West Virginia University alumnus Terry L. Sharik is deeply committed to doing his part to enhance diversity in the WVU Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design.
The 1964 graduate recently made a gift to establish the Dr. Terry L. Sharik Natural Resources Diversity Endowment. The purpose of this fund is to enhance undergraduate, graduate and faculty diversity in the Davis College Division of Forestry and Natural Resources in the School of Natural Resources. Funding can be utilized for attracting guest lecturers, funding scholarships for minority students, supporting faculty research, and providing research funding for minority faculty members – among other uses.
According to Sharik, the motivation for establishing this fund is driven by his sense of loyalty to his alma mater and responsibility to increasing diversity.
“I feel strongly that I should give back to the academic institutions that put me on my professional career path and helped make me who I am today,” said Sharik. “Secondly, I feel deeply that we need to increase diversity in the natural resources profession to a point where it is reflective of society as a whole, especially with respect to gender and race/ethnicity.”
In a presentation he shared last semester as part of his guest lectureship on diversity in the natural resources, Sharik pointed out that under-representation of women and minorities in natural resources is a critical issue in the U.S. and may be the leading cause of slow growth in the field.
Dan Robison, dean of the WVU Davis College, recognizes the leadership role Sharik has fulfilled in the natural resources profession and addressing issues on diversity.
“Terry has been a leader in the natural resources and forestry communities for decades, both in terms of his academic interests and his deep understanding of who makes up the body of natural resource professionals, including students, faculty and those working in the field,” stated Robison. “He has devoted an enormous amount of time to both areas and has tremendous credibility.”
Robison understands the importance of keeping this topic on the forefront, noting the WVU Davis College does not traditionally draw from a diverse student body or diverse faculty.
“We are the founding unit of this land-grant university, which inspired a notion of access to higher education,” he said. “Part of addressing that notion in the 21st century is ensuring we are providing unhindered access to our students, faculty and staff.”
Joseph McNeel, director of the School of Natural Resources, is excited for the opportunities this fund will present.
“This fund will give us an opportunity to move forward with a number of new initiatives, from enhancing recruiting efforts to creating support systems for minority students,” said McNeel. “We look forward to developing some new features within the school that address gender and minority issues.”
Sharik hopes this fund will serve as a catalyst for meaningful change.
“I envision a substantial increase in the diversity of students in the natural resources degree programs at WVU and, in turn, the natural resources professional workforce,” he stated.
And why does this matter? It comes down to relating to others and producing better results, according to Sharik. If diverse perspectives are combined in order to solve a problem, you’ll get a better outcome, he stated.
Both Robison and McNeel are grateful for Sharik’s decision to give back to his alma mater in more ways than one.
“I really appreciate the fact that Terry is a graduate of the program and is ‘coming back’ through giving back in ways that will help us become better,” said McNeel.
“It relates, in a way, to one of the strategies President Gee has talked about, which is a ‘come back to West Virginia’ strategy, in which we try to bring our best people back to West Virginia to contribute here,” Robison said. “We recognize they all can’t move back here, but there are other ways to come back.”
“Terry Sharik has chosen to do that, not only to share his expertise but also through providing this gift that will enable our college to pursue things he knows to be important. We are so grateful for that.”
After receiving his bachelor’s degree from WVU, Sharik went on to earn a master’s degree in forest recreation and a doctoral degree in forest botany from the University of Michigan in 1966 and 1970, respectively. Interestingly, it was Maurice Brooks, one of the founding faculty members of WVU’s Division of Forestry and his undergraduate advisor, who directed him to the University of Michigan for his graduate work and where one of the first persons he met there was Stephen Spurr, dean of the School of Natural Resources, who served briefly on the WVU faculty in the Division of Forestry before going to Michigan. Sharik currently serves as dean and Robbins Professor of Sustainable Resources for the School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science at Michigan Technological University.
Dr. Sharik’s gift was made in conjunction with A State Minds: The Campaign for West Virginia’s University. The $1 billion comprehensive campaign being conducted by the WVU Foundation on behalf of the University runs through December 2017.
CONTACT: Nikky Luna, Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design
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