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Inclusion & Diversity

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A special message from Dean Paul M. Winistorfer (June 1, 2020)

As a college community, I know we are saddened and appalled by the events of the past week. The dignity of human life has been violated. I want to reaffirm that as a college community, we are committed to supporting and upholding equality, respect, kindness, and dignity and will not accept or tolerate behaviors and actions that do not uphold and honor each individual. We know from our work in natural resources that diversity — ecological diversity — is a strength that brings resilience to natural systems. And it is beautiful.

I was shocked and saddened by what I saw on television regarding the death of George Floyd. Progress has been too slow, and we have work to do as a nation. There are too many examples in the last several decades — the past several centuries — of race-based violence, and now we see them firsthand, live on multiple broadcast stations. I was numbed, sad, shocked, and sickened by what I saw. There is a racial divide in our nation, and each of us has a responsibility to work toward equality and fairness for all people.

Many of you know that in my past commencement comments, and again this year, I have referred to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1945 undelivered speech:

Today we are faced with the preeminent fact that, if civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships — that ability of all peoples, of all kinds, to live together and work together in the same world, at peace.
— Franklin D. Roosevelt
Undelivered Speech, 1945

I hope you will join me in reaffirming our college community’s commitment to the mutual respect and dignity of all peoples and to promote and uphold the Virginia Tech Principles of Community.

Paul M. Winistorfer, Ph.D.
Dean and Professor

What we are doing to promote inclusion and diversity

In the College of Natural Resources and Environment, we have the privilege — and the imperative — of developing and sustaining the leaders who represent the future of efforts to preserve and maintain a sustainable planet. Tackling the overwhelmingly complex issues at the heart of this mission means that every voice must be heard and every contribution welcome.

We have all learned so much about our levels of awareness, sensitivities, and actions in relation to racial inequality in our nation, state, and community and on our campus. And, still, we have so much more to learn, hear, understand, and amend.

We have put together a summary of some of the actions that have been taken and are in progress as part of our work to be more inclusive and diverse. We know these efforts are a start, and this work must continue. We must not squander the opportunity that the horrible tragedies and injustices of late have brought to focus.

Recent college activities directed at increasing and improving inclusion and diversity include actions in the following areas:

Last summer the college began working with Virginia Tech’s Office of Inclusion and Diversity and Menah Pratt-Clarke, vice president for strategic affairs and vice provost for inclusion and diversity, to secure funding to hire a director of inclusion and diversity for the college. After a robust search and interview process, the college will be bringing on our first director of inclusion and diversity.

Virginia Tech’s new Pathways for General Education curriculum includes a pathway called Critical Analysis of Identity and Equity in the U.S. CNRE’s new director of inclusion and diversity will teach two courses within this curriculum.

Faculty within the college have been receiving training funded by a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute aimed at promoting more inclusive teaching and curricula, as well as providing mentoring to students from diverse backgrounds.

Our Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation is having an active conversation about human dimensions and adding more of an emphasis on this area to its degree program.

The college actively participates in the Black College Institute program offered to high school students each summer. We have been complimented for offering one of the best hands-on programs during the institute, and we have seen a number of students from the program apply for admission into the college.

The InsideTrees camp was first offered last summer, primarily for minority and female high school students. This program also illustrates our outreach activities to underrepresented and underserved groups.

College faculty participated in the organization and delivery of a program for students in Jr. MANRRS (Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences) last summer in cooperation with Virginia State University.

These efforts and others have contributed to CNRE’s most diverse freshman class ever for fall 2020, with 17% of the incoming students being underrepresented minorities. While we still have work to do to reach the university’s strategic goal of 25% underrepresented minority students for fall 2022, we are making progress. The new director of inclusion and diversity will be assisting with the development of new recruitment efforts to attract more underrepresented students as well as underrepresented faculty and staff into the college.

We are exploring a new undergraduate major in urban natural resources and a new professional master’s degree in the area of environmental security that will be offered through the Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability. We anticipate that these new academic programs will be attractive to individuals who wish to work and live within urban environments. They also have the potential to benefit urban environments and their inhabitants and serve as an avenue to recruit a more diverse student and faculty body to the college.

We continue to work closely with our two state agency partners: the Virginia Department of Forestry and the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources. Both of these agencies recently hired directors of diversity. We envision great collaborative efforts between these two individuals and the CNRE director of inclusion and diversity in developing joint programs within the broad field of natural resources. To our knowledge, the Commonwealth of Virginia will be the only state to have directors of diversity from natural resources agencies and higher education working together.

We have so much opportunity in this college to proactively create course and curricular innovation to be inclusive of concepts of race, inequality, social justice, and more. This generation of students in our classrooms is our future, and, if we want a better world, nation, state, community, and campus, we must include them in our dialogue and in our actions. We must hear their voices. We must make time for them. We must be deliberate.

Get connected with your community

Virginia Tech and CNRE offer plenty of opportunities for finding your people and making new connections.

More opportunities to help you succeed

Check out some additional resources for finding your niche and accomplishing your goals. More scholarship opportunities for CNRE students are listed on the Scholarships page.

Advising Center: Your CNRE advisor can help you choose and register for courses, consider major options, find hands-on learning opportunities, and ensure you are progressing toward graduation.

Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP): LSAMP offers a College Transition Program, research funding, career development assistance, and faculty mentors, all with the overall goal of encouraging more students to pursue and persist in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields.

Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences (MANRRS): This student organization promotes careers in agriculture, natural resources, and related sciences by providing scholarship, research, and networking opportunities.

Student Success Center: Virginia Tech’s Student Success Center offers tutoring, peer coaching, and seminars on academic success, and spearheads the Black Male Excellence Network.

Services for Students with Disabilities (SDD): If you need access to facilitative technologies and programming, an advocate to help you navigate or participate in some aspect of campus life, assistance with transition into the workplace, or other types of services, contact SSD.

ExperienceVT: Don’t just come to Virginia Tech, ExperienceVT! We encourage you to explore, practice, and live the Aspirations for Student Learning to make this experience your own and become your best self — both inside and outside of the classroom.

InclusiveVT: As an institution and as individuals, we are committed to the university motto Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) in the spirit of community, diversity, and excellence. Learn more about events and programs like the Principles of Community Week.

Living-Learning Programs: These unique housing options integrate what you study, where you live, and who you live with, bringing together people with a common interest, experience, or outlook.

Hokie Wellness: We want all Hokies to be healthy and happy, so Hokie Wellness helps students make healthy decisions and live healthy lives by providing workshops, outreach, and individual consultations.    

Beyond Boundaries Scholars: Launched in 2016, this scholarship program is designed to encourage the enrollment of high-achieving students from underserved communities.

Dean’s Diversity Assistantships: These funding opportunities assist underrepresented students who are pursuing master’s and doctoral degrees but did not attend Virginia Tech as undergraduates.

McNair Assistantships: These one-year assistantships provide funding to master’s and doctoral students who participated in the McNair Scholars Program as undergraduates.

Multicultural Academic Opportunities Program (MAOP): This program assists both undergraduate and graduate students in their transition to Virginia Tech by providing academic, emotional, social, and financial support.

Still in high school? Experience life as a Hokie and get ready to apply

In addition to our regular campus tours and CNRE info session, you might want to consider: