AUBURN – Auburn University’s College of Sciences and Mathematics has named Velma Becton Richardson, a professor of biology at Tuskegee University from 1997 to 2007, as its associate dean for diversity and multicultural affairs.
“The position that Richardson will hold was created in 2000 to further COSAM’s commitment to a diverse educational environment and was previously held by Overtoun Jenda, now associate provost,” said COSAM dean Stewart Schneller. “In his role in this position, Dr. Jenda laid a solid foundation for the college’s mission in this area.”
In addition to her faculty position at Tuskegee University, Richardson also served as program director for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Undergraduate Biological Sciences Education Program, where she provided leadership and oversight in strengthening minority participation in biomedical and related sciences.
Richardson earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biology from Tuskegee University. In 1978 she began studies at AU as one of the first National Institutes of Health/Minority Access to Research Careers Predoctoral Fellows. Four years later, she became the first African-American female to receive a doctoral degree in zoology from Auburn.
Schneller said Richardson would combine her talents in classroom instruction and laboratory research, highly regarded at Tuskegee University, with her commitment to mentoring to provide COSAM with meaningful leadership for one of the cornerstones of its mission.
Richardson has been involved in science education reform for more than 20 years, during which time she led efforts to reform the science curriculum and worked to upgrade instructional infrastructure. She also worked to increase undergraduate recruitment and retention and undergraduate access to the research laboratory.
“I am particularly interested in exploring ways to get the students into the labs and giving them access to the research culture as soon as possible,” said Richardson. “I plan to develop and employ early intervention strategies, like accessibility to research, to aid in the retention of our students.”
“I am excited that the Summer Bridge program is happening in my first two weeks here at Auburn,” said Richardson. “I can’t wait to see the students and begin working with them immediately as they take their first steps in the transition from high school to college. The program is a perfect continuation and expansion of the work I have been doing over the last 10 years.”
Richardson said in addition to working with students, she is interested in fostering diversity among COSAM faculty. “I look forward to working with the various department heads to identify, recruit and retain minority faculty,” she said. “Diversity is a strength, a core value, for the faculty, the students, everyone involved, and provides new ideas and ways of doing things. I think we are all enriched by different points of view.”
(Contributed by Carol Nelson.)