’re really my family away from home. Without them, I wouldn’t have made it. I can promise you that.”
In response to their encouragement, Seabron served as president of the Black Organizations Council and was a member of Enlightened Gospel Choir, where she was awarded for her commitment to diversity and inclusion at the University Student Leadership Awards. She was a resident advisor during her junior year, a teaching assistant during her sophomore year, and has volunteered with College Mentors for Kids.
“I love helping others, and in every single one of those positions, I’ve had the great opportunity of meeting and helping out other people,” Seabron said. “And they’ve also helped me through.”
Ginai’s mother, Sherita Seabron, describes her daughter as a natural-born leader and said last weekend’s events created the best Mother’s Day she could ask for.
“I feel overjoyed and overwhelmed with emotion,” Sherita said. “I knew she was destined for greatness, and I’m just excited to see what’s next for her.”
Ginai’s post-graduation plans have yet to be solidified, but one thing is certain: she’s looking forward to getting more sleep.
Photos by Steven Mackay
Written by Tiffany Woodall