Jewel H. Bronaugh will be the 2021 commencement speaker

Jewel H. Bronaugh
Jewel H. Bronaugh

Jewel H. Bronaugh will address the Class of 2021 at the College’s in-person commencement on May 8, 2021.

Jewel is President Joe Biden’s nominee to be the deputy secretary of agriculture for the United States. The position is the second highest in the U.S. Department of Agriculture and if confirmed, she would be the first African American to serve in that position. She currently serves as commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services where she promotes economic development, protects consumers and encourages environmental stewardship.

Commencement will not be the first time Jewel has visited Sweet Briar. She is well acquainted with the College, having provided counsel while its innovative agriculture initiatives developed and took root, including a 26,000-square-foot greenhouse, two vineyards, an apiary and a wildflower pollinator habitat. In 2019, she was a featured speaker at Founders’ Day convocation.

As an agriculture and sustainability expert, and as someone who is about to make history as the first Black woman to serve as deputy secretary for the USDA, having Jewel speak at commencement is layered with meaning for the College and its graduates.

“Sweet Briar women are strong leaders who make history in myriad ways. Pair that can-do attitude and hands-on experience with our focus on agriculture and sustainability, and Jewel Bronaugh is a perfect fit to address the Class of 2021,” says President Meredith Woo. “She certainly will make a strong impact and a lasting impression.”

Jewel has had an extensive career in agriculture in both the educational and policy spheres. Prior to her current role as commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, she served as the executive director of the Center of Agriculture Research, Engagement and Outreach at Virginia State University and as the Virginia state executive director for the USDA Farm Service Agency. Jewel has also served as the dean of the College of Agriculture at Virginia State University and previously was the associate administrator of VSU’s Cooperative Extension and a 4-H youth development specialist.