There is something about Megan “Meg” Beatty that makes you feel as though you could entrust her with anything – a deeply-held secret, or the care of your children.

The senior, who is majoring in food science and technology exudes a sense of integrity and of competence, both of which are grounded by a quiet graciousness and a maturity that exceed her 23 years. One of the most endearing things about the Blacksburg native is her gratitude for all that she has accomplished. Beatty is quick to credit many professors and mentors who have supported her during her college career, praising them as instrumental to her success. She is more apt to commend others than to acknowledge her own role in realizing a number of exceptional achievements.

“I can, with 100 percent certainty, say I would not be here without everyone in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences,” said Beatty, who has made Dean’s List each semester since her freshman year. “Dr. Sumner has been incredible. I’ve worked in her office since my freshman year, and she has been an exceptional mentor ever since. She cares so deeply about her students. The way she talks about them is really special. It’s telling about the college.”

Beatty also has high praise for advisor Linda Granata whom she cites as “a very big influence.” The feeling among the faculty is clearly mutual.

“In my role, I get to engage with all the amazing students in our college,” said Susan Sumner, associate dean and director of academic programs. “In Meg’s educational journey, she asked me to serve as her official mentor. As her mentor, I know I learned as much from her as she learned from me.”

As a freshman, Beatty devised a unique plan to use food science as a path toward a career in medicine.

“The faculty members really drew me in. I loved how caring they were and how much they pushed us to succeed. I liked being part of a small department where you get lots of individualized attention,” said Beatty.

Ultimately, after an independent study during which she explored the programming and services provided by local Virginia Cooperative Extension offices in the New River and Roanoke valleys, she decided to pursue a career in Extension rather than medicine. She credits an Extension middle school cooking program called Teen Cuisine with inspiring her change of heart. The classroom experience opened her eyes to the need for the practical food science education, and to her ability to share her knowledge that could help others.

“I want to work directly with people and to influence their lives for the better,” said Beatty, who is minoring in psychology. “Family and consumer sciences Extension agents teach nutrition, food safety, and topics along those lines. I’m also interested in community development. I’d like to integrate these with my interpersonal skills in order to do work that directly impacts a community. That is my passion in life.”

The CALS student ambassador, who was also nominated to serve as both representative to the college’s Life Sciences Alumni Board and to the Virginia Tech Student Government Association, is well-steeped in the university’s tradition of service and giving back. She has been engaged in service roles to the university, college, and community, coordinating science, technology, engineering, and math programming for children through the DaVinci Living-Learning Community and working as an intern for Project Youth Extension Service, where she focused on programs for children in military families.

The academic achiever also been a four-year recipient of a Department of Food Science and Technology scholarship, as well as the college’s Robert J. Noell merit scholarship. Beatty is a member of Gamma Sigma Delta, an honor society for agriculture students.

As if this impressive list of achievements wasn’t enough, the Outstanding Senior of the Year has also engaged in multiple undergraduate research opportunities, which recently included analyzing different acid components of hops in the college’s enology laboratory.

“We got hops in from East Coast growers and extracted the essential oils to see whether there was a difference in the acid component between Virginia-grown hops and Pacific Northwest hops. It was a lot of fun,” she said.

Beatty presented a poster, “Essential Oil Content and Composition of Virginia-Grown Hops,” which took second place at the Food Science and Technology’s Fifth Annual Poster Competition.

In her spare time, the senior enjoys running, hiking, and reading outside. She has earned money babysitting since she was young, and continues to enjoy spending time with, and mentoring, children.

“I babysat for one family for many years, and I ran into them four years later when the children were in middle school. They reminded me of the time I took them to the park with their dog – something I had forgotten. Those sweet moments make a difference,” she said.

It’s hardly surprising that Beatty’s focus is not on her accomplishments or on her designation as the college’s Outstanding Senior of the Year, but on the people and experiences that have touched and helped to shape her life throughout her college career. Considering how many lives she has touched, this seems only fitting. 

- written by Amy Painter