Vibrant Virginia engages and supports university faculty and staff in exploring community and economic development in urban and rural Virginia. Engagement broadly within the university allows connections to form within the regions of Virginia and among faculty and staff at Virginia Tech. This is a unique partnership between Virginia Tech’s Outreach and International Affairs, Virginia Cooperative Extension, College Access Collaborative, School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA), and the Policy Strategic Growth Area (SGA).

Recently the Vibrant Virginia team spent a few days in St. Paul, Virginia. Team members listened to the needs of the Southwest Virginia community participants with goals of opening lines of communication to possibly connect Virginia Tech faculty and staff conducting in engagement activities and finding ways Virginia Tech can be a more responsive partner with a focused approached to regional engagement. Over the course of two days, four different conversations were held surrounding topics including: Agriculture and the Environment, Community Development, Entrepreneurship and Innovation, and Education and the Workforce. Faculty and staff from Virginia Tech met with community members who represented different aspects of Southwest Virginia to determine how to best connect resources faculty and staff possess to the region and develop urban and rural partnerships.

Vibrant Virginia team members listened to community members to develop possible short-term and long-term actions, creating potential community goals and research areas faculty and staff could focus on if partnerships were to develop. Community participants communicated to Vibrant Virginia team members and Virginia Tech faculty and staff present that they wanted to see a database of Virginia Tech engagement activities happening throughout the region that could be used to possibly connect with faculty, staff, and resources that could benefit their communities.

Across the conversations, community participants highlighted goals of creating more high quality and in demand internships and career exploration opportunities for students in the region. Community members stressed the need to find ways to retain and attract talent and companies to Southwest Virginia to allow their communities to remain stable. Faculty and staff highlighted ways to align Virginia Tech engagement activities with community challenges through possibly developing research in issues such as transportation and the psychology of despair across generations in the region, as well as identifying gaps in services that allow parents to work while their children have safe childcare options.

Conversations allowed team members to form relationships between community members and faculty and staff to foster a more open connection between engagement activities happening within the university and communities in Southwest Virginia. These conversations allow partnerships to potentially develop and grow, inform the research and outreach of the Vibrant Virginia team, and connect ideas and resources to better align Virginia Tech engagement activities with community opportunities and challenges.

For more information about Vibrant Virginia or to be a part of the next conversation please visit the Virbant Virginia webpage.

Written By: Jennifer Morgan, Communications Coordinator