Penn State Brandywine professor receives diversity recognition award

MEDIA, Pa. — Valerie Mendez-Gallardo, assistant professor of psychology at Penn State Brandywine, was recently awarded the 2017 John Romano Faculty/Staff Diversity Recognition Award.

Presented by the University's Multicultural Resource Center, the award honors a Penn State faculty or staff member who goes above and beyond their job responsibilities to consistently promote multiculturalism and demonstrate concern for and sensitivity to the needs of multicultural students.

“Valerie actively seeks out opportunities to serve on a variety of committees and connects herself to several initiatives that have to do with issues of diversity,” said Cynthia Lightfoot, director of academic affairs at Penn State Brandywine. “I was thrilled that she got this award and I think she’s highly deserving.”

Lightfoot explained that Mendez-Gallardo is an advocate for Brandywine’s multicultural students and has become a mentor to many of them.

“In addition to the fact that she seeks out more formal opportunities to contribute to our diversity initiatives, Valerie also has ongoing, daily interactions with students, faculty and staff that touch on issues of diversity. She lives and breathes it,” said Lightfoot.

Both Lightfoot and Mendez-Gallardo emphasized the importance of diversity in academics.

“Multicultural students bring so much to the table and have a lot to contribute,” said Mendez-Gallardo. “All of our students have different ways of thinking and I like to incorporate that diversity into my class discussions.”

“Providing a welcoming environment to our students, faculty and staff is essential from a human perspective,” added Lightfoot. “When people come to Brandywine they should feel like they’re coming home. But from an academic perspective, diversity is also incredibly important because it’s through exposure to alternative world views that things really start to happen intellectually.”