Four honored for commitment to diversity in College of Agricultural Sciences

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Four individuals have received the 2018 Dr. William Henson Diversity Achievement Award from Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, an honor that recognizes distinctive and outstanding teaching, research, extension or creative work that advances diversity in the college.

This year's recipients are Jenneth Layaou, director of campus enrollment and retention in the Office for Undergraduate Education; Tara Baugher, Penn State Extension tree-fruit educator; Paige Castellanos, assistant research professor in the Office of International Programs; and Cecil Shelton, doctoral student in agricultural and extension education.

Jenneth Layaou

Layaou demonstrates understanding and appreciation of diversity issues in many ways, most notably as club adviser to the Penn State Students for Cultivating Change, which provides a safe, inclusive network for students interested in agricultural sciences who are in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and asexual and/or ally community.

She also serves on other committees related to diversity, such as the Diversity Coordinating Council for the College of Agricultural Sciences and the Commission of LGBTQA Equity for the University, and is a past member of the Commission of Women for the University.

Layaou directs the Pennsylvania School for Excellence in the Agricultural Sciences, which is a summer residential program for high school seniors interested in agricultural sciences. In recent years, cohort groups have enrolled a high percentage of underrepresented minority students as well as those in the LGBTQA community. Layaou makes sure staff are trained in diversity issues and helps implement policies and procedures so that LGBTQA students and those with physical disabilities, nutritional restrictions, religious differences, and others feel safe and welcomed.

In addition, she presented a workshop on stereotypes and the intersection of those stereotypes, which can affect youth programming, at a professional-development 4-H conference held at Ohio State University in April.

"These commitments require hours of service that go above and beyond her role in the college and serve as an indication of her engagement, understanding, appreciation and advocacy for diversity issues," said Cecil Shelton, doctoral student. "Jenneth not only talks the talk of diversity and inclusion in our college, but walks the walk and is not afraid to highlight her commitment to all individuals."

Tara Baugher

Baugher has developed programming designed to educate Hispanic growers and agricultural workers throughout Pennsylvania. She was principal investigator on two Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture specialty-crops grants that focus on sustainable production and pest-management innovations for next-generation young and Hispanic/Latino specialty-crop growers. Because of her leadership, vision, resource acquisition and persistence, a number of educational materials have been translated into Spanish on topics such as weed identification and management, orchard pruning, vegetable crop planning, and soil quality.

Baugher also led a three-year U.S. Department of Agriculture Beginning Farmer and Rancher grant, making sure that the project reflected the true diversity of farming in Pennsylvania and the important role that Hispanic farmers play by including a Hispanic farmer as one of the seven farm cooperators for the project. She also provided coordination and support for a series of Spanish-language study circles for beginning farmers.

For nine years, the Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Convention has included a full-day session in Spanish, with Baugher credited as one of the founders of this educational event. This session draws between 30 and 50 Hispanic farmers, farm managers and farm workers to learn about fruit and vegetable production systems, farm food safety, pesticide safety and more.

"Tara is a powerful leader for diversity," said Lee Stivers, horticulture extension educator. "She is the one who is writing, securing and managing the grants that provide not just the resources, but also the direction, clarity and confidence that we need to jump into this arena and make a difference. Tara always brings her high professional standards, unwavering optimism and sincere commitment to helping all people to her work."

Paige Castellanos

Castellanos has a comprehensive portfolio of research, teaching and external training focused on the inclusion of marginalized groups, whether based on economic status, gender or belonging to minority or indigenous groups.

She has focused research in Central America, with her dissertation evaluating social protection programs that provide for poverty reduction in rural Costa Rica. Her efforts were recognized with Penn State's prestigious Alumni Association Dissertation Award for 2015. Her recent research analyzes gender inclusion in rural communities in the Andes in Peru.

Castellanos is leading the research and management for the USAID-funded Feed the Future — Empowering Women through Horticulture Production grant, which is a multi-year project that presents gender-focused content and horticulture technical knowledge to indigenous Lenca women in western Honduras. She also has been instrumental in developing the college's Gender in Agriculture, Energy and Environment Initiative.

Castellanos has developed and taught embedded courses that promote cultural and global competency for undergraduate students. By taking students to Central America, she aims to instill in them a willingness to learn from others, to be open-minded and tolerant, and to experience other cultures.

In addition, she is a member of the executive board of the Commission for Women and serves as the chair for the Faculty Focus Committee, which concentrates on the intersectionality of faculty status with gender, race and other marginalized groups.

"Paige seeks to understand diversity through her research, to celebrate diversity through her personal and professional life, and to combat structured inequalities that exist when some groups — whether by race, ethnicity, gender or other characteristics — exploit unfair advantages they have over others," said Leif Jensen, distinguished professor of rural sociology and demography.

Cecil Shelton

Shelton has gone beyond his role as a doctoral candidate and graduate assistant to promote respect and diversity through his involvement in programs provided by or related to the College of Agricultural Sciences and Penn State Extension, such as the Learning Edge Academic Program freshmen seminar, 4-H and FFA.

Working with the national Cultivating Change Foundation, he was instrumental in creating a student chapter at Penn State, the first student chapter for the foundation and the first LGBTQA student club in the College of Agricultural Sciences. This club provides a safe space for those students and educates others to build a stronger community.

Shelton also played a large role in bringing Safe Zone training to college faculty and staff. The Safe Zone program is a campus-wide program designed to raise visibility about the LGBTQA population, to foster understanding about the issues facing these students, and to enhance awareness of related resources at Penn State. In April, he gave a presentation at the national 4-H convention in Ohio on the visibility of the LGBTQA community at land-grant universities.

Shelton's own experiences with dyslexia served as his motivation to collaborate with other University departments, such as health and disabilities services and educational equity, to educate and empower students through additional programming.

"Cecil demonstrates understanding, appreciation and advocacy for diversity issues at Penn State and beyond," said Layaou. "When it comes to diversity on campus, you will see Cecil, attending programming, creating programming and standing visible as a member and someone of support. I have great respect for someone who can use their own experience to help empower others. Cecil does that every day."

Media Contacts: 
Last Updated May 24, 2018