Three honored for commitment to diversity in College of Agricultural Sciences

May 15, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Three individuals have received the 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 Maria Gorgo-Gourovitch, a horticulture extension educator in Chester and Berks counties and an affiliate instructor in the Department of Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology; David Miller, assistant professor of wildlife population ecology in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management; and Matthew Kaplan, professor of intergenerational programs and aging in the Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education.

Gorgo-Gourovitch has leveraged her position as an extension educator to bridge support between Latino Americans and immigrants and agricultural industries in Pennsylvania. Through her work, many Spanish-speaking audiences have gained access to adequate training, which benefits not only their own professional development, but also the needs of the different agricultural industries.

Maria Gorgo-Gourovitch

Maria Gorgo-Gourovitch.

IMAGE: Penn State

For the past 11 years, Gorgo-Gourovitch has been a pioneer in providing science-based agricultural training in Spanish. Among her many accomplishments have been co-founding the Spanish session at the Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Convention in 2009, conducting numerous Latinx community needs assessments, securing grants and speaking at national conferences on behalf of the Latinx agricultural community. 

Her colleagues say that Gorgo-Gourovitch is the main connecting point for extension working with Latinos in Pennsylvania. Most recently, she helped to spearhead the college’s Latinx Agricultural Network, which brought together more than 50 extension educators, faculty, students and Latinx leaders from across the state for a successful strategic planning session focused on supporting the Latinx agricultural community in the Pennsylvania.

Their goal is to help Latinx growers achieve quality agricultural production, experience satisfaction in their workplaces and enjoy a high quality of life.

Miller has been extremely active in topics around diversity and inclusion at many levels at Penn State. First, he has been engaged in his own diversity education, attending workshops offered by the Penn State Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity, strategic planning meetings for Penn State Extension’s engagement with the Latinx community, workshops offered by the college’s Office of Multicultural Affairs and Diversity Coordinating Council, and programs hosted by Schreyer Honors College.

David Miller

David Miller.

IMAGE: Penn State

Miller said he aspires to expand his own education so that he can better serve his students and colleagues, as well as lead by example in acknowledging his privilege of being a white, middle-class male in the U.S. and the opportunities that afforded him.

Additionally, Miller helped to initiate the development of a diversity statement for all courses offered in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management. He incorporated the topic of diversity and inclusion in ecology as one of the topics of the introductory course in the intercollege ecology program. He chairs the department’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee and co-teaches the two-credit course, “Equity and Inclusion in Ecological Professions.” 

This semester-long course highlights diversity and inclusion problems in the field of ecology. His colleagues say Miller has been a true advocate for these topics for years and has touched many students and faculty with his appreciation and value for diversity at Penn State.

Under Kaplan’s leadership, the Penn State Intergenerational Program has been instrumental in developing and piloting new intergenerational models and curricular materials, spanning the areas of nutrition education, civic engagement and community planning, early childhood education, family strengths, and farm-family succession planning. A consistent theme in Kaplan’s work is exploring cross-cultural similarities and differences in how people perceive and pursue intergenerational connections.

Matthew Kaplan

Matthew Kaplan.

IMAGE: Penn State

He recently published a book, “Intergenerational Contact Zones: Place-based Strategies for Promoting Social Inclusion and Belonging,” which presents a conceptual framework and operational approach for creating and enabling community settings for desired intergenerational encounters. The book was co-edited by Kaplan, Leng Leng Thang, of the National University of Singapore, Mariano Sánchez, of the University of Granada, Spain, and Jaco Hoffman, of North-West University, South Africa.

Another area of Kaplan’s work involves training older adults to take leadership roles in developing intergenerational programs. He established the “Intergenerational Leadership Institute,” which is a yearlong certificate training program for older adults seeking new lifelong learning and civic engagement experiences as well as opportunities to contribute to innovation and change in their communities.

Since 2015, Intergenerational Leadership Institute chapters have been established in State College, Montgomery County, Maryland, Durham, North Carolina, and Nelson, British Columbia. New chapters are being established in Cáceres, Spain, and Tlalnepantla de Baz, Mexico.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated April 15, 2021