Deirdre Gonsalves-Jackson Ph.D. serves as dean of VWU Global Campus and is an associate professor of biology at Virginia Wesleyan University. As dean, she oversees and promotes programs that serve a diversity of nontraditional and under-served populations through online degree programs, VWU Global (Japan), continuing education, the Advanced Scholars/Dual-Credit program, and other forms of non-traditional educational opportunities.
STEM outreach is a major component of Gonsalves-Jackson’s research. She has secured over $1.5 million in grants through collaborative research in marine biology and STEM outreach initiatives. And, she has developed well-established grant-funded programs that attract, retain and graduate talented underrepresented groups in STEM. Her research focuses on opisthobranch mollusks (sea slugs) from the tropical Eastern Pacific and the Caribbean and on biodiversity and feeding specificity of opisthobranchs and sponges in the Chesapeake Bay.
“I am grateful and honored to be the recipient of this award as this distinction reflects my commitment to, and the importance of, STEM outreach initiatives in urban communities that support and provide underserved and nontraditional groups with transformative educational opportunities,” said Gonsalves-Jackson.
Gonsalves-Jackson has made major strides in recruiting and retaining underrepresented groups to STEM fields and has established new partnerships with Norfolk-area schools, developed new lab courses, provided mentoring and shadowing opportunities, and developed summer programs to bring local students to campus to encourage their persistence in STEM.
Undertaking projects and teaching courses in marine biology in an urban setting can be somewhat of an anomaly says Gonsalves-Jackson.
“Being able to expose students to their outdoor laboratory, the Atlantic Ocean, has been one of the most rewarding endeavors I have experienced. I hope to continue to serve as a scholar-leader for all future scientists who never imagined themselves in that role,” said Gonsalves-Jackson.
Phoebe Haddon, Chancellor Emerita of Rutgers University–Camden and a member of the selection committee, supported the candidacy of Gonsalves-Jackson “because of her remarkable determination and leadership in advancing the interests of students on campus and of residents in the community, including encouraging workforce development that has had broad community impact.”