Deborah “Debby” Good, associate professor in the Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, & Exercise, never imagined that an undergraduate research program experience would lead to graduate school, a career as a scientist, and now an Inclusive Excellence Fellow Award for her work to improve success for underrepresented students in science.  

The Inclusive Excellence program at Virginia Tech is sponsored by a five-year, $1 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Led by Jill Sible, the grant team includes Mike Bowers, Michele Deramo, Debby Good, and Sarah Karpanty

Good is three years into a five-year commitment to the grant, and received the inaugural Inclusive Excellence Fellow Award at a reception at the Hahn Garden Pavilion on Feb. 4 this year.

“Debby’s work, energy, and passion for engaging all students embodies the mission of the Inclusive Excellence program that all students, regardless of where they come from, deserve a meaningful and positive experience in science,” Sible said.

Good extended her inclusive excellence focus to her sabbatical last semester by working to improve access to research and research honor societies for undergraduates and minority student populations. In her role as associate director for the mid-Atlantic region of Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Honor society, Good surveyed best inclusive practices among chapters and presented findings at the Sigma Xi Annual Research Conference to reduce barriers for students.

Upon receiving the award, Good said that “as a first-generation college student, and a woman, I never considered graduate school until I experienced research during a summer program and did a year-long independent study in a professor’s lab. The SUNY-Fredonia chapter of the Sigma Xi honor society honored me with a research award which validated me as a researcher and scientist.”

Fueled by her desire to introduce research to undergraduate students and give them recognition for their findings in science, Good has embraced her role as leader of departmental change within human nutrition, foods and exercise. Her department’s inclusive excellence team, including Renee Eaton, Valisa Hedrick, and Angela Anderson, introduced new initiatives including:

●      Offering an “Introduction to Research” course during winter session for transfer students.
●      Hosting Lunch & Learn Workshops in partnership with the Department of Agricultural Leadership and Community Education where faculty can reflect on inclusive teaching practices.
●      Adding an "inclusive practices" agenda item to department faculty meetings.
●      Supporting development of the Second Chance Program for students facing barriers as a result of substance use.
●      Studying how food insecurity interferes with student success.

During introductory remarks at the award reception, Menah Pratt-Clarke, vice president for strategic affairs and vice provost for inclusion and diversity, remarked that Good’s work, and the work of the Inclusive Excellence grant in general, elevate the Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) difference. 

“Building more inclusive curricula and cultures within our science departments creates a more welcoming destination for talent, and recognizing these faculty efforts is critical to continuing on our strategic path forward,” Pratt-Clarke said.

Rachel Holloway, vice provost for undergraduate academic affairs, attended the event and reinforced UAA’s commitment to supporting faculty working with the Inclusive Excellence program. Holloway emphasized that “making room for the work of inclusion alongside the demands of tenure track faculty is critical to changing how we support student success. This award recognizes Debby’s efforts to champion students as scientists.”

Written by Joan Hawsey