Entomologist Laura Lavine honored for strides enhancing diversity, inclusion

Laura Lavine
Laura Lavine, professor and chair in the WSU Department of Entomology

National peers are honoring Laura Lavine, professor and chair of WSU’s Department of Entomology, for her work in making a more diverse, inclusive institution.

This month, Lavine will receive the Entomological Society of America‘s Distinguished Achievement Award in the Promotion of Diversity and Inclusion in the Field of Entomology. The award honors efforts to create and promote a diverse and welcoming environment for scientists in their organizations and communities.

“We all have unique identities that make us who we are, that are both obvious and hidden,” Lavine said. “Being inclusive just means treating people with the respect and consideration that they matter, despite any differences between us.”

She will be recognized at the society’s annual meeting, Entomology 2023, Nov. 5-8, in National Harbor, Maryland. She was nominated for the award by members of the department’s DEI committee, chaired by Dylan Beal, as well as peer entomologists.

At WSU, Lavine leads the entomology department, supporting research, teaching, and Extension outreach that helps Washingtonians and the world understand and manage the insects and invertebrates that shape our environment and affect crops and communities.

Chair for the past five years, and a WSU faculty member for more than 20, Lavine investigates how insects adapt and evolve, increasing our understanding of how these amazing creatures develop and respond to their environment and ultimately protecting global food security.

She has also dedicated her career to creating a culture that encourages equity and diversity of thought, competence, and connection. At WSU, Lavine has held roles whose sole goals are to promote recruitment and retention of women and underrepresented minorities in higher education, as well as expand access to scholarship and learning for students from all walks of life.

These include her work as member and past president of the Association for Faculty Women; faculty recruiter for the WSU chapter of Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences (MANNRS); faculty recruiter and member of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS); and co-chair of the WSU Asian American Pacific Islander Faculty Staff Association. She also served as interim director of ADVANCE at WSU, a university organization working to increase representation of women and historically underrepresented faculty in all disciplines. In 2016, she was recognized with WSU’s Samuel H Smith Leadership Award for her demonstrated leadership in higher education and advancing the role of women.

As the entomology department’s first woman chair, Lavine says she has had an amazing experience while navigating barriers, implicit biases, and expectations.

“There are some areas where colleagues respect me and my decisions and support, and others where I am challenged or there is pushback that upon reflection could be because of how I am perceived, as a woman of color in STEM, in our society,” she said. “Nevertheless, I try my best to treat everyone in my workplace with respect and consideration.”

WSU entomology chair Laura Lavine at the WSU Honey Bee and Pollinator Research, Extension, and Education Facility, Othello, Wash.

Lavine is currently manager and co-primary investigator of a National Science Foundation-supported project to support promotion and advancement of mid-career faculty women in STEM at institutions of higher education. Titled “Values-based Academic Leadership Trajectories for women in STEM,” or VAuLTS, the project addresses systemic barriers to women’s career advancement and pursuit of leadership roles.

“Entomology is conducted by scientists with a diversity of identities and backgrounds,” Lavine said. “It’s absolutely critical that all people be able to take part in entomology. People who identify as women, Hispanic, Black, and Native American are underrepresented in entomology, compared to the general population. Full participation has been suppressed for many by barriers, including explicit racism and sexism. It’s well known from scholarly work that diverse teams are more productive and make better decisions, as well as make our discipline stronger and better.”

Learn more about the Entomological Society of America’s work in supporting scientific endeavor at entsoc.org.