The Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR) is pleased to announce three significant accolades for Research Associate Samantha Smith-Herndon. Ferrum College has named her a 2018 Outstanding Young Alumni Award recipient, the Danville Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce has selected her to participate in the Leadership Southside program and Middle Border Forward has accepted her as an MBF Fellow. 

Samantha Smith-Herndon
Samantha Smith-Herndon

“We proudly congratulate Samantha on her achievements and appreciate the talent, professionalism and passion she brings to her work day in and day out,” said Mark Gignac, Executive Director for IALR. “We benefit tremendously from her leadership of our drone program, which positively impacts precision agriculture as part of our regional economic transformation efforts.”

Smith-Herndon has gained much exposure and recognition for her work managing the Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission’s (TRRC) Next Generation Precision Agriculture Grant. Since 2017, she has led this project involving drones and remote sensing technology to enhance farming accuracy and controlled growth for increased efficiency and cost management, known as precision agriculture. She is currently licensed as a Remote Pilot by the Federal Aviation Administration, and has served as an instructor and lecturer on multiple occasions regarding her precision agriculture work for the TRRC and IALR.

Smith-Herndon earned Ferrum College’s Outstanding Young Alumni Award for the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. The college selects three exceptional young alumni annually—a graduate from each of the three schools, with the other two being the School of Arts and Humanities and the School of Social Sciences and Professional Sciences. According to Ferrum’s website, recipients must have graduated from the college within the last 15 years and “demonstrate outstanding promise and success in a professional career.”

She will attend the Chamber’s Leadership Southside class September through April to build leadership skills through sessions centered on leadership styles, conflict resolution and team building, community challenges and opportunities, crisis leadership, facilitation and presentation skills, cultural diversity and board leadership in a nonprofit organization. Participants underwent an application process, which yielded 18 total selected candidates for the 2018-2019 cohort.

Smith-Herndon will participate in the October 2018-September 2019 MBF Fellowship program, which, according to Middle Border Forward’s website, is “a year-long leadership development program designed to introduce emerging leaders to the opportunities and challenges within the Middle Border region, encourage civic engagement and create a network of grassroots leaders poised to make a change where they live and work.” The selected fellows completed an application and selection process.

Prior to her current work on IALR’s TRRC project, Smith-Herndon served as a Research Assistant when she first joined IALR in 2012 before later being named a Program Manager. Her introduction to IALR began even earlier when she attended Piedmont Governor’s School for Mathematics, Science and Technology, located at the facility, and completed an internship with IALR. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Ferrum in Horticulture and is currently working toward a master’s degree in Plant Sciences at Virginia Tech. Earlier this year, she was presented the Rising Star Award by the Southern Piedmont Technology Council for her work in precision agriculture. The award recognizes a young entrepreneur with a new idea or initiative that has made a significant impact on the region, including Patrick, Henry, Franklin, Pittsylvania, Halifax and Mecklenburg counties and Danville and Martinsville cities.