Current Diversity Scholars

2019 Scholars

Trichia Cadette

Trichia is a Master of Fine Arts candidate in Arts Leadership from St. Lucia. She previously earned a bachelor's of arts degree in Theatre Arts from Grambling State University. Her focus area is Community Engagement in the Arts, using creative arts as a tool for shifting cultures and diffusing tensions by bringing people together. She is creating a public art project, which will bring students of different backgrounds together in a workshop to create a mural design. Once the the design is complete, students will be invited to paint the mural on a wall in Squires Student Center.

Lehi Dowell

Lehi is a second year doctoral student in Policy, Planning, and Governance in the School of Public and International Affairs. Originally from Sutherlin, Oregon, Lehi earned his master's degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management from Florida International University in Miami and his bachelor's degree in Spanish from the University of La Verne, in California. Having worked 10 years in hospitality operations management and several years in nonprofit administration, Lehi said he has been exposed to issues concerning economic growth, sustainable development, and community engagement on both local and international levels. This firsthand knowledge is instrumental in supplementing research endeavors and bridging the gap between the real world (applied science) and academia (theoretical science). The proposal includes a symposium on April 2, 2019, which entails an hour-long story circle featuring speakers who have been personally impacted by gun violence, followed by a 30-minute round table discussion led by a qualified facilitator. The primary purpose of the symposium is to give space for stories from differing vantage points to be heard, and to allow the audience to feel and hear the passion embodied by each speaker’s experience.  

Mahtot Gebresselassie

Mahtot, of Toronto, Canada, is a Ph.D. student in Planning, Governance, and Globalization studying at the university's Alexandria, Virginia campus. She earned her master's degree in Urban Planning at the University of Waterloo in Canada, and her bachelor's degree in architecture at Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia. She also holds a graduate diploma in Media Studies from the Sheridan Institute in Oakville, Canada. Her research interest focuses on the intersection of information and communications technologies (ICTs) and transport for persons with disabilities. Mahtot's project looks at how inclusive, hospitable, and welcoming Virginia Tech's Alexandria campus buildings are for persons with disabilities. 

Syeed Md Iskander

Syeed, is a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in the Civil and Environmental Engineering department. Originally from Bangladesh, he earned his master of science degree in Environmental Engineering from Washington State University and his bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology. His research focuses on innovative technologies for resource recovery and contaminants removal from wastewater. His project aims to determine international graduate students' perception of Virginia Tech Graduate School. This project is based on a questionnaire survey to better understand diversity, equity, and inclusion at Virginia Tech graduate school. 

Devin Koch

Devin, from Eustis, Nebraska, is a Master of Fine Arts degree student in Creative Writing. He earned his bachelor's degree from the University of Nebraska. His work explores topics of gender and queerness. Devin created Q*Creatives, a program dedicated to showcasing queer artistry within the Virginia Tech community. Panel discussions and interactive workshops led by LGBTQ+ faculty members, students, and VT employees from multiple art disciplines allow them to talk about their work and its importance and role in society. Q*Creatives paves way for collaboration and establishes visibility of queer artists.

Taylor Lightner

Taylor, of Columbia, South Carolina, is a PhD student in Engineering Education. She earned her bachelor's degree in Industrial Engineering from Clemson University. Taylor is interested in the intersection of engineering practice and society in rural communities. The goal of her project, “It's not you, it's me,” is to encourage intergroup dialogue among graduate students about implicit bias present within common interactions at Virginia Tech.  The goal of these sessions is to provide an opportunity for participants to express their frustrations, identify their own personal contributions to conflict and create strategies towards a more inclusive environment. 

Sarah Plummer

Sarah is a doctoral student in the Alliance for Social, Political, Ethical, and Cultural Thought (ASPECT) program. Originally from Ripplemead, Virginia, she earned a bachelor's degree in Theater from Berea College and a master's degree in English from Virginia Tech. Her research focuses on critiques of "form" as they pertain to aesthetics, ritual, radical ecology, performance, and daily life at Bread and Puppet Theater in Vermont.

Her project, "Fat at Virginia Tech”, aims to introduce the interdisciplinary academic field of fat studies to the campus and to spark conversations about the ways in which fat people are discriminated against and marginalized. Through a survey, this project will assess Virginia Tech's cultural climate toward fatness at the interpersonal and structural levels, how fat people are treated by other people, and their experiences within campus spaces.

Patrick Salmons

Patrick, originally from Bassett, Virginia, is a Ph.D. student in the ASPECT program. He earned bachelor's and master's degrees in Political Science from Virginia Tech. His research explores the impact music and religion⸻particularly hip-hop and bluegrass music, and Christianity⸻have on unlike groups in terms of creating a social movement. He examines how hip-hop and bluegrass operate as a place of solidarity and resistance for different groups of people with similar constraints. He is working on an Appalachian Awareness group. The project's ultimate goal is an outreach program to make students from Appalachia aware of the opportunities at Virginia Tech. Other objectives include discussing potential problems at the university and providing a proposal to help students and others from the Appalachian region.

Senam Tamakloe

Senam, from Palmdale, California, is a master's degree student in Materials Science and Engineering. She earned a bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California, Merced. Her work concentrates on the processing and the characterization of aluminum matrix composites using a newly synthesized carbon material as the strengthening reinforcement. Her project, “Inclusion series,” will serve to enhance the graduate student experience and stimulate discussions and cross-cultural connections. The series will foster a conversation amongst 25 College of Engineering graduate students to highlight marginalized voices and perspectives.

Ashley Taylor

Ashley is a doctoral candidate in Engineering Education from Fort Chiswell, Virginia. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in Mechanical Engineering, and a master of public health degree, all from Virginia Tech.

Ashley's (she/her/hers) work stems from a passion for reducing educational inequities fueled by years of fervent listening to her home community in rural Appalachia. Her work advocates for listening to communities, particularly underrepresented and underserved student communities, to reduce educational inequities in engineering and education systems.

Her project, FEAT (First Generation Engineers Advocating for Transformation) aims to create a community of support for undergraduate engineering students who are the first in their families to go to college. Through creating a peer network and edifying the voices and experiences of first-generation engineering students, this project is working with the Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Diversity to collaboratively identify areas where the College of Engineering can better support first generation students, both in pre-college outreach and undergraduate programs.