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Dr. Deirdre Gonsalves-Jackson Receives CUMU Scholar-Administrator Award

Recognition honors leadership and intellectual voice in urban/metropolitan educational environment

University News | December 20, 2021

Dr. Deirdre Gonsalves-Jackson, Dean of VWU Global Campus and Associate Professor of Biology, has been selected to receive the inaugural Barbara A. Holland Scholar-Administrator Award from the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities (CUMU).

The CUMU Selection Committee, composed of current and emeriti CUMU presidents and chancellors, recently identified Gonsalves-Jackson as a distinguished scholar-administrator like the award’s namesake Dr. Holland—whose leadership and intellectual voice illuminates the transformative power of urban and metropolitan higher education in the lives of individuals and communities. 

In her role as Dean of VWU Global Campus, Dr. Gonsalves-Jackson oversees VWU Online, the Evening and Weekend Program, VWU Global (Japan), Early Enrollment/Advanced Scholars, and non-credit learners. A member of the VWU faculty since 2006, she has also served the institution in a variety of other leadership roles, including Director of Nursing and Allied Health and Director of Winter and Summer Sessions.

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.

Gonsalves-Jackson received her Ph.D. from the Florida Institute of Technology and her M.S. from Florida Atlantic University. A predoctoral fellow studying Panama mollusks, she worked at Randolph-Macon Woman's College in Lynchburg, Virginia, where she attended as an undergraduate. She will be honored for the Barbara A. Holland Scholar Award during a CUMU panel presentation in the new year.

Learn more about the CUMU Barbara A. Holland Scholar-Administrator Awards.