Category Archives: From the Dean

From the Dean – November 2016

Alan Grant, dean

Alan Grant, dean

Dear Colleagues,

It was an honor to host the college’s annual Scholarship Banquet on Nov. 3 at the Inn at Virginia Tech. More than 80 scholarship donors attended and had the opportunity to meet their scholarship recipients. Family members and special guests, along with some college faculty and staff members, were also there to congratulate the students and thank the donors who so generously support our students and programs. Zachary Horton (class of ’16, agricultural and applied economics) and Bette Brand (class of ’82 and ’90), the chief sales officer/external affairs at Farm Credit of Virginias spoke and inspired the audience of more than 295 guests. Students and donors participated in our social media event by writing on placards what giving and receiving scholarships meant to them. Log on to see the posts on our Facebook page. We are especially thankful for the investment from our alumni and friends to provide students with meaningful educational opportunities and valuable learning experiences. The theme of the evening was giving thanks and as such the meal was a traditional thanksgiving dinner and the table decorations were floral cornucopias from the Department of Horticulture’s floral design class.

Our annual new faculty orientation was held on Sept. 28. It was an opportunity for new faculty members to learn about the college and the resources available as they establish their programs. This day-long program was planned and coordinated by Susan Sumner, associate dean and director of academic programs, in collaboration with the CALS Faculty Association. Many thanks to those who participated and made presentations in this year’s program.     More information about our talented new faculty can be found here.

Congratulations to Megan Seibel, director of the VALOR program, who was recently named Virginia’s assistant secretary of agriculture and forestry. For the past six years, Megan has worked with numerous individuals in the industry and in government agencies in her role as the director of the VALOR program.  We look forward to working with Megan in her new role and wish her the best.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to read the new Agency 229 Annual Report, it is now available online or can be downloaded as a PDF. Read how Agency 229 is making a positive impact in across the commonwealth and beyond.

The annual Commonwealth of Virginia campaign is in progress and your donation can work to help local families in many different ways. Last year’s donations reached an all-time high; 1,581 employees raised $319,664. CALS and the Virginia Tech community can make a difference.

Best wishes to everyone for a wonderful Thanksgiving season. Thanks for all you do to make CALS great!


Alan Grant

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From the Dean – October 2016

Dear Colleagues,Alan Grant, dean

The university’s annual reception for faculty members who were promoted this year was held on Sept. 1. I was pleased to join the celebration and to congratulate the many faculty members who were awarded tenure and/or promoted in 2016. The complete list of university-wide faculty can be found here. When you have an opportunity, please congratulate and thank these faculty members for their outstanding achievements.

I am delighted that Tom Thompson, head of the crop and soil environmental sciences department, has accepted our offer to be the next associate dean and director of international programs for the college. Tom will transition into this new role on Nov. 1 and will provide leadership to strategies that will enhance the college’s international programs.

Orientation for new faculty was held on Sept. 28 at the Inn at Virginia Tech. Many new faculty members were welcomed to the college. Among them are many new extension agents, as well as eight new tenure-track faculty members who have appointments across teaching, research, and Extension and who specialize in areas of growth for the college. Please welcome all of the new faculty members to the college.

Finally, I hope you had the opportunity to listen to President Sands’ State of the University Address on Friday, Sept. 30 during which he reflected on the university’s accomplishments and his vision for its future. I encourage you to view it online if you were unable to livestream it or attend in person.

Best wishes to everyone for a great fall season.


Alan Grant


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Also in this issue

Administrative updates



College updates

Academic Programs

Research updates

Extension updates




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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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From the Dean — May 2016

Alan Grant, dean

Alan Grant, dean


This is the time of the year when the university announces many faculty and staff members and students for the annual Awards of Excellence. Congratulations to those in CALS who are being honored:

  • Alex Niemiera, professor of horticulture and CALS assistant dean of student programs is receiving the 2016 William E. Wine Award for Teaching Excellence. The selection process includes nominations of candidates by students, faculty, and alumni in each college, and the selection of three faculty members across the university. Each Wine Award winner receives an automatic induction into the Academy of Teaching Excellence.
  • Nada Tamim, director of undergraduate programs for animal and poultry sciences is receiving the university’s Alumni Award of Excellence in Undergraduate Academic Advising. Established by the Virginia Tech Alumni Association, the award is presented by the Office of the Provost to a Virginia Tech faculty member who has been particularly effective and dedicated to undergraduate student advising. Recipients are nominated by colleagues or students and are selected by a committee of former award winners.
  • Ted Ellmore, retired programmer in Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences is receiving the university’s 2016 Staff Career Achievement Award. Created to recognize retiring staff members, the award is presented to individuals who have distinguished themselves through exemplary performance and service during their university careers.
  • David Close, consumer horticulture specialist and Virginia Cooperative Extension state master gardener coordinator, is receiving the 2016 Alumni Award for Excellence in Extension – Specialist Category. Sponsored by the Virginia Tech Alumni Association, the Alumni Award for Excellence in Extension is presented annually to two Virginia Cooperative Extension faculty members – one specialist and one agent – who have made outstanding contributions to the land-grant mission of the university.
  • Steven B. Hopkins, Virginia Cooperative Extension agriculture and natural resources agent in Orange County, Virginia, is receiving the 2016 Alumni Award for Excellence in Extension – Agent Category.

Over 160 CALS faculty and staff members with were honored recently at the University’s Service Recognition luncheon and dinner events. The events recognize employees who have served the university for 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, and 45 or more years. We appreciate and thank everyone for their dedication over their many years with us.

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