VT Projects





Amy Price Azano

Digital demands in rural schools


Assistant Professor of Adolescent Literacy, School of Education
A rural Virginia native, Azano has a strong commitment to research and service in Appalachia. She is currently working under a U.S. Department of Education grant to work with rural school districts in Virginia to identify gifted and talented students and develop programs to serve them. She also works to increase literacy achievement and engender a critical understanding of place, particularly in Appalachia. Read more: The “Hunger Games” – Catching Fire in Rural Schools, Digital demands in rural schools – institutional placism, “Virginia Tech news: Gifted students study”

Warren Bickel

Researchers address alternate strategy for addiction-recovery help


Professor, Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute/Director, Addiction Recovery Research Center

Bickel and his addiction-recovery team are dedicated to understanding addiction and developing treatments that repair the impaired decision-making processes common in addictive disorders. One study, the Social Interactome, studies how social media interactions may help people in recovery. The research addresses a vital issue facing rural Appalachia: little access to health-care resources, including those that support addiction recovery. For information on the Social Interactome and other studies, contact: ARRC@vtc.vt.edu or 540-526-2113. Read more at the Addiction Recovery Research Center website.

C.L. Bohannon

Community engagement in design education


Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture, School of Architecture and Design

Bohannon’s research, based on community-engaged design, focuses on the relationship of landscape architecture to issues such as environmental justice as well as community history and identity. He applies three important factors to design: knowledge of natural systems, human behavior and artistic expression. Read more about his projects: http://lar.vt.edu/academics/faculty/c-l-bohannon-phd-asla-la/

Lara Browning

Making waves with designs on the Clinch River


Former Landscape Architecture Project Manager, Community Design Assistance Center
Browning, with a team of students, created design guidelines to allow people access to the Clinch River for fishing, canoeing, kayaking, swimming, and tubing. Design guidelines, Clinch River access points: http://cdac.arch.vt.edu/ClinchRiverAccess.html
Cleveland project, campground and access point: http://cdac.arch.vt.edu/Cleveland.html
Richlands project, “urban pocket parks”: http://cdac.arch.vt.edu/Richlands.html

Terry ClementsLandscape architecture students brainstorm ideas for Southwest Virginia town


Professor/Chair of Landscape Architecture, School of Architecture and Design
Clements supervised a team of 43 students divided into 10 teams to visit Dante, a company coal town community in Southwest Virginia, and spent the day touring the environs. During a week-long charrette (a solutions-focused stakeholder workshop), the teams devised design and economic-development ideas, including adding signs; creating a central park, playground and hiking trails; and planting apple orchards and community gardens. Community feedback will help determine whether ideas are adopted. Read about Clements’ earlier student project involved a church courtyard in Richmond here: https://www.vtnews.vt.edu/articles/2010/04/2010-279.html

Sam CookCommunities can look to history for tactics of survival


Director of American Indian Studies, College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences
Author of Monacans and Miners, which reviewers call a “significant study of power relations in American and Appalachia between dominant and peripheral regions or cultures,” Cook is an expert on what he terms “the assault on community,” both ancient and modern. He recommends specific “tactics of survival” and draws lessons from the suppression of Appalachia’s original inhabitants.

John CraynonResearchers document environmental impacts related to energy


Former Director, Environmental Programs, Virginia Center for Coal Energy and Research
Craynon was project director of the Appalachian Research Initiative for Environmental Science (ARIES). The initiative addresses the environmental impacts related to energy resources in Appalachia – their use, discovery, development and production. More than 75 researchers from 14 institutions produce independent, peer-reviewed research, including producing basic science and examining community well being. Learn more: http://www.energy.vt.edu/aries/

Nikki D'Adamo-Damery

Local fresh foods find fertile soil in three-university project


Former Appalachian Foodshed Project Deputy Director, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
The project has awarded nine grants to community projects related to food security in West Virginia and the Appalachian region of North Carolina and Virginia. “Foodshed” is a term employed metaphorically like “watershed,” taking into account everything between where food is produced and where it is consumed, including farms, distributors, and restaurants. Partners are West Virginia University and North Carolina State University, as well as Extension services in the region. Faculty members are currently working with community partners to develop and implement Community Food Security Assessments. Read more: http://www.appalachianfoodshedproject.org/

Larkin DudleyThe vital role of citizen advisory groups


Professor Emerita of Public Administration, College of Architecture and Urban Studies
An expert in citizen participation, Dudley joined with professors in West Virginia and Pennsylvania in a Kettering Foundation-funded study of citizen advisory groups in small Appalachian towns. Larkin’s research shows that the groups strengthen democracy and serve practical purposes as well.

Elizabeth FineA filmmaker gives voice to Patrick County residents


Professor Emerita of Humanities, College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences
Fine has gained national acclaim for her book Soulstepping: African American Step Shows (University of Illinois Press) and also for three documentaries. The documentary Up and Down These Roads:  A Rural County in Transition (with Jerry Scheeler) examines continuity and change in Patrick County, an isolated rural county in southwestern Virginia and includes interviews with residents.

Terri FisherWhy some communities sink into history 


Outreach Coordinator, Community Design Assistance Center
Fisher, coauthor of Lost Communities of Virginia, describes lessons to be learned from 30 small communities that have lost their original industry, transportation mode, and way of life.
Read more: http://cdac.arch.vt.edu/publication.html

Elizabeth GilboyBetter communities by design


Director, Community Design Assistance Center
Gilboy has overseen over one hundred projects at the Community Design Assistance Center, as well as initiating several publications and events including Lost Communities of Virginia, The Motorcycle Tour Guide to Lost Communities of Virginia, and Streetscapes of Virginia. Her primary area of interest is planning and design assistance that affords healthy living opportunities and interaction with the natural environment while at the same time helping preserve the environment and open space.

Reed KennedyStudents guide entrepreneurship in Pulaski


Associate Professor of Management Practice, Pamplin College of Business
Virginia Tech seniors taking Kennedy’s class, Applied Small Business Consulting – a capstone class for management majors – have written business plans for an entrepreneur hoping to start a restaurant and another business in Pulaski, where revitalization efforts are much in the news.

Leigh Anne Krometis Access to safe drinking water and sanitation in Appalachia


Assistant Professor of Biological Systems Engineering, College of Engineering
Krometis manages several projects exploring access to clean drinking water and appropriate wastewater treatment in Appalachia. Isolated communities are often reliant on private water systems that are more susceptible to contaminants such as E. coli and lead if homeowners lack the resources to manage treatment. The unique geography and geology of the region can also render traditional wastewater treatment difficult, forcing communities to rely on “straight piping,” i.e. directly discharging untreated household waste to nearby streams, which can pose both downstream environmental and public health risks.

Barbara LockeeInspiring girls to become that ‘IT guy’


Professor of Instructional Design and Technology, School of Education
Lockee and her colleagues developed a game for Appalachian girls to promote their interest in and awareness of IT jobs. The interactive Web-based game is called “IT Career Pathways” and is geared toward the middle- and high-school ages. On a virtual bike trail, girls must complete challenges designed to assess skills, interests and preferences important in IT work.

Jeff MannAppalachian identity expressed in fiction and memoir


Associate Professor of Creative Writing, College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences
Widely published poet and author Jeff Mann writes about gay identity as well as his Appalachian upbringing. Raised in the mountains of southwest Virginia and southern West Virginia, Mann is the author of a book of poetry and memoir, Loving Mountains, Loving Men. In teaching students, he says he feels empathy for two groups often made to feel like outsiders: gay students and “the rural kids. With the rural kids, it’s a certain look. I recognize it because I kind of have that look.”

Paul MarekEntomologist searches for new-to-science life forms in Appalachia


Assistant Professor of Entomology, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
Marek’s lab focuses on millipede and beetle systematics, discovering and describing planetary biodiversity with a focus on new arthropod species in Appalachia and Virginia. Marek says, “A primary component of our research involves insect biodiversity in Appalachia. The region holds some spectacular animals, many of which are completely new to science.” Read more: at http://collection.ento.vt.edu/?page_id=26  you’ll find a link to the “Marek Lab” blog.

Jeff MarionProtecting the Appalachian Trail


Adjunct Professor, Natural Resource Recreation, College of Natural Resources and Environment
With more than 2 million visitors hiking the trail each year, potentially damaging impacts are occurring, yet they are largely unknown. Marion is not only studying impacts under a grant from the National Park Service, but also providing workshops on the trail design for maintenance staff and volunteers. The grant also provides for educating schools, youth groups and trail users on Leave No Trace Practices. Read more: www.vtnews.vt.edu/articles/2014/06/063014-cnre-marionatgrant.html

Robert Oliver Geographers chart urban growth in Appalachia


Assistant Professor of Geography, College of Natural Resources and Environment
Oliver, along with Valerie Thomas of the Department of Forest Resources and Conservation, is investigating spatial and temporal patterns of urban land conversion across micropolitan communities in the Appalachian region.  A new statistical category created by the federal Office of Management and Budget, the “micropolitan communities” category is designed to capture the level of urbanization between larger, more extended metropolitan systems and smaller, more rural places. Oliver and Thomas are investigating whether or not the new micropolitan designation has influenced land use and land cover decisions and patterns.

Anita Puckett A linguist’s look at the language of work


Director, Appalachian Studies Program, College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences
Author of Seldom Ask, Never Tell:  Labor and Discourse in Appalachia (Oxford University Press), Puckett takes a new look at the relationship between language, society, and economics by examining how people talk about work in a rural Appalachian community. Through careful analysis of conversations in casual yet commercial contexts, she finds that the construction and maintenance of this discourse is essential to the community’s socioeconomic relationships.

Emily SatterwhiteDear Appalachia: Readers, Identity, and Popular Fiction since 1878


Associate Professor of Appalachian Studies, College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences
Satterwhite’s research fields include critical regionalism, reception studies, and the politics of culture. Her book, Dear Appalachia: Readers, Identity, and Popular Fiction since 1878 (UP of Kentucky, 2011), examines fan mail and reviews to ascertain readers’ investments in the idea of Appalachia.

Stewart ScalesCourse transmits knowledge about Appalachia to new generations of students


Instructor of Geography, College of Natural Resources and Environment
Scales’ work begins in the classroom with a “Geography of Appalachia” course where students learn about Appalachia’s physical and human geography.  Course topics highlight the spatial relationships of human-environment interaction, settlement patterns, and musical foundations. Outside the classroom, students experience hiking, bluegrass music performances, and culinary traditions. Scales, who also teaches Virginia Master Naturalist courses on Virginia’s geology and biogeography, is an active bluegrass musician along the Crooked Road and in southwestern Virginia.

Stephen SchoenholtzIn this case, canaries in  the coal mines are the bugs in the water


Professor, Forest Hydrology and Soils, College of Natural Resources and Environment
Director of the Virginia Water Resources Research Center based at Virginia Tech, Schoenholtz and his research team work in headwater streams that are affected by mountaintop removal mining in the Central Appalachian coal mining area. Large-scale explosions associated with mining carry dissolved solids downstream via rainfall. Certain insects “are sensitive to changes in water quality,” he explains. Monitoring the bug community can show whether “the rest of the food chain may also be impacted.” For more information about the water center, see  www.vwrrc.vt.edu

Peter SforzaMaking the best use of broadband


Director, Center for Geospatial Information Technology
Small towns in Virginia can learn more about their broadband infrastructure – rights of way, location of towers and more  – thanks to the center’s massive data-collection and organization efforts. Mapped information provides a treasure trove of data about fiber-optic lines, dead zones, and other geographic data essential to government leaders as towns assess, take inventory, and plan. Read more: http://www.cgit.vt.edu/broadband.

Barbara Ellen Smith

Protest in Appalachia


Professor of Sociology, College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences
Smith co-edited a book of 17 essays, published by the University of Illinois Press earlier this year, titled Transforming Places: Lessons from Appalachia. The publisher says: “Like place-based activists in other resource-rich yet impoverished regions across the globe, Appalachians are contesting economic injustice, environmental degradation, and the anti-democratic power of elites.” Read more: http://www.press.uillinois.edu/books/catalog/77kyn2pp9780252036668.html

Kim Steika

Spiffing up parks and trails in St. Paul


Communities and Outreach Manager, Community Design Assistance Center
From 2002-2014, Steika participated in over 85 design projects across the Commonwealth ranging from outdoor classrooms and park designs to streetscape design guidelines and greenway master plans,  In one such project, she and two Virginia Tech students created a conceptual design for the town park in St. Paul, Virginia, plus a trail on 1.3-acre Bluebell Island.
Read more: http://cdac.arch.vt.edu/StPaulBluebell.html

Scott TateBuilding community and business connections


Associate Director, Office of Economic Development
Tate has developed and delivered training to entrepreneurs in Southwest Virginia and provided capacity building assistance to regional organizations such as the Crooked Road, the United Way of Virginia Highlands, Round the Mountain Southwest Artisans Network, and others.  In his current role, Tate connects communities and businesses in the region, and around the commonwealth, with research and resources to promote economic development opportunities.  See www.econdev.vt.edu.

Valerie ThomasWorking in ‘micropolitan’ areas


Associate Professor of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation, College of Natural Resources and Environment
Thomas, along with Robert Oliver of the Department of Geography, is charting urban growth in Appalachia by investigating patterns of urban land conversion. The two work with a new federal category called micropolitan statistical areas, or communities designed to capture the level of urbanization between large metropolitan areas and smaller, rural places. Key points of their work include showing that Appalachia is not as rural as most people think. They have also shown that, looking back over 10 years, Central Appalachia continues to exhibit regional economic disparity.

Diane Zahm

Professor promotes student-powered projects


Associate Professor of Urban Affairs and Planning, College of Architecture and Urban Studies
Over the years officials in many small towns have come to know Zahm’s work as students in her studio classes volunteer to handle crucial planning tasks – environmental analysis and mapping, door-to-door surveys, community visioning meetings, and plan drafting. Among the entities recognizing this work is the American Planning Association with its “outstanding student project” award in the small-town category. Her students also contribute to small towns through internships and independent study.

Carl ZipperRestoring coal-mined land


Professor of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
Zipper is a principal investigator for the Powell River Project, which helps with restoration of mined lands and helps convert such lands into forests, agricultural fields, and residential areas.
Read more about this public-private partnership: http://www.prp.cses.vt.edu/
A series of Virginia Cooperative Extension publications can be found here: http://www.prp.cses.vt.edu/VCE_Pubs.html

Jamie ZoellnerNational Institutes of Health funds trial to discourage sugary beverage consumption


Associate Professor of Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
Zoellner and colleagues work to improve health in Southwest Virginia by lessening people’s consumption of sweet tea, fruit juice with added sugar, sports drinks, and soda pop. In an article published late in 2013 in the journal Contemporary Clinical Trials, the seven authors (all based at Virginia Tech) describe their six-month intervention aimed at coming up with behavior-changing strategies that work in high-risk groups.