Spectrum Logo
A non-profit publication of the Office of the University Relations of Virginia Tech,
including The Conductor, a special section of the Spectrum printed 4 times a year

McNabb, Brewer win CAS Diversity Award

By Sally Harris

Spectrum Volume 19 Issue 15 - December 12, 1996

Two faculty members from the Faculty-Administrators' Student Mentoring Program have been chosen to receive the College of Arts and Sciences' Diversity Award.

Anne McNabb in biology and Karen Brewer in chemistry were honored at a reception December 4.

"We were looking to honor and reward faculty members who have helped in African American student retention," said Bob Leonard of theatre arts, chair of the college's Cultural Diversity Committee. The committee looked at the mentoring program operated by Ron Giddings, associate coordinator of Academic Enrichment, and "found it was doing exciting work," Leonard said.

"Anne McNabb and Karen Brewer have been really generous in doing mentoring over the years on a volunteer basis," Leonard said. The Diversity Committee recommended to the dean that they be honored with the $500 award, which can be used for professional enhancement such as travel or software purchase.

"They have been very consistent and very available to offer their time to mentor new students coming to the university," Giddings said. "They happen to be in fields where there is some attrition among African American students, so to have that connection in those departments is a plus. They never say they don't have time. They just ask how they can be of help."

Giddings said McNabb and Brewer are persistent when they need to be. Sometimes it may take up to four semesters for a student to realize the value of the connection, he said. Then all of a sudden, the student will want to talk. McNabb and Brewer, he said, are willing to give the students that time.

McNabb, professor of biology, teaches animal physiology and endocrinology, mostly senior or graduate-level writing-intensive courses. Her research is in the development of thyroid function, and she is the author of a research reference text, Thyroid Hormones.

McNabb provides several research-related services, including chairing the Division of Comparative Endocrinology for the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, and is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She is advisor to about 40 biology majors ("like everyone in the department," she adds) and was named the department's Advisor of the Year in 1995. She has served on numerous university committees, including the Provost's Committee for Student Success. McNabb was chosen to give the graduate Commencement speech in the fall of 1994.

About the mentoring program, McNabb said, "It's been a real pleasure working with it, especially working with Ron Giddings and Delores Scott. I think it's a very worthwhile program which I wish we could extend to a much larger number of students."

Brewer, associate professor of chemistry, teaches in a variety of areas, including general chemistry and both undergraduate and graduate inorganic chemistry. Her research area is in inorganic chemistry, particularly solar-energy conversion and catalysis. One of her solar-energy research projects is an attempt to convert light energy into fuels. That project is funded by the National Science Foundation.

"I think mentoring is one of the things we need to do as faculty members," Brewer said, "and it's nice to have a formal setting to do that. It's a tremendous amount of fun getting to know the students. It's strange for me, getting an award for something that I enjoy so much."

Lucinda Roy, the Gloria D. Smith professor of black studies and former associate dean for curriculum, outreach, and diversity in the College of Arts and Sciences, said, "We are delighted to be able to recognize the extraordinary contributions of these two faculty members who have volunteered to contribute so much of their time to working with minority students."