An international wildlife organization has recognized a Mississippi State University department head for promoting gender and ethnic diversity in natural resource professions.
The Wildlife Society awarded Bruce Leopold the prestigious Diversity Award at the recent annual meeting in Portland, Ore. The professor is head of MSU's Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture. He has earned a national reputation for his efforts to promote diversity both within The Wildlife Society and the natural resource profession.
Leopold served as president of The Wildlife Society in 2010 and coordinated a plenary session on human diversity in natural resources at the annual conference. The society represents and serves those who study, manage and conserve wildlife and habitats worldwide.
As president of the organization, Leopold formed a diverse nomination committee, which he encouraged to seek vice-presidential candidates who were both qualified and either a racial or gender minority. As a result of his efforts, the international organization now has its second female president, Winnie Kessler.
Leopold is likewise dedicated to recruiting and retaining female and minority faculty in the wildlife, fisheries and aquaculture department. His efforts have resulted in a faculty that includes Latino, Hispanic, Asian, Native American and female members.
Wildlife ecology and management professor Jeanne Jones nominated Leopold for this award and recalled his influence on her career in the wildlife profession.
"As a young professional in the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries in 1990s, I was the only female in a faculty position," Jones said. "This trend changed when Dr. Leopold became the head of the department. If he had not supported me so loyally, I suspect I would have modified my career course and sought a position at another institution or agency."
During his tenure, Leopold also installed a diversity recruitment and training officer in the department. This faculty member earned the first MSU Diversity Award in 2008 for his work in recruiting and retaining minorities.
"Retention is more difficult and more imperative than recruitment," Leopold said. "The key is making certain that the majority are sensitive to the minority so they feel equal and part of the team."
Faculty diversity is important for Leopold, but student diversity is equally critical. As a result of his efforts, the wildlife, fisheries and aquaculture undergraduate population in the College of Forest Resources is nearly 37 percent female.
"The diversification of the faculty has been extremely advantageous to our students, ensuring they have the opportunity to learn from, be mentored by, and assisted by different types of people," Jones said.