From the Dean — September 2016

Alan Grant, dean

Alan Grant, dean

Dear colleagues,

Students are back, campus is buzzing, and Blacksburg is bustling with activity. This can only mean one thing: another academic year has begun!

I hope everyone is getting back into the swing of things and the new semester is off to a great start.

But before we start looking too far ahead, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on some of the accomplishments of our faculty and staff over the previous year. We had a great annual summer picnic, when we were able to get together and celebrate the good work we all do. Photos from the event can be found on the college’s Facebook page.

Among the people who were recognized during the picnic was Kim Niewolny, who was named this year’s recipient of the Andy Swiger Land-Grant Award. The award recognizes faculty whose creative accomplishments help fulfill the land-grant mission of addressing state and national needs through teaching, research, and Extension. Kim personifies this award by enthusiastically promoting agriculture education through Extension and outreach efforts. She helps cultivate interest and provide knowledge of farming to those who are already in the profession as well as to those who are thinking of going into it. The award includes $2,000, plus an additional $2,000 in operating funds.

The annual Award for Excellence in Applied Research was given to Lee Daniels in the Department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences. Lee received the award for his significant contributions to restore disturbed mining land into environmentally and agriculturally valuable resources, which has a tremendous positive impact around the globe. Lee received $5,000 from the college to support his research.

The 2016 Award for Excellence in Basic Research went to James Westwood in the Department of Plant Pathology, Physiology, and Weed Science. Jim was recognized for his pioneering contributions to genomics research aimed at understanding how parasitic plants manipulate their hosts and cause devastating crop losses. He received $5,000 from the college in support of his work.

Each year a CALS Employee of the Year is selected from among the twelve recipients of the previous Employees of the Month. David Dunaway, an agricultural technician at the Eastern Virginia AREC, was this year’s recipient. Congratulations to David.

Amy Loeffler, science writer in the Office of Communications and Marketing, and Joe Hunnings, director, planning and reporting, professional development and civil rights compliance of CALS and VCE Administration, split the annual CALS Diversity Incentive Fund award of $2,000.

Amy is bringing Karen Washington to campus to discuss diversity and inclusion and how it can improve food systems. Joe will be spearheading a project to train Extension faculty and staff about gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender community and advancing the work of Extension to increase diverse environments. Details on both events will be coming soon.

David Bevan, a professor of biochemistry, was recognized with the Diversity and Inclusion Service Award. David is the co-principal director of the Department of Biochemistry’s Initiative to Maximize Student Development, one of the most diverse academic programs at the university. David goes out of his way to make the college and welcoming environment for all.

In other news, many individuals from the college were able to join about 80 alumni and friends in Colonial Heights at the annual dinner the night before the Ag Expo. The dinner event is a great opportunity to engage with our alumni and friends of the college. You can see some photos from the event at the Keystone Truck and Tractor Museum on the college’s Facebook page. The following day, the Ag Expo event in Dinwiddie was highly successful. Many thanks to everyone who assisted and presented highlights of research and Extension.

I recently had the pleasure of attending the Ninth Annual Summer Reception in celebration of our retired faculty. It was wonderful to connect with so many friends who still maintain close ties with the college. They have done so much for the college and continue to do so today.

The proposal to establish the new School of Plant and Environmental Studies in the college has garnered very positive support. Following a recent vote by the faculty in the departments of Horticulture, Plant Pathology, Physiology, and Weed Science, and Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences, the proposal will now be making its way through University governance this fall.

I hope to see many of you at the Sept. 3 at the CALS Homecoming Tailgate as the Hokies kick off the football season. You can RSVP online. If you would like to have an exhibit space, contact Jamie Lucero at

Thanks to everyone for all that you do and I wish you a fun and productive fall semester.


Alan Grant


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