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Spring 2020

CALS Alumni Organization Connections
Spring 2020

News for College of Agriculture and Life Sciences alumni.
Connect. Engage. Serve.

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Dean's Message

Dear Alumni,

Greetings from CALS during these unusual and unprecedented times. Although the university remains open, it has moved to a level of essential operations only, meaning that the university is prioritizing its resources towards functions and services that are essential to life safety (e.g., public safety, health services, housing and dining for those still living on campus, etc.), online instruction and academic support services, animal care, essential research, and maintenance of buildings and critical infrastructure.

Included among the college's essential operations are things such as animal facilities, livestock and poultry operations, crop production and management operations, and related research that must be maintained. This work is being continued by our very dedicated employees; however, over 80 percent of our employees are teleworking and have made an impressive transition to carry out their work virtually.

The faculty has worked hard to transition courses to an online environment, and the students have responded surprisingly well to this new environment (for example, read about Professor Ellerbrock’s virtual course). Virginia Cooperative Extension has also mobilized its specialists, agents, staff, and volunteers to direct much of their educational programming to COVID-19 related issues to help communities in a variety of ways during these challenging times. Resources are available at this link.  Virginia Tech researchers are also involved in work to diagnose and address COVID-19 issues.

The university will host spring commencement online and colleges and departments are working to create an event that celebrates the achievements of our students and launches them as newly minted alumni. CALS is also moving its annual Outstanding Senior Event to an online event. Read more about our nine outstanding seniors.  

The unprecedented pandemic continues to impact all of us in many ways, but I continue to be amazed at how the students, faculty, and staff have responded to such a crisis. Their resiliency is impressive and their actions have been a testament to the true spirit of the university’s motto: Ut Prosim (That I May Serve).

Go Hokies!


Alan L. Grant, Ph.D.
Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences 



CALS Alumni Organization's President's Message

Fellow Hokies,

I write this message with hope that you and your families are safe and well. These are certainly trying times, but I know the Hokie Nation is strong. As you may know, the CALS Alumni Organization had to cancel or postpone several of our annual alumni and student programs this spring. Celebrating our outstanding alumni and welcoming our spring graduates to the organization are always highlights. Although those events will look different this year, our enthusiasm and love for those we celebrate have not changed.

We have created new opportunities in which we hope to bridge the gaps created by COVID-19. I will welcome our new members through video and email until we can congratulate them at a future in-person event. In the meantime, please help welcome any members of the class of 2020 you may know to the alumni ranks!

We moved our March Celebration of Ut Prosim event to the fall in conjunction with our CALS Tailgate. With the help of our outstanding faculty we have created three virtual educational events for alumni throughout the spring that you can register to attend below. Two stories below highlight the service of our fellow CALS Hokies to their community and the nation.

July 1 begins a new planning year for the CALS Alumni Organization and new opportunities to be involved for our 25,000+ members. Our programming offers a number of ways for alumni to engage with students, faculty, and fellow alumni both on and off campus, in-person and virtually, through individual talents and a wide range of time commitments. Complete this volunteer survey to let us know your interests.

The CALS Alumni Organization is active on Facebook and Instagram. Follow our pages for event announcements,  event photo albums, and another way to connect with fellow alumni. You can also submit your alumni feature, and to sign up for or suggest a fellow alum for a Takeover Tuesday.

On behalf of the CALS Alumni Organization, we look forward to our next opportunity to gather together. Stay safe and well.

Go Hokies!

Rachel Kohl ’00, ‘02
President, CALS Alumni Organization



2020 - 2021 Events



Waldron family embodies the spirit of Ut Prosim

For Laura and Zach Waldron, helping others has become a family affair.

While Zach Waldron graduated from Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Laura Waldron graduated from James Madison – but the entire family has embodied the motto of Ut Prosim.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Laura Waldron has a chance to help by filling an important need: making masks to help protect people. The idea, Waldron said, came from her mother, who is a nurse, and a family friend, who owns an urgent care center.

“It brings a lot of gratification that people are protected if they must go out,” she said.

In the evenings, Zach Waldron, '07, '09 agricultural and applied economics, helps his wife sew the masks by flipping the masks inside out and pinning the pleats while Laura Waldron runs the sewing machine.

Zach isn’t the only one that helps, though.

Each of Zach’s and Laura’s five kids has helped make the masks that have been shipped around the country.

“My husband being a Hokie has rubbed off on me,” Laura Waldron said. “Whenever we are in the area, we love to take our kids on a ride through town and play I Spy with the HokieBird statues around Blacksburg.”

Waldron’s sewing originally started as a hobby, but eventually evolved into altering and hemming both dresses and pants for family friends before opening her own business in 2018 as a seamstress.


Alumna named to international advisory council that monitors food security and impacts of COVID-19


Virginia Tech Department of Food Science and Technology alumna Elsa Murano has been selected as the sole U.S. representative on the newly formed Food Security of the Americas Advisory Council — created to address the mounting food supply issues that are resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more