The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech recently recognized two individuals for their work in promoting diversity initiatives at the annual Diversity Enhancement Awards ceremony.

John Galbraith, associate professor of crop and soil environmental sciences, received the faculty Diversity Enhancement Award and Brielle Wright of Clarkton, N.C., a master’s degree student studying agricultural and extension education received the Dr. Randolph Grayson Student Diversity Enhancement Award.

“Diversity initiatives are integral to fulfilling our mission as a land-grant university,” said Alan Grant, dean of the college. “Honoring individuals who promote the values of diversity and inclusion is important to the college and helps to build on our culture of continuous improvement.”

Galbraith was honored for being influential in resurrecting the Virginia Indian Pre-College Outreach Initiative, a program that is housed in the Office of Academic Excellence and is designed to increase college enrollment and retention for native peoples by building partnerships with students, families, tribal representatives, and other institutions. 

The program provides help with the college and financial assistance application process, as well as offers annual scholarships to Virginia individuals of indigenous heritage.

His efforts also go beyond the Virginia Tech campus. 

He has worked with the Oglala Lakota College in South Dakota, located on one of the poorest reservations in America. Galbraith has made several trips to the institution to tailor his teachings to the traditional Lakota understanding of their relationship with the earth. Galbraith also team teaches a class called indigenous ecologies and knowledge systems, a course which highlights the synergies of crop and soil environmental science with native traditions.

Outside of his work with indigenous communities, Galbraith also advised several graduate and undergraduate students from Nepal as a Fulbright specialist, established a study abroad program to Nepal, and travelled to Bhutan to assist the country's national soil survey program.

Galbraith received his bachelor's degree and master's degree from Texas Tech and a Ph.D. from Cornell University.

Wright has a long history of promoting diversity at Virginia Tech and as an undergraduate at North Carolina Agriculture and Technical State University where she served as parliamentarian for the national chapter of Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences. She was also the recipient of a Kansas State multicultural fellowship, and spearheaded an agricultural-based summer camp that hosted 20 elementary school-aged minority students. 

At Virginia Tech, Wright is a delegate for the Student Graduate Assembly in addition to being a 2013 diversity scholar.

A major accomplishment during her graduate career was establishing the VT Forward mentoring program, an initiative that develops mentorship opportunities for underrepresented graduate and undergraduate students to define and maintain their social and cultural identity through fellowship of a series of programs based on the tenets of Kwanza and the Aspirations for Student Learning at Virginia Tech.

Wright has also been an active participant in myriad activities off campus. She studied at Ege University in Izmir, Turkey where she compared and contrasted the Turkish agribusiness practices with those of the U.S. Stateside she has also attended the popular USDA Agricultural Outlook Forum in Washington, D.C., as a winner of the organization's essay contest.



Written by Amy Loeffler.
Share this story