Estrella Johnson has been named the director of inclusion and diversity in the Virginia Tech College of Science, with a mission of helping create a faculty, student body, and community that is diverse and welcoming.

One of Johnson’s first initiatives will be to work with the college’s Diversity Committee, department chairs, and faculty and student organizations in order to draft action-focused diversity implementation plans.

An associate professor in the Department of Mathematics, Johnson takes over the role previously held by Michel Pleimling, a professor in the Department of Physics and director of the Academy of Integrated Science in the College of Science. He was the inaugural director, appointed in March 2017 by Sally C. Morton, dean of the College of Science. Johnson began her new role May 10.

“The College of Science is committed to building a robust, durable, diverse, inclusive, and thriving scientific community,” said Johnson, who joined Virginia Tech in 2013. “In order to follow through on this commitment, the college is aware that there remains significant work to be done. This work includes concerted efforts to not only recruit, retain, and support faculty, staff, and students from historically marginalized communities, but also to ensure that our college and our departments have an environment of equity and inclusion in which everyone feels that they are welcome and that they can thrive.”

Among the goals of the director is to advance diversity and inclusion at the student level by recruiting and retaining a diverse body of students, an effort aided by recruiting a diverse faculty and staff. At all programs within the college, a high value is placed on inclusion and cultural competence in the education of its student body, in addition to all students who take courses within the college.

Diversity is among the college’s core values, which also include excellence and discovery, all built on the spirit of the university motto of Ut Prosim (That I May Serve).

“Dr. Johnson brings a strong record of commitment and passion to this role,” Morton said. “She has served as chair of the College of Science Diversity Committee and departmental representative for InclusiveVT. She has also served on a number of committees focused on equity, diversity and inclusion. Her scholarship includes investigation of marginalizing experiences of students in undergraduate mathematics courses and development of theories on whether and how different active learning approaches are linked to equitable outcomes for different student populations.” 

Johnson earned a bachelor’s degree in secondary mathematics education from New Mexico State University in 2007; and a master’s degree in the science of teaching mathematics in 2009 and a doctoral degree in mathematics education in 2013, respectively, from Portland State University in Oregon.

Commending the work of Pleimling, Morton said, “His excellent work, along with his passion and dedication, provide a strong foundation for advancing inclusion and diversity in the College of Science.”