On May 3, the Virginia Tech Graduate School‘s 2018 Diversity Scholars will discuss their projects during a Diversity Spotlight program beginning at noon in the multipurpose room of the Graduate Life Center on Otey Street. Students will give five-minute presentations about their work in a lightning-round format. The program is free and open to the public.

The Diversity Scholars program was established in 2012 to help students develop and implement projects to improve inclusion and diversity through dialogue, advocacy, and change in programs and colleges across the university’s campuses.

The 2018 scholars include several graduate students in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.

Three of those scholars are doctoral students in the Alliance for Social, Political, Ethical, and Cultural Thought, or ASPECT: Nada Berrada, Ezgi Seref, and Faith Skiles.

Nada Berrada, of Morocco, earned a master’s degree at Virginia Tech and a bachelor’s degree from École de Gouvernance et d’Économie de Rabat in Morocco. She currently teaches in the Department of Political Science and serves as a board member of the International Student Advisory Board.

For her diversity project, Berrada will survey international students to collect perceptions and experiences of inclusion and diversity at Virginia Tech and then discuss the survey findings with interested international students, members of the Graduate School administration, the Cranwell International Center, and the Office of Recruitment, Diversity, and Inclusion to help identify and address the needs of the international student community.

Ezgi Seref, of Turkey, earned a bachelor’s degree from Marmara University in Istanbul, Turkey, and two master’s degrees from Sabanci University. Her research interests include legal politics, globalization, professional identity, legal policy, and legal culture.

Her project focused on how Virginia Tech students conceive the concept of security and how their perceived security conception reflect on their everyday encounters within campus space.

Faith Skiles, of Pilot, Virginia, earned a master’s degree from Virginia Tech and a bachelor’s degree from Mary Baldwin College. Her research interests include cross-cultural studies, gender studies, feminist theories of space and place, East Asian history, and American religious history.

Her diversity project attempts to address concerns and wishes voiced by international students by facilitating deliberate action on the part of local students to form an outreach to international students.

The scholars also include two master’s degree students in the Department of Philosophy who are collaborators: Audra Jenson, whose research focuses on moral and political philosophy and metaphysics, especially as they intersect with social and feminist philosophy, and Lindsay Whittaker, who specializes in ethics, epistemology, and philosophy of liberation with concentrations in food ethics, pet food, epistemic injustice, and feminism.

Together, Jenson and Whittaker are working to promote an atmosphere in which the participation of women and gender minorities is encouraged at all levels of philosophy education at Virginia Tech and to build mentorship relationships between philosophers at different stages in their careers as well as engage a broader audience in discussion about the particular plight of women and gender minorities in philosophy.

Jenson, of Blacksburg, earned her bachelor’s degree from Northwest Nazarene University, and Whittaker, also of Blacksburg, earned bachelor’s degrees in Greek, Latin, and philosophy from the University of Vermont.

The last two fellows in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences are both students in the School of Education.

Mark Marinoble, of Bristow, Virginia, is a doctoral student in education leadership policy studies on Virginia Tech’s Falls Church campus. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Virginia Tech. He has been an elementary school principal in Prince William County Public Schools since 2002.

For his diversity project, Marinoble wants to do more to ensure equity in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education by giving all students the opportunity to learn about STEM careers. He is partnering with Virginia Tech and Qualcomm to build a unique makerspace lab called the Tech Lab to reach underrepresented and underserved students.

Jyotsana Sharma, of India, is a doctoral candidate in the counselor education program. She earned her master’s degree from Boston University. She is a licensed clinical mental health counselor in the state of New Hampshire and a national certified counselor. Her research interests lie in the area of trauma recovery and adversarial growth.

Her diversity project — called Bridging the Gap Between Curiosity and Ignorance: Asking Effective Questions for Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity — involved creating and facilitating workshops where emerging educators, graduate teaching assistants, and graduate students could engage in discussions covering a range of topics related to diversity, inclusion, and equity.

Written by Cathy Grimes