Karina Gallardo, Colette Casavant honored with 2023 DEI awards

Karina Gallardo and Colette Casavant are the 2023 recipients of the inaugural Faculty and Staff Diversity, Equity, and Inclusive Excellence Awards, respectively, from Washington State University’s College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences (CAHNRS).

A representation of the “CAHNRS for All” mission, the awards highlight individuals creating inclusive spaces within their workplaces and communities.

“CAHNRS’ mission is to promote equity, diversity, and inclusion,” said Luz María Gordillo, assistant dean for diversity, equity, and inclusive excellence in CAHNRS. “Part of that commitment is to reward those who are impacting our communities and creating welcoming environments within the college and WSU. These awards promote DEI by recognizing and rewarding DEI projects. They also promote and improve cultural competency and encourage people to see through an equity-minded lens.”  

Using agricultural economics to help stakeholders, communities

For Karina Gallardo, a WSU School of Economic Sciences professor and Extension specialist, DEI is inherent.

Professional photo of Karina Gallardo.
Karina Gallardo, WSU School of Economic Sciences professor and Extension specialist.

“I was pleasantly surprised when I received this award,” said Gallardo, who is based at WSU’s Puyallup Research and Extension Center. “DEI is holistically present in my background, my day-to-day activities, and my program. It’s my core philosophy to treat everyone equally.”

Born into an indigenous Peruvian family of potato farmers, Gallardo’s curiosity about agriculture and the food system started in childhood. She later narrowed her focus to agricultural economics after witnessing food insecurity in her home country and wanting to be part of the solution.

After receiving a bachelor’s degree in food science and technology at the Universidad Nacional Agraria La Molina in Lima, Peru, Gallardo moved to the U.S. to pursue a career in academia, earning her master’s degree in agricultural economics from Mississippi State University and her PhD from Oklahoma State University in the same subject.

Hired by WSU in 2008, Gallardo continues to examine food supply chain relationships between growers, intermediaries, and end consumers. She uses her research to help others, including Hispanic stakeholders, a group she finds particularly rewarding to partner with because of their clear desire for knowledge and happiness at being included in WSU’s programs.

“As someone who is bilingual, I am able to deliver programs to my fellow Hispanic agricultural workers,” Gallardo said. “It elevates their morale to have someone who can relate to them and speak to them in their own language.”

She teams up with the WSDA frequently to offer a pesticide certification program in Spanish. During the sessions, she explains the economic impacts of mitigation strategies for diseases, insects, and other pests, reminding workers of their importance when it comes to their companies’ economic success.

Gallardo also enjoys her work with students.

“I cherish the opportunity to guide them in their academic lives, witness their eagerness to acquire knowledge and interpret results, and show them how their work will impact others,” she said.

Gallardo is grateful to be acknowledged for her important role in CAHNRS and WSU’s ongoing efforts to cultivate a diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment.

“I really appreciate Luz María Gordillo’s DEI work within CAHNRS,” Gallardo said. “It’s very nice to be recognized by the university for my partnerships with agricultural workers and students of different backgrounds.”

A passion for social justice and cheering students on

As director of student success for CAHNRS Student Success and Academic Programs, Colette Casavant focuses on student recruitment, retention, and experience in the classroom, assisting with orientation events, scholarships, and more.

She has long been passionate about advocacy, social justice, education, and student success, bringing a DEI lens to everything she does professionally and personally.

“I’ve always tried to lead and participate in workplace DEI initiatives,” Casavant said. “This award really touches my heart because it’s something that I so deeply value. Advising really is about helping students find a sense of belonging.”

A group of four stands together. One holds a DEI award.
Colette Casavant (holding award) pictured with (from left to right) her husband John Kosh, her mother
Dorothy Casavant, and her father Ken Casavant.

Originally from Pullman, Wash., Casavant earned a master’s degree in theology and an EdD in higher education from Seattle University, where she served as assistant director of admissions and student services before returning to the Palouse seven years ago to be near family.

“I love WSU’s land-grant mission and the idea of education serving a state’s people,” Casavant said. “I came to CAHNRS looking for an advising position that would let me do that.”

As WSU works to strengthen its commitment to DEI, Casavant remains as engaged as ever. She serves as the CAHNRS liaison for WSU’s Team Mentoring Program, which supports underrepresented students in STEM majors. As a member of the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences DEI Committee, Casavant completed ESCALA, a professional development training that helps educators better teach Latine students.

“The best part of advising is working with students and cheering them on,” Casavant said. “They come in with amazing stories, gifts, and passions, but also challenges. As advisors, we hope their time at WSU and CAHNRS gives them a sense of home and a feeling of pride and success that will help them tackle any future challenges.”

Shortly after joining CAHNRS, Casavant learned about a program called Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences. With the encouragement of leadership, she started a WSU chapter to support students from underrepresented backgrounds and provide them with professional development opportunities.

“It’s important that underrepresented students feel like there is a home for them in CAHNRS, that they’re at the center,” she said.