Diversity Incentive Fund creates opportunities for inclusion

State University, participate in a program made possible by the Diversity Incentive Fund that exposes them to soybean breeding.

Krystal Thomas and Montae Chappell, students at Virginia State University, participate in a program made possible by the Diversity Incentive Fund that exposes them to soybean breeding.

The College Diversity Council created the Diversity Incentive Fund in order to provide support for new, innovative, and creative approaches to raising awareness, engaging learners, and changing behaviors about inclusion within the academic community as well as the broader communities the college serves.

Bo Zhang, a research assistant professor in crop and soil environmental sciences, was the recipient of the award in 2013. Last summer, she used the funds to expose two undergraduate students from Virginia State University to soybean breeding on a five-day tour that included stops in Blacksburg and the Eastern Virginia Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Warsaw, Virginia. The aim of the visits was to spark an interest in graduate school research among underrepresented students.

This year, the $2,000 award was split between two programs. Eric Wong and Ed Smith, both professors of animal and poultry sciences, will be putting on a series of informal meetings between college faculty and staff and members of the Virginia Tech Postbaccalaureate Research and Education Program, or VT-PREP, and the university’s Initiative for Maximizing Student Development. The goal of the meetings is to increase awareness of the programs, which increase minority participation in the sciences.

A second award was given to Gonzalo Ferreira, an assistant professor of dairy science, who will use it to create a series of educational videos for Hispanic workers on dairy farms.

Visit the Diversity Program website to learn more about the college’s diversity and inclusion programs.

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