The Virginia Tech College of Science has awarded two faculty members with its first-ever Inclusion and Diversity Fellowships, aimed at advancing inclusivity and diversity among students, faculty, and staff in the college.

Alma Robinson, teacher in residence in the Department of Physics, and Meryl Mims, an assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, will work with College of Science Director of Inclusion and Diversity Estrella Johnson to increase diversity, improve the climate at Virginia Tech for diverse groups, and educate the scientific community to better respect and appreciate contributions from diverse groups of scholars and researchers.

“The heartbeat of the College of Science is its people, our faculty, staff, and students,” said Ron Fricker, interim dean of the college and a professor of statistics. “It is part of our mission to respect and welcome all people, and the inclusion of a diversity of people makes our scientific work stronger.”

Johnson said the recipients of the first Inclusion and Diversity Fellowships have demonstrated in their day-to-day work as examples of the importance of an inclusive mindset and environment.

“Alma and Meryl have already built track records of creating an environment in which students from diverse groups feel respected, valued, and supported,” said Johnson, an assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics. “With these fellowships, we will be tapping into their expertise in advancing diversity so we can extend their ideas and efforts throughout the College of Science.”

Alma Robinson is a Teacher in Residence in the physics department. Robinson is spending her fellowship developing curricula that College of Science First-Year Experience faculty could easily implement in their classrooms to talk about race, gender, and LGBTQ+ representation issues with their students.

Robinson already began cross college conversations around these issues in August, when she hosted a workshop with other First-Year Experience instructors. Robinson would like to engage a diverse array of students to work on this project with her, and has already identified several interested students. In addition to developing these materials, she has also proposed curricular workshops with interested faculty to discuss the lessons prior to their implementation, and post-lesson workshops to reflect on how the lessons went and what possible changes we could make for future implementations. 

Mims is an assistant professor of biological sciences. During the past couple of years, Mims has launched a biology workshop program to support students applying for the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP). Mims is spending her fellowship expanding this program across the college with special focus and emphasis on mentoring and supporting students from traditionally underrepresented and underserved populations. These efforts would include mentorship and training for students to increase their chance of a successful application.

This is a one-year fellowship, with applications accepted each fall for the following calendar year.