HBCU/MSI Research Summit draws hundreds to Virginia Tech
More than 200 undergraduate students and faculty members from 17 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Minority Serving Institutes (MSIs) visited Virginia Tech on Oct. 14 and 15 for the third annual HBCU/MSI Research Summit at Virginia Tech.
The 150 students attending the summit had the opportunity to talk with HBCU and MSI alumni who now are graduate students about research and advanced degree opportunities at Virginia Tech.
Hosted by the Graduate School, the two-day summit, now in its third year, aims to foster connections between Virginia Tech and students and faculty at the visiting institutions. Faculty members at the HBCUs and MSIs were invited by Virginia Tech programs and units.
The first summit, held in 2016, was a partnership between the Graduate School and the College of Engineering with the goal of developing research partnerships and ongoing relationships between Virginia Tech and visiting faculty and students. The summit has grown since then to include seven university colleges as well as university-level research institutes and interdisciplinary graduate education research programs.
“We are delighted with the expansion of this program and the growing involvement of departments and institutes across the university,” said Vice President and Dean for Graduate Education Karen P. DePauw. “The summit provides the opportunity for students and faculty from HBCUs and MSIs to learn more about Virginia Tech and research collaborations and our degree programs and graduate community.”
This year’s theme echoed the original goals: building partnerships to establish, expand, and improve research initiatives, resources, accessibility, and inclusion efforts.
Graduate School Director of Recruitment, Diversity, and Inclusion Shernita Lee said the summit’s energy conveyed excitement, curiosity, and openness to explore Virginia Tech programs and potential collaborations.
“It was truly a delight to witness the same magical experience I had years ago when graduating from an HBCU and choosing Virginia Tech for my graduate studies,” Lee said. “Our visiting faculty and students were able to see Virginia Tech beyond a website and emails, and instead observe first-hand our true commitment to partnerships.”
Visitors gathered at the Inn at Virginia Tech on Sunday for panel discussions, poster sessions, and opportunities to network. Visiting students crowded into a standing-room only question-and-answer session with HBCU and MSI alumni Kayla Harris, Angelina Hargrove, Matthew Ferby, Trichia Cadette, Taylor McFadden, and Courtney Lawrence, all Virginia Tech graduate students. Visitors peppered the panelists with questions about finding programs, mentors, and support at large, predominantly white research institutions. The graduate students said afterward they found the questions on-target and thoughtful, and wished the session had been longer so they could have answered more queries.
At the summit’s dinner on Sunday, Karen Eley Sanders, associate vice provost for college access at Virginia Tech, shared her experiences as a Virginia State University (VSU) and University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, alumna and offered the students tips about considering and pursuing graduate school goals and finding mentors and others to provide support. She posed for a photo later with the contingent from VSU.
Willie Rockward, professor and chair of the Physics Department at Morgan State University, focused on the summit’s theme, suggesting that love, loyalty, and laughter are key parts of building relationships and fostering learning and inclusion efforts. He urged the students and faculty to embrace both failures and successes, as failure offers the opportunity to grow and learn and build confidence.
On Monday, students attended an admissions workshop offered by the Graduate School, and then fanned out to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; College of Architecture and Urban Studies; College of Engineering; College of Liberal Arts and Human Science; Pamplin College of Business; College of Science; and the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine for a morning of programs, demonstrations, tours, and one-on-one conversations. Additionally, the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Sciences and the NanoEarth research program offered programs for visitors on Monday.
Justin Grimes, assistant director of recruitment, diversity, and inclusion for the Graduate School, said he enjoyed seeing attendees network with Virginia Tech students and faculty. “I am excited about the possibilities for more institutions’ faculty members and students to stay engaged in relationship building between our university and theirs,” he said.
Visiting institutes included Alabama A&M University, Delaware State University, Edward Waters College, Fayetteville State University, Fisk University, Georgia State University, Hampton University, Howard University, Johnson C. Smith University, Morehouse College, Morgan State University, North Carolina A&T University, Tennessee State University, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Virginia State University, and Winston Salem State University.