Here’s a round-up of college news around Southwest and Southside. Want more education news? There’s no full-time education reporter west of Richmond. That’s one of the positions we’re raising money for. You can help fund us.

* * *

Virginia Tech wins Bee Campus USA certification

Virginia Tech has earned a Bee Campus USA certification for commitment to sustaining native insect pollinators. The initiative is sponsored by the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

Bee Campus USA certification requirements serve as a guideline for affiliated campuses such as Virginia Tech to increase their commitment to preserving these native pollinators. This is achieved through a long-term plan to increase native plant habitat, provide pollinator nesting sites, reduce pesticide use on campus, and develop pollinator conservation education and outreach opportunities for the campus community.

“This is another recognition of our efforts across the university to advance campus sustainability,” said Matt Gart, grounds manager, in a statement. “To support pollinators on Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus, we consciously select mostly native plants and shrubs that require minimal maintenance and pesticides. We also allow perimeters of campus – such as the area beyond the grass shoulders along Southgate Drive to Route 460 – to grow as a meadow with infrequent mowing.”

Pollinators are responsible for the reproduction of at least 85% of the world’s flowering plants. A third of all food humans eat comes from plants that rely on pollinators, with native insect pollinators contributing a large portion of this pollination. In the United States, native pollinators contribute to the yearly reproduction of an estimated $3 billion worth of crops.

The Virginia Tech Bee Campus Standing Committee is composed of 17 students, faculty, and staff from many different disciplines across campus. Margaret Couvillon, assistant professor of pollinator biology, serves as chair of the committee that organized the certification.

In early spring, the committee led a lavender planting behind Hillcrest Hall, which turned a grassy area into a pollinator-friendly garden. Its members also led an educational pollinator walkthrough of Hahn Horticulture Garden. Looking ahead, there will be three additional student-proposed pollinator gardens planted on the Blacksburg campus, funded through the Office of Sustainability’s Green RFP Program, Tech said in a release.

* * *

Tech’s engineering dean wins award

Julia Ross. Courtesy of Virginia Tech.

Julia Ross, the Paul and Dorothea Torgersen Dean of Engineering at Virginia Tech, has been named the 2022 Outstanding Woman Leader in Virginia Higher Education.

The award, presented by the Virginia Network for Women in Higher Education, was announced this month at the American Council on Education’s 2022 Virginia Network Annual State Conference. Now in its fourth year, the accolade honors women who serve as role models to other women, display a commitment to developing and fostering the empowerment of women leaders, and exemplify leadership, success and service.

Ross joined Virginia Tech in her current role in 2017. In the past five years, the college’s total enrollment has grown by 18%, led in part by the expansion of computer science and computer engineering in support of the state’s commitment to tech talent development. Also:

  • The college’s research expenditures have grown by 16% (to $264 million in fiscal year 2020).
  • The value of the college’s endowment has increased by 31% (to $238 million).
  • The college’s alumni giving rate has grown by 54%.

* * *

Radford named to Colleges of Distinction list

Radford University has been named a College of Distinction for 2022-2023 for its commitment to empowering students’ success through engagement, innovation and support as they follow their educational paths. College of Distinction is a website that offers advice on colleges for prospective students.

The academic programs recognized by Colleges of Distinction were:

  • The undergraduate business program, which excels at graduating students into the workforce with solid, well-developed critical thinking skills as well as the ability to adapt to an ever-changing society.
  • The undergraduate education program, which delivers leading-edge undergraduate education programs as education transforms alongside constant changes in technology, public policy, employer demands, and more.
  • The undergraduate nursing program, which prepares its students to excel and take action in high-pressure situations and challenges them to remain curious and compassionate throughout their rigorous careers.

The student services recognized by Colleges of Distinction were:

  • Career development, which is well-equipped to help students graduate with confidence through offering comprehensive four-year plans, advising and more.
  • Military support, which provides personal and academic support for the unique challenges veterans and active military personnel face, helping these students overcome obstacles and achieve success.

To see Radford University’s full profile and the recognition received, go to the Colleges of Distinction website.

* * *

Emory & Henry honors two athletes

The Emory & Henry College Department of Athletics presents a pair of awards each academic year to senior student-athletes – the Porterfield Memorial Award and Hall Memorial Award.

Devontae Jordan. Courtesy of Emory & Henry.

The winner of the Porterfield Memorial Award for 2021-22 is Devontae Jordan (Bassett, Virginia) from the football team. This is the first time since 2017 that a football player has been designated as the outstanding senior male.

Jordan rewrote the record book for Emory & Henry running backs last fall, setting nine different school records. He led all divisions of college football with 26 total touchdowns and finished as the number two rusher in NCAA Division II by just 2 yards.

Jordan set new E&H standards including rushing yardage in a season (1,853), rushing touchdowns in a game (six) and a season (26), and points scored in a game (36) and a season (156). He also became the first E&H rusher to gain more than 100 yards in all 10 games of a season and the first player to run for more than 200 yards in three straight contests.

For his efforts, Jordan won the Lanier Award from the Richmond Times-Dispatch designating him as Virginia’s Small College Player of the Year. He was also named to the All-State First Team by the Virginia Sports Information Directors as well as the VaSID Offensive Player of the Year.

The Hall Award is named in memory of George A. Hall, the father of retired coach Eleanor Hall Hutton.

Anna Thomas. Courtesy of Emory & Henry.

The 2021-22 recipient of the Hall Memorial Award is Anna Thomas (Climax, North Carolina) of softball. This marks the second straight year and the fourth time in the past five years that a softball player has earned this award.

Thomas is one of the top outfielders to ever wear an Emory & Henry uniform. She led the Wasps to a total of 87 wins, two NCAA Division III Regional appearances in 2019 and 2021, and a No. 9 national ranking from the NFCA in 2021. Thomas showed her versatility this past spring, answering the call and stepping into the circle to pitch.

She burst onto the scene as a freshman in 2019 and was named the Old Dominion Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year as well as a second-team selection. She was also a NFCA All-Atlantic Region Third-Teamer and a VaSID All-State First-Team pick.

In 2020, Thomas was picked to the NFCA Leadoff Classic All-Tournament Team and continued to rack up the awards in 2021, being selected to the CoSIDA Academic All-District V First Team as well as the ODAC All-Tournament Team and the Seguin Regional All-Tournament Team. She also has excelled in the classroom, evidenced by a pair of selections to the NFCA All-America Scholar-Athlete Team.

* * *