2015 Alwood Extension award winners

Stephanie Blevins and James Wilson, graduate students in the Department of Entomology, recently won the 2015 Alwood Extension Award. This award recognizes entomology graduate students who dedicate themselves to Virginia Cooperative Extension and outreach service. The award comes with a $500 scholarship, a plaque, and a commemorative print. It honors the legacy of William Bradford Alwood, Virginia Tech’s first entomologist and a world-renowned scientist.

Blevins, an M.S.L.F.S. student, is studying the public’s views of arthropods and pesticides through the lens of university and entomology outreach events. She also works full time as Virginia Tech Pesticide Programs’ consumer education project manager. A native of Galax, Virginia, Stephanie received her bachelor’s degree in horticulture from Virginia Tech in 2007. During her early work in horticulture, Blevins observed various insects feeding on plants and became fascinated by entomology. Her outreach efforts working with the public gradually transitioned from horticulture into entomology.

“I’m always eager to see a person’s reaction to insects,” Blevins said. “They might smile, look intrigued, squirm or take a few steps back. No matter the reaction, people are usually excited to learn a little more about the insect world – which is what our outreach efforts strive to encourage.”

Alwood award winner Stephanie Blevins

Alwood award winner Stephanie Blevins

Since 2011, Blevins has contributed greatly to the success of the annual Hokie BugFest. Last summer, she almost single-handedly organized the inaugural Hokie Bug Camp, a one-day, hands-on event to introduce children to entomology. Other service projects have included honey extraction, W.B. Alwood Entomological Society meetings, T-shirt sales, arts and crafts work, and fundraising activities. She has worked closely with state 4-H office specialists, agents, and volunteers to make these events a success and to enhance the existing 4-H curriculum. She is a perfect example of the qualities of selfless dedication, patience, leadership, integrity, honesty, a positive attitude and scholarship.

Wilson, a Ph.D. candidate, is studying the effects of insecticides on the squash bug, its egg parasitoids, and pollinators in Virginia cucurbit production. Originally from Southport, North Carolina, Wilson earned his bachelor’s degree in fisheries and wildlife science in 2008. In 2012, he received his master’s degree in forensic entomology from Virginia Tech. Wilson traces his fascination with entomology back to a childhood visit to the Biltmore Estate near Asheville, North Carolina. Wandering through the gardens, he collected every insect he could find. As an undergraduate at North Carolina State, he worked with several Extension entomologists. Once at Virginia Tech, Wilson helped organize beekeeping workshops with Rick Fell. “With experiences like this,” he noted, “I have a great appreciation for Extension and outreach that has only grown during my time here at Virginia Tech.”

Alwood award winner James Wilson

Wilson has successfully balanced a demanding graduate student schedule while participating in outreach events. He has served as Alwood Society president, vice president, and student coordinator. James has been a key contributor to the Hokie BugFest, helping organize one of its biggest attractions. He has devoted many hours to Extension events, including school tours and visits, museum exhibits, festivals, alumni gatherings, radio programs, and fundraising activities.

Wilson’s service and leadership exemplify how a graduate student can gain experience and contribute to the greater good of science and learning. He is a personable young man, dedicated to public service and his graduate work. James is a fine example of someone who fits the criteria of the Alwood Extension Award, which includes selfless dedication, patience, leadership, integrity, honesty, a positive attitude, and scholarship.

Edwin Jones, director of Virginia Cooperative Extension, presented the Alwood Extension Awards on March 4 at the Virginia Cooperative Extension Professional Development Conference, held at the Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center.

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