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DIVERSITY FELLOWSHIPS   |   Global Change Center

The wicked socio-environmental challenges of our time such as climate change, water pollution and scarcity, and emerging infectious diseases disproportionately affect marginalized communities around the globe.  These environmental injustices will only escalate in years to come without innovation and purposeful intervention.  Recognizing this urgency, the Global Change Center seeks to provide interdisciplinary training to a diverse community of aspiring leaders.  Our broad aims are to engage students in difficult discussions of complex socioenvironmental problems, learn from their diverse perspectives and life experiences, and equip them with the skills needed to drive change in communities in the U.S. and abroad.

Because environmental injustices must be solved in collaboration with the underserved communities most affected by global changes, we seek to attract the next generation of leaders from under-represented groups to Virginia Tech. With support from the Fralin Life Sciences Institute and the Virginia Tech Graduate School, we will award two Diversity Fellowships to outstanding applicants in the upcoming academic year.

Incoming first year PhD students are eligible to apply (beginning in the Fall semester).  Fellows will enroll in a degree-granting program as well as the Interfaces of Global Change Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Program (IGC IGEP), where they will be part of a vibrant community of students and faculty from over 20 diverse academic departments at Virginia Tech.  Fellows will gain their technical depth of expertise through their degree granting program, while broadening their interdisciplinary perspective and collaboration skills through the IGC IGEP.


The 2024-25 Diversity Fellowship application deadline will be 5 PM EST March 1, 2024.

Please direct any questions to Global Change Center Coordinator, Bri Wills, 

Incoming first-year PhD students (who will begin in the Fall 2024 term) from underrepresented groups are eligible to apply if:

a) they have identified a faculty mentor, preferably a GCC affiliated faculty member, to supervise and financially support their graduate studies

b) have applied for admission to the Virginia Tech Graduate School and to their faculty mentor’s home department 

c) intend to fully participate in the Interfaces of Global Change Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Program (IGC IGEP) upon arrival at Virginia Tech.

**Acceptance of a Diversity Fellowship will result in automatic acceptance into the IGC IGEP upon admission to Virginia Tech.**

Deadline for applications is 5 pm EST on March 1, 2024. Incomplete, late, or incorrectly formatted applications will not be considered. Notification of awards will be made by the end of March. 

All applications must include (in this order):

1. The one-page Cover Sheet  [ PDF | DOC ]

2. The applicant’s CV, including undergraduate GPA (and past graduate GPA if relevant)

3. An application letter, not to exceed 1 page (11-point font), that is divided into 2 sections that address these topics:

a. Personal Statement: Description of your personal and professional background, professional aspirations, and why a diversity fellowship and admission to the IGC IGEP will advance your professional goals.

b. Interdisciplinary Research Statement: Describe how your research interests are related to global change, interdisciplinary in nature, and how you see your research benefitting society and/or underserved communities.

4. A letter of support from the applicant’s graduate mentor, not to exceed 1 page, that explains:

a. The applicant’s suitability for a diversity fellowship and admission to the IGC IGEP, to include any notable past accomplishments that suggest they will succeed in a Ph.D. program.

b. A clear description of a multi-year funding plan for the student beyond the first year of support provided by the diversity fellowship. Students are not eligible for the fellowship or admission into the IGC IGEP without a clear funding plan. If departmental support (e.g., Graduate teaching assistantships) is part of the applicant’s funding plan, the letter must be co-signed by an appropriate departmental representative (dept. head or graduate coordinator).

The student’s application (Items 1-3 above) should be submitted as a single pdf file by e-mail to GCC Program Coordinator. The letter of support (Item 4) should be sent as a seperate PDF file directly to the GCC Program Coordinator, Bri Wills; E-mail address:

Label files as LAST NAME_ DiversityFellowshipApplication_2024. 

  • Applicant’s professional credentials and alignment with purpose of fellowship
  • Pertinence of student’s proposed research to global change issues
  • The interdisciplinary nature of the student’s research interests and its relevance to society.
  • Evidence that the IGC IGEP will help the student reach their professional goals.


FELLOWSHIP RECIPIENTS  |   Global Change Center

Idowu Okeshola

2021 Diversity Fellow


Idowu joins the research group led by Dr. Peter Vikesland of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Through his research, Idowu intends to build upon his interdisciplinary background to gain expertise in the development of nanotechnology-enabled platforms for the detection of environmental contaminants. Knowing the impact that environmental contaminants have on climate change, species extinction and agriculture, his research will explore methods to reduce the production of pollutants for sustainable growth in areas undergoing urbanization.  Before joining Virginia Tech, Idowu completed his undergraduate degree in Civil Engineering at the University of Agriculture, Abeokuta in Nigeria followed by a M.Sc. in. Environmental Engineering at the Technical University of Darmstadt in Germany. Upon completion of his Ph.D. research, he intends to return to Nigeria to continue his work in addressing the consequences of environmental contaminants and creating early detection systems to eradicate them.

Advised by Dr. Peter Vikesland

Gabriel Borba

2021 Diversity Fellow


Gabriel Borba will conduct his research in the laboratory of Dr. Leandro Castello of the Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation. As a direct descendant of the Pardo ethnicity of South America, which refers to descendants of the collective European, Amerindian, and West African diasporas, Gabriel intends to study the impact of climate change, habitat loss, and overfishing on the lives of indigenous Amazonians. Specifically, he intends to investigate how climate change and floodplain deforestation affects the hydrology of Amazon rivers and fish habitat, thus impacting fish catch and the livelihood of Amazonians. Prior to joining Virginia Tech, Gabriel completed his undergraduate degree in Biological Science at the Federal University of Rio Grande in Rio Grande, Brazil followed by a Master’s in Ecology at the National Institute for Amazonian Research in Manaus, Brazil.

Advised by Dr. Leandro Castello

Carla López Lloreda

2022 Diversity Fellow


Carla obtained her bachelor’s degree in Environmental Sciences from her home institution, the University of Puerto at Río Piedras. In her undergraduate career, she worked on projects understanding the role of animals in nutrient cycling and on characterizing the aquatic habitat of Puerto Rico’s only native toad, the Puerto Rican Crested toad. Carla later worked as a research technician with the University of New Hampshire and Oak Ridge National lab, based in El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico, where she was able to contribute to important work understanding the impacts of disturbance on tropical forests and was driven by this experience to pursue graduate school. For her PhD, Carla is broadly interested in watershed biogeochemistry and her graduate work will focus on quantifying and understanding greenhouse gas emissions from wetlands, focusing on different global regions and controls. Her work will take place in geographically isolated wetlands in the Delmarva Peninsula, Maryland, where she will focus on evaluating the role of wetland landscape variables and hydrologic connectivity on greenhouse gases. 

Advised by Dr. Erin Hotchkiss

Photo of Rahul Garg

Rahul Garg

2022 Diversity Fellow


Having grown up in a semi-arid town in Rajasthan, India, Rahul Garg has first-hand experience with the implications of clean water scarcity, which fueled his curiousity about hydrogeology and the subsurface processes that impact drinking water. For his PhD studies, Rahul will study the North Atlantic coastal plains (NACP) subsidence and associated hazards. Land subsidence affects relative sea-level rise, a combination of eustatic sea-level rise due to changing climate, and surface deformation, including geological adjustments. The abstraction of groundwater from coastal aquifers exacerbates the relative sea-level rise, accelerating disruption in coastal communities, wetland ecosystems, and agricultural productivity through frequent flooding and aquifer salinization. By adopting an interdisciplinary approach using remote sensing observational data products like radar and satellite gravimetry combined with poro-mechanical and hydrological modelling, Rahul plans to understand the role of groundwater abstraction on vertical land motion and its nonlinear behaviour.

Advised by Dr. Susanna Werth

Anu Rai

2023 Diversity Fellow


Anu recently completed her Master's degree in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation at the University of Florida's School of Natural Resources and Environment, specializing in the Human Dimension Lab in Interdisciplinary Ecology. Prior to that, she conducted research during her undergraduate years at Kathmandu Forestry College, focusing on human-wildlife conflict and performing a socioeconomic assessment of Nepal's Eastern Himalayan region.

Anu's research interests are community-based conservation focusing on underrepresented groups, sustainable conservation, human-nature/wildlife interaction, and participatory approaches.

Advised by Dr. Michael Sorice

Mary Opeyemi Soetan

2023 Diversity Fellow


Mary recieved her Bachelor's degree in Aquaculture and Fisheries Management from the Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta and graduated among the top five in her department with a CPA of 4.31/5.0. Her interest in the field made her pursue a master's degree in order to make an impact in the Aquaculture and Fishery sector in Nigeria and the world at large. Mary got the prestigious World Bank Scholarship to study MPhil Fisheries Science at the University of Cape Coast, Ghana where she graduated with distinctions.

Mary's research interests are fisheries conservation and management, and the impact of climate change on aquatic ecosystems

Advised by Dr. Emmanuel Frimpong and Dr. Holly Kindsvater

IGC Fellow

Benedicta Ada Ottairoegbu 

2024 Diversity Fellow


Benedicta, a top graduate in Botany from the University of Lagos, conducted research on Costus spectabilis.  This experience drove her to want to understand how plants are able to adapt to their environments and how climate change affects these changes to ensure conservation and sustainable agriculture. For her PhD, she aims to explore how plants respond and adapt to rapidly changing environmental conditions. 

Advised by Dr. Susan Whitehead.

IGC Fellow

Reyhane Rastgoo

2024 Diversity Fellow


Reyhane's research focuses on human-wildlife interactions and the human dimensions of wildlife conservation. For her PhD she will be investigating the motivations behind longleaf pine landowners' participation in the Conservation Reserve Program. Through a mixed-methods approach, she aims to uncover the factors influencing landowners' decisions, as well as the barriers they may encounter.

Advised by Dr. Ashley Dayer.


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