Fellowship honors Lance Collins' focus on diversity
The first African American dean at Cornell, Collins made diversity a priority among the College of Engineering’s faculty and student body.
Lance Collins, the leader of Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus in Northern Virginia, has made recruiting a diverse faculty and student body among the highest priorities of his new job.
He came to Virginia Tech last month with a proven track record of doing just that during his 10-year tenure as the Joseph Silbert Dean of the College of Engineering at Cornell University.
His success at Cornell was recognized again this month with the establishment of the Lance R. Collins Fellowship, created to support Cornell engineering graduate students from traditionally underrepresented populations and to honor Collins.
Alumni of Cornell Engineering raised $1.5 million to fund the fellowship. Members of the Engineering College Council were instrumental in the success of the effort, including council chair Elissa Sterry.
“The council is honored to have worked closely with Dean Collins in his tireless effort to make Cornell Engineering a leader in diversity and inclusion,” Sterry said in a story in the Cornell Chronicle. “This fund will contribute to ensuring his legacy lives on.”
When his second five-year term as dean of Cornell Engineering ended June 30, Collins became the inaugural vice president and executive director of Virginia Tech’s new Innovation Campus that will be built in Alexandria.
The first African American dean at Cornell, Collins prioritized diversifying the College of Engineering’s faculty and student body. He more than doubled the proportion of undergraduate students from underrepresented communities, from 8 percent to 19 percent, and increased the enrollment of undergraduate women from 33 percent to 50 percent, while keeping graduation rates and average GPA equal among genders.
For his work on diversity, Collins received the inaugural Mosaic Medal of Distinction in 2017 from Cornell Mosaic – an alumni organization founded to increase engagement from alumni of all backgrounds – and the 2018 Edward Bouchet Legacy Award from Howard University and Yale University, which recognizes educators and advocates who promote diversity and inclusion.
“I am incredibly proud of the fact that the engineering alumni chose this way to recognize my contribution to Cornell’s diversity efforts. It’s a legacy that I will cherish forever,” Collins said. “I’m equally excited to continue this important work at Virginia Tech. Diversity isn’t just a core value to me, it’s a value of excellence and it’s absolutely essential to enabling the Innovation Campus to achieve its full potential.”