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Kayla Alward

Kayla Alward

Let’s cut to the chase. Ph.D. candidate Kayla Alward’s resume is 15 pages long, and every line is interesting. It is filled with examples of her leadership and service to Virginia Tech, teaching and mentoring, honors and awards, and contributions to research in her field of dairy science. It even includes some just plain fun stuff – like moderating the Virginia State Dairy Quiz Bowl Contest for high school students and coordinating the Roanoke SPCA Animal Care Adventures Summer Camp.

But it is her work as Chair of the Graduate Honor system, with the Graduate Student Senate, Title IX advisory board, and Graduate Appeals Committee that led to her selection as an Aspire! Award recipient today.

Her nominator wrote, “Kayla is extremely thoughtful, fair, and wise, treating all students and faculty involved in any way in the honor system with the utmost care and respect. Her role requires not just that she act with integrity herself, but also that she help others see and appreciate the significance of integrity. In addition to self-understanding and integrity, she models the civility and courageous leadership I wish all students would aspire to. I'm not sure how Kayla finds time for all of her service activities in addition to pursuing her Ph.D., but somehow she does it, and does it with unfailing grace and integrity.”

Kayla said, “Integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. Individuals must understand themselves and what is important to them to determine what values their integrity is based on. It is incredibly important to me to self-reflect on my actions and values as well as encourage others to reflect on their values so that we can uphold standards of integrity.”

Kayla said her values have changed over time. She said, “Integrity, honesty, a strong work ethic, diversity and inclusion, and service to others encompass my values. Five years ago, these values would have been the same, except I would not have included diversity and inclusion. It was not until I came to Virginia Tech and became immersed in the proactive culture to ensure diversity and inclusion in the classroom, research community, and in service, that I understood the importance of these values.”

Kayla’s advice to others is, “Don’t feel like you have to struggle alone. Virginia Tech has an entire community of people who want to help you. From professors, to graduate students, to undergraduate students, to first generation students, to those who are parents or primary caregivers, to those struggling with mental or physical health, and those that have disabilities – there is help for everyone here at Virginia Tech. Your colleagues or fellow students are more understanding and care about you more than you think. There is always someone to reach out to for help and always someone willing to help.”

Kayla is will earn a Ph.D. in Dairy Science, Breeding and Genetics this spring.

Kayla put it this way: “I love working with dairy cows, dairy farmers, and youth interested in the dairy industry. Conducting novel research to improve sustainability, efficiency and cow comfort in the dairy industry and then disseminating this research to farmers, consumers, youth, and fellow graduate students is incredibly rewarding. My goal is to become a professor in dairy science and teach students, conduct cutting edge research, and help dairy producers to be sustainable and efficient.”

I am pleased to present the Aspire! Award for SELF-UNDERSTANDING AND INTEGRITY to Kayla Alward.