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Three students awarded Commonwealth Fellowships

Spectrum Volume 17 Issue 11 - November 3, 1994

Commonwealth Fellowships awarded to outstanding minority doctoral students by the Virginia Council of Higher Education not only benefit the students who receive the awards, but enhance the universities the Fellows attend.

Virginia Tech has three new commonwealth fellows this year. The students and their areas of study are: Candace Adams of Radford, a student in education and research evaluation; Virginia Jones of Blacksburg, majoring in family studies; and Wairimu Njambi of Blacksburg, a student in the Study of Science and Technology in Society.

Adams is interested in education research because, she says, "There is something lacking in research regarding the academic achievement of minorities. The research focuses on `at-risk' students, yet less than 50 percent of the total undergraduate population graduates in four years. It's not a race problem, it's a human problem." She is interested in issues other than demographics, such as the "direct and indirect effect of school learning variables on the academic achievement of black 10th graders." Adams earned her bachelor's degree as a double major in political science and sociology from the University of Maryland, and a dual master's in curriculum and instruction and student development from Radford University, where she worked as a grant administrator and interim director of the transition program for minority students. Her goal is to teach at a research institution "and advance theories in student development and academic achievement." She is a member of the American Education Research Association, Association for Institutional Research, and the Virginia Assessment Group.

Jones is interested in doing counseling with families and teaching at the university level. "My husband (Russell) and I did counseling through the Christian Growth Center in Christiansburg for a number of years, and I realized I needed more training," she explains. Her doctoral research will look at the marriage relationship and negotiations that occur in that relationship. Jones' undergraduate degree is in education from Rhode Island College. She has a master's in education from the University of Pittsburgh, where she was a distinguished scholar, and a master's in counseling from Virginia Tech.

Njambi is interested in the sociology of science and technology. Although it is too early to say exactly what her research will be, her initial interest is the rhetoric that surrounds female circumcision--the cultural and the scientific responses. "If we are going to persuade people to get rid of female circumcision, we have to look at the history of the practice, at the complexity of the issue, not just say that it is bad," she explains. Njambi is originally from Nairobi, Kenya, but is now a U.S. citizen and has made her home in Blacksburg for many years. She moved to the area when her husband became a student at Virginia Tech. She shortly became a student herself, becoming the first in her family of 11 brothers and sisters to enroll in college. She earned a bachelor of science degree in family and child development from Virginia Tech. She is a member of Who's Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges, the Society for Social Studies of Science, the Eastern Sociological Association, and the Association of Women in World Development. "If it were not for this fellowship, I would not be in school right now," Njambi says. Her long- range goal is to become a college professor.

The Commonwealth Fellowship program is a major state effort to increase the number of outstanding African American doctoral students who are preparing to teach at the university level. The fellowships covers tuition, fees, books, and living expenses for 12 months.