For six years, the Virginia Tech Graduate School has offered the Emerging Leaders Workshop to give rising college sophomores and juniors at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) an opportunity to prepare for graduate school and careers. From the beginning, Emmett E. Smith Jr. of Richmond, an engineering specialist at E.I. DuPont Co., has provided leadership to the university-industry collaborative effort.

In a ceremony at the Hotel Roanoke Wednesday night, Graduate School Dean Karen DePauw recognized Smith for his contributions to the program, saying, "He has acted as a leader of the steering committee, he has taken a leadership position in championing the program to corporate sponsors across the nation, and he has taken the front and center leadership position in working with the young people. He understands that leadership means giving of yourself and of your time."

The Emerging Leaders program offers an annual summer workshop where the students receive group and individual attention with emphasis on self-assessment, goal setting, networking, and leadership skills. They meet with industry representatives to talk about graduate school, course selection, and career plans. Activities include mock job interviews with corporate professionals, for example. Sponsors at this year's event were Altria Group, Cisco Systems, ConocoPhillips, DuPont, Federal Express, G. E. Financial, Hewlett Packard, Lockheed Martin, Merck and Company, NASA - Langley, and Pioneer.

The workshop emphasizes academic success, community service, and ethical behavior with the goal of developing leaders who will share what they have learned with their peers and younger people in the community.

"Emmett Smith is a role model for such leadership qualities," says Marilyn Kershaw, director of graduate student recruiting at Virginia Tech and co-director of the program with Roosevelt Ratliff Jr., assistant vice president for leadership development at Claflin University.

Smith, a native of Norfolk went to Norview High School and graduated from Virginia State University in 1976. He has been with Dupont for 27 years, working in Martinsville and in Richmond.

He has numerous awards and recognitions to his credit, including the 2002 Virginia High-Tech Partnership Award from Governor Mark Warner. His accomplishments include developing a $50 million Computer Enrichment Center at North Richmond YMCA, creating an award-winning pre-college math and science summer program at Virginia State for high school students, and creating local/HBCU internship program at DuPont Spruance that has employed 80 college students over the last six years.

Smith is the son of Emma Smith, retired English teacher at Lake Taylor Middle School, and the late Emmett Smith.