Virginia Tech's Future Faculty Diversity Program (FFDP) once again has highlighted the university's unwavering commitment to inclusivity and diversity in academia. From Oct. 1-4, the campus was energized by the presence of 28 postdoctoral fellows and doctoral candidates from across the United States, all participating in an intensive program designed to acquaint them with the opportunities and culture of Virginia Tech.

"Under the leadership and stewardship of Dr. Erica Cooper, FFDP continues to identify talented and diverse faculty who are interested in opportunities at Virginia Tech," said Menah Pratt, vice president for strategic affairs and diversity. "The partnership between OID [Virginia Tech's Office for Diversity and Inclusion] and the colleges reflects the deep commitment of Virginia Tech to a core strategic plan goal."

These scholars, selected from a competitive pool of applicants, embody academic excellence, and they engaged in a series of immersive experiences that showcased the university's supportive environment and collaborative spirit. They gained valuable insights into the academic profession while exploring potential career paths within and beyond Virginia Tech.

Keynote speakers provided the fellows with wisdom and encouragement, underlining the importance of mentorship and proactive networking in shaping their careers. Lance Collins, vice president and executive director of the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus, urged participants to seek out those pivotal relationships.

"Mentors see things in you that you may not see yourself," Collins said. "We all need mentors. Mentoring relationships often blossom into long-term and valued friendships."

He emphasized the need for proactive engagement. "Connect yourself with people who know the business best. Introduce yourself. This is not the time to be shy.”

The warmth of the university’s welcome was clear in Pratt’s address, as she expressed Virginia Tech’s dedication to inclusivity. "We want you to come to Virginia Tech. We value diversity, and we are committed to your success.” These words resonated with the program's mission to empower participants to visualize their future in academia, whether at Virginia Tech or elsewhere.

Erica Cooper, assistant provost of faculty diversity, spotlighted the program as a transformative experience for both the fellows and the university, "Diversifying faculty is not an option, it’s a necessity in supporting and ensuring the success of an increasingly diverse student body. The Future Faculty Diversity Program is the cornerstone of progress and innovation in identifying diverse talent.”

Kevin Pitts, dean of the College of Science, highlighted the potential outcomes of the program. "This is a fantastic program that allows us to meet excellent candidates across many disciplines. We remain committed to diversity, inclusion, and excellence. The FFDP is helping us deliver on all.”

Ronald Fricker, vice provost for faculty affairs, addressed the long-term influence of the program on the academic community. “The Future Faculty Diversity Program has been instrumental in bringing world-class scholars to Virginia Tech and it has been a driving force in helping us diversify our faculty.”

The program also provided an invaluable opportunity for fellows to engage with Virginia Tech’s faculty, fostering reciprocal recognition of talent and opportunity.

"Virginia Tech faculty had a chance to meet impressive young scholars with potential to impact their fields in significant ways, and the fellows got a chance to see our university community for themselves and to consider the prospect of joining us in ways they otherwise wouldn’t have," said Ellington Graves, assistant provost for diversity and inclusion and the director of the Africana Studies Program in the Department of Sociology.

The program serves as an incubator for the academic leaders of the future. While not all participants will join Virginia Tech, the experience has equipped them with a deeper understanding of the values and visions that any institution aspiring to excellence and diversity should embody. The program continues to stand as a beacon of progress, welcoming new generations of scholars to the vibrant tapestry of academia.

The portal will reopen for the 2024 program in January.

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