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AA Incentive
Grants awarded
to EOAA projects

By Susan Trulove

Spectrum Volume 21 Issue 01 - August 27, 1998

The Affirmative Action Incentive Grants Committee awarded nine grants this spring for 1998-99 projects that address the university's EOAA priorities.
The programs funded include support of the first-time celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month at Virginia Tech, scheduled for October. Jessica Ranero, a graduate student who is studying student affairs and who has an assistantship with the Multicultural Center, saw the need for the celebration and wrote the grant proposal. She reports that "a full slate of activities has been planned, including a major speaker, musical and dance performances, lunch discussions, and ethnic-food tasting."
Rene Rios, assistant director of EOAA, reported that another new program receiving funding this year is a collaborative project of the College of Engineering and the Dean of Students Office's Services for Students with Disabilities to offer orientation and small-group workshops for freshman engineering students with disabilities. Leslie Graham, coordinator of support services in the college, and Susan Angle and Jane Warner of the Dean of Students Office, said in their proposal that about 17 percent of self-identified students with disabilities are enrolled in engineering. The new program will provide an early-fall orientation session and a series of small-group workshops for these students. According to the proposal summary, "The program will strive to establish meaningful faculty/staff interactions with the students early in their college careers, increase students' awareness of strategies for success, and improve students' self-advocacy skills, including taking responsibility for one's own personal, career, and academic success."
A program in the College of Veterinary Medicine is built around providing an opportunity for a single severely disabled individual, but is expanding the understanding of those who work with her, which will help them provide opportunities for others in the future, explained Richard Gargagliano, hospital administrator. The staff of the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center and several service agencies in the Northern Virginia area are helping a young woman recover from a traumatic brain injury sustained while exercising her horse. Although disabled, her love for horses brought her as a volunteer to the center, where she has been "urged and assisted in her long-term quest to regain her ability to walk, to re-develop skills to ride at a competitive level, and to become gainfully employed," Gargagliano reported.
The 1998-99 Affirmative Action Incentive Grants program also renewed support for two programs sponsored last year: the effort to enhance recruitment of diverse graduate students in sociology, headed by Toni Calasanti, graduate director in sociology; and "Adventures in Space for Female and Minority Youth," organized by Joyce Martin of the Montgomery County Extension Office.
Sociology is offering a new doctoral program option in social inequality and has created a concentration in diversity studies. The grant also made it possible for Calasanti to visit historically black colleges and universities in three states and participate in Virginia Tech Graduate School minority-recruitment activities. Several African-America students enrolled in the sociology program because of the visits, and because of the program itself.
The continuation of the grant will expand minority-student-recruitment efforts for the doctoral program and support additional curriculum development in the concentration. Calasanti said she is working closely with the directors of women's studies and black studies on the new graduate program. Calasanti is now minority recruiter in sociology.
Last year, the Montgomery County Extension Office developed a 4-H club for girls and minority members aged 9 through 13 to encourage their interest in science and space and promote career exploration, provide interaction with positive role models, and increase problem-solving and decision-making skills. Activities included videos, meetings with faculty members, field trips to the airport, museums, group projects to demonstrate gravity, orbit, and speed. In the first year, 16 girls and three boys participated. Their average score on the 4-H aerospace curriculum test went from 64 to almost 85 percent. Approximately 90 percent want to continue the club. The renewed grant will expand recruitment and increase field trips.
The other grants for 1998-99 are for a peer mentoring program for new minority students in the College of Arts and Sciences, under the direction of Richard Rich and the college's cultural diversity committee; development of a handbook and a training module for mentors of first-year women and minority engineering students, directed by Leslie Graham, a counselor in the college; the fourth annual black alumni and undergraduate networking luncheon, organized by Barbara Pendergrass, dean of students; and minority recruitment in educational leadership and policy studies (ELPS), modeled after the successful Pipeline Project in the higher education and student affairs graduate program that resulted in significantly increased minority enrollment. The new effort will be by Joan Hirt, ELPS faculty member, and her colleagues
Accomplishments of last year's programs include a lecture by Sandra Harding, (UCLA philosophy professor whose research is gender issues in the social and cultural studies of science, technology and medicine) co-sponsored by several departments, and plans for more visits by women who are accomplished in technology fields ; a seminar series on women's issues in veterinary medicine, which will be offered by the college annually; a peer-mentoring program for Hispanic freshman engineering students, which will be continued by the college with additional funding from industry; an open house by the colleges of Agriculture and Life Sciences and Forestry and Wildlife Resources for potential students invited to campus by members of the Virginia Tech chapter of Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences (MANRRS), resulting in several enrollees and the continuation of the program by the colleges; and a Black Graduate Preview Weekend, organized by the Graduate School, Provost's Office, and Black Graduate Student Organization--a positive experience for prospective and current students which will be continued.
Grants of between $1,000 and $2,500 were made. Pat Hyer, associate provost for academic administration and chair of the Affirmative Action Incentive Grants Committee, says "The proposals contain many wonderful ideas and we are hopeful that they will lead to productive and interesting programs around campus. We selected proposals for funding that were well developed, addressed university priorities, and that promised a wide impact.
Grant applications for the next round will be due in early April. For further information, contact Hyer at hyerp@vt.edu.