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Congratulations to CALS Global Student Leaders!

Student leader teams presented on their SDG at the final session.

The CALS Global Student Leaders Program was designed for students eager to tackle complex issues in agriculture, food security, and health. For challenges that transcend geographic boundaries and sectors, leaders for the next generation need to practice and develop skills such as critical thinking, leadership, and systems-thinking to create meaningful impact. The Inaugural Program kicked-off this spring with students representing five CALS schools and departments. Inaugural class participants included: Valerie Ballard, Biochemistry; Zichong “Zach” Guo, Agribusiness; Zoey Kim, Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise; Renee Ok, Environmental Science; Demetrius Ragland, Crop and Soil Sciences; Hope Showalter, Agricultural Sciences; and Beth Vaught, Crop and Soil Sciences.

The seven-session program was anchored in understanding UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): students explored individual SDGs of interest and worked with a team of peers to understand the complexity around achieving a specific SDG. The program incorporated a learn – lead – reflect framework which introduced practical tools such as empathy mapping, problem solving preferences, and systems thinking (learn). Students also explored leadership styles and studied global food security leaders (lead) with structured time and activities designed to consider how they might apply their learnings at Virginia Tech and as they enter the workforce (reflect). Along with peer-to-peer learning and program instruction, students were paired with mentors to support their professional development goals. Mentors included Dr. Tom Thompson, Associate Dean and Director, CALS Global; Dr. Jessica Agnew, Associate Director, CALS Global; Dr. Erika Bonnett, Extension Specialist for Program Development; and Dickson Otieno, Program Associate, CALS Global.

Students practice challenge mapping during the opening session.

Global Student Leaders Program participants will now be eligible to apply for scholarships to represent CALS and Virginia Tech at the 2022 GAP Report Launch in Washington, DC and the 2022 Borlaug Dialogue and World Food Prize events in Des Moines, IA. CALS Global plans to offer this program again in the spring of 2023. Please look for application announcements in fall 2022.

Submitted by CALS Global Student Leaders Program Coordinators, Catie Goddard, Capacity Development and Design Thinking Specialist and Ben Grove, Associate Director of Strategy and Administration for Virginia Cooperative Extension.