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Tara Wade (2022, Junior)

Dr. Tara Wade is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Food and Resource Economics at the University of Florida (UF). In Spring 2012, she joined UF after finishing her PhD in Environmental Science from North Carolina A&T University and worked as an economist employed jointly by North Carolina A&T State University and the US Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. In April 2017, she became an Assistant Professor at the Department UF.

Promoting DEI requires commitment towards mentoring individuals with different backgrounds to access opportunities for growth. It also requires programs and policies that support participation in such opportunities. Creating safe environments to support discourse and debate sparks new ideas and increases engagement, thus promoting DEI. Tara’s contributions personifies these ideas.

Tara’s leadership in DEI initiatives at UF, are strongly reflected in her recommender’s praise for her ability to create a “welcoming workplace in which everyone is more sensitive

towards differences, feels they belong, and are able to reach their potential in our organization”. At UF, Tara co-founded and co-chaired the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, & Access (IDEA) committee at the Southwest Florida Research and Extension Center. Her leadership was reflected in her ability to successfully engage faculty, students, staff and post-docs in identifying needs and establishing an initiative to promote DEI within the center. One of her first initiatives was to implement a demographic survey to understand the needs and challenges that different demographic groups face. She successfully promoted discussion on difficult topics surrounding issues related to culture, race, ethnicity, and abilities among multiple groups. Her initiatives lead to more inclusive courses and faculty hiring processes at UF. Tara was also able to bring the extension staff into the Southwest Florida Research and Extension Center so that their views and contributions were recognized. As reflected in one of the comments from Tara’s recommendation letter writers, seminars and talks organized through SWFRC reflect Tara’s philosophy on inclusion and her leadership in ensuring greater DEI –large groups of students and faculty have been introduced to research from minority communities and international contexts. Through constructive engagement and knowledge creation, Tara has been able to strengthen relationships within the school and win over new supporters for DEI initiatives.

In line with her philosophy to create a safe judgement free environment to facilitate learning, Tara has successfully  helped her students make meaningful academic and non-academic contributions. Tara has been actively mentoring students and researchers from different cultural contexts such as South Korea, Egypt, Pakistan, Russia, Brazil and Mali. She has also mentored students from the LGBTQIA communities. Through her engagement and care she increased the participation of non-US students in activities organized by the college. Her colleagues have written in support of the fact that Tara’s creative ideas for cultural diversity have had a deep impact on their own education and sensitization.

Outside of the University, Tara has engaged in multiple community-focused initiatives. During the peak of Covid19, Immokalee - a county in Florida - faced some of the highest infection rates, unemployment rates, and food security threats. Tara worked with local community members to ensure food distribution initiatives were reaching those in need. These programs were key to sensitizing faculty, staff and students on the difficulties faced by migrant workers. Tara has also been known to regularly inform and educate other members in the community on the influence of DEI in food, agriculture, and culture.

While Tara has already made significant contributions to the DEI initiatives in her community, her letter writers highlight the fact that Tara continues to participate in diversity training initiatives to further add to the understanding on the topic. At UF she has been engaged with diversity trainings to understand the challenges and needs faced by minority groups like the Native Americans and has implemented in her work the lessons learned. She helps other faculty to identify their own biases, and to learn ways to minimize these biases. A letter writer highlights that Tara’s constant and constructive engagement, “provoke thought about how we all unwittingly cultivate discriminatory practices within our organization.” Tara’s letter writers also share that her initiatives have been crucial inputs into revamping human resource practices and have facilitated actions towards creating safe spaces so that her efforts were aimed at improving dynamic conversations across the diverse members of our Community”