Virginia Tech recently hosted more than 80 students and faculty members from Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority Serving Institutes located throughout the eastern region. It was the university’s fourth HBCU/MSI Research Summit, offering those in attendance two days of conversations, demonstrations, and hands-on activities at programs and centers across the Blacksburg campus. The aim was to foster connections between Virginia Tech students and faculty members and their counterparts from visiting institutions.

The first summit, held in 2016, was a partnership between the Graduate School and the College of Engineering. The goal was to develop research partnerships with faculty members from the visiting institutions. The summit has grown to include most of the university’s colleges and several university-level research institutes, as well as interdisciplinary graduate education programs. The Graduate School Office of Recruitment, Diversity, and Inclusion organized and coordinated the event.

The visiting undergraduate and graduate students participated in a workshop about applying to graduate school led by Graduate School Assistant Dean Janice Austin, who provided scores of tips and helpful guidance.

Visitors also heard from current Virginia Tech graduate students about research opportunities on campuses in Blacksburg and the greater Washington, D.C., metro area. Panelists Matthew Ferby (environmental engineering), Quinton Robinson (agricultural, leadership, and community education), Hypatia Alexandria (planning, governance, and globalization), Ernesto Acosta (planning, governance, and globalization); and Angelina Hargrove (human nutrition, food, and exercise; public health) shared their master’s and doctoral research projects and discussed working across fields and juggling their studies and work.

A panel of Virginia Tech graduate students who earned their undergraduate degrees at Historically Black Colleges and Universities drew a standing-room only crowd, and their question-and-answer period prompted lively exchanges. Trichia Cadette (theatre arts, arts leadership), Wendell Grinton Jr. (civil engineering), Courtney Lawrence (agriculture Extension education), Janay Frazier (electrical engineering), and Lauren Blackwell (public health) discussed adjusting to not only graduate programs, but life in Blacksburg, as well as the factors they considered before choosing Virginia Tech.

While the students participated in the panel discussions, visiting faculty members engaged in discussions with several faculty members and Vice President and Dean for Graduate Education Karen P. DePauw about research, trends in higher education, and collaboration among their institutions and programs.

“The excitement and energy surrounding this event from the engagement opportunities between the Virginia Tech community and visiting colleges made this summit a valuable experience for all in attendance," said Shernita Lee, Graduate School assistant dean and director of recruitment, diversity, and inclusion. “Our keynote speaker, Dr. Gena Chandler-Smith, reiterated the story we hope to continue through collaborations, recruitment, and resources.”

Colleges and research institutes and centers across the university hosted the visitors on the second day of the summit, offering hands-on activities and demonstrations, seminars, and other information sessions for both faculty and students. 

The visiting universities and colleges included Bowie State University, Delaware State University, Eastern Tennessee State University, Fayetteville State University, Florida A&M University, Georgia State University, Hampton University, Morehouse College, Morgan State University, Navajo Technical University, North Carolina A&T University, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, University of Maryland Extension, and Virginia State University.