The Ecological Society of America is honoring an NC State forestry professor for her efforts to mentor and recruit students from diverse ethnic backgrounds into the field of ecology. Zakiya Holmes Leggett, assistant professor of forestry and environment, will receive the organization’s Commitment to Human Diversity in Ecology Award at a ceremony in New Orleans in August.
In a media release March 16, the organization lauded Leggett “as a vanguard for African American women in soil and forest ecology and sustainability studies.”
Leggett participated in one of the first cohorts of the Strategies for Ecology Education, Diversity and Sustainability program as a student at Tuskegee University. She has remained active in the program as a mentor and member of the advisory board, helping to grow the program over the last 16 years. She also serves on the advisory board of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at Tuskegee.
Leggett is NC State’s campus director for the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars program, which trains undergraduate students who are interested in research experiences in conservation. She has also contributed to career development programs for minority students in the Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences professional society. In a short time, her ability to recruit minority students into the workforce, in nonacademic research positions and for academic graduate programs, has helped enhance the diversity of ecologists throughout the United States.
During her decade as a sustainability scientist at the Weyerhaeuser Company, she involved students from diverse backgrounds in her work designing and executing multidisciplinary research studies to address environmental sustainability for the global forest products company. She continues this mentoring work as an invited speaker at schools, national conferences and universities, sharing her passion for environmental education and stewardship.