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Our Past Work and Reports

Vibrant Virginia 1.0 Conversations

Vibrant Virginia invited faculty, and faculty-mentored graduate students to participate in regional community and economic development engagement events in each of the four key regions of the state (Southwest, Southside, Hampton Roads, and Northern Virginia). These conversations provided Virginia Tech faculty and stakeholder partners with an opportunity to share learnings from their experiences with current and prior economic and community development activities. As part of the event, participants had an opportunity to discuss and celebrate their accomplishments and highlight successes in each region. The conversations looked beyond current activities and dived into brainstorming on future partnerships, projects, and public policies to address the challenges in each region.

The Vibrant Virginia team held their first conversation in St. Paul, VA on June 12 & 13, 2018. Community stakeholders and Virginia Tech faculty held a discussion on how the university may serve as a better regional partner in the areas of Education & Workforce Development, Entrepreneurship & Innovation, Agriculture & the Environment, and Community Development. For more information on this conversation please read the following news update: Southwest Virginia Regional Conversation.

The Vibrant Virginia team traveled to Hampton Roads on February 11-13, 2019 for its second community conversation. Community stakeholders and Virginia Tech faculty held a discussion on how the university may serve as a better regional partner in the areas of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Food Processing; Unmanned Systems; Manufacturing and STEM; and Coastal Policy and Resilience. Learn more about outcomes here: Hampton Roads Regional Conversation.

For their third conversation, the team traveled to Southside Virginia in June, 2019. The four conversations were spread between Farmville, Danville, South Boston, and South Hill between June 3-12 and covered the topics of Education Pipeline, Entrepreneurship, Agriculture and Forestry, Advanced Manufacturing, and IT. Learn more about the outcomes here: Southside Virginia Regional Conversation.

Most recently, the Vibrant Virginia team traveled to Northern Virginia on November 4-6, 2019 to discuss Innovations in Workforce Development and Affordable Housing in the region. Outcomes from this conversation can be found here: Northern Virginia Regional Conversation.

If you would like to participate in the event or learn more about the development of conversation, please send an email to Sarah Lyon-Hill.  

Vibrant Virginia Impact Fund Projects

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This project, led by Julie Gerdes from the Department of English, will address disparities in vaccination rates in the Latinx communities of Virginia. As of September 3, 2021, Latinx people accounted for 15.1% of Virginia's COVID-19 cases, despite making up 9.8% of the state's population. This project will partner with Casa Latina, a non-profit organization that serves the Spanish-speaking community in the Roanoke Valley, to conduct participatory action research on communication about COVID-19 and vaccination in local Latinx communities. By working alongside community members and framing vaccination as part of participants’ everyday experience, the project hopes to address fears and misinformation with a combination of small-group listening sessions, stakeholder workshops, and a larger health promotion event.

Contact Julie Gerdes for more information.

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This project, led by Cornelia Deagle from the Department of Population Health Sciences, will test an experiential learning model for public health students through consistent ongoing community-university partnership. The project will determine if the model can effectively combine the three goals of academic public health programs – educating students, improving the health of communities, and supporting expert faculty. The proposed model will be implemented through the course “Methods of Community Engagement.” During this course, students will read, learn, and discuss key public health issues in the classroom and apply them to the communities in which they are placed. Working in communities will allow the students real-life and real-time exposure to the challenges and opportunities that impact the health of residents. Through written reflections, students will discuss their opinions, perspectives, and experiences during the course. The opportunity to integrate readings, discussions, fieldwork, and life experience will allow students to explore public health in an open and safe environment and build professional competencies while building capacity of communities to improve their health and well-being. The project will be in partnership with Kim Butterfield and Laura Reasor from Virginia Cooperative Extension, who are located in Roanoke and Pulaski respectively.

Contact Cornelia Deagle for more information.  

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This project will be led by Feng Lin from the Department of Chemistry, with co-PIs Wencai Zhang of Mining Engineering and Chixia Tian of Academy of Integrated Science. The project will develop alternative uses of coal in two ways: by recovering critical elements from the mineral matter of coal, such as rare earths, cobalt, and manganese, and by using coal to create lithium and sodium ion batteries. Coal production reached 706.3 million short tons in the United States in 2019. Most of the produced coal is used for electricity generation, which inevitably increases the carbon footprint and contributes to climate change. On the other hand, the coal industry significantly contributes to the economy of the United States, particularly states with large coal reserves, including Virginia. This project will address this dilemma by using coal to establish a secure supply of critical elements and fully utilizing it for energy storage without creating carbon waste.

Contact Feng Lin for more information.

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This project, led by Jacob Grohs from the Department of Engineering Education with graduate research assistant Danny Mathieson, will analyze the current status of the school-industry partnerships in the region, explore innovative strategies to prioritize workforce development throughout COVID-19, and strengthen regional infrastructure to prioritize education and career outcomes for rural youth. In the initial outreach phase, the team will survey regional stakeholders such as teachers, STEM coordinators, internship coordinators, nonprofit leaders, and industry professionals to understand the effects of COVID-19 on STEM school-industry partnerships during the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 school years. School-industry partnerships help students and teachers learn about STEM content and careers, and even students who do not actively pursue STEM careers will have learned transferable skills. The project will be in partnership with the New River Valley Regional Commission and seeks to expand that work to strengthen connections with the United Way of Southwest Virginia and Virginia regional school superintendents.

Contact Jacob Grohs for more information.

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This project, led by David Sample from the Department of Biological Systems Engineering, will increase the resilience of stormwater infrastructure in Fredericksburg, Virginia while improving downstream water quality. The project team will collect data on runoff from urban areas in the Fredericksburg vicinity; publish datasets, scientific articles, and factsheets; develop and calibrate process models; and create videos and material for outreach. Both undergraduate and graduate students will assist with the project. Managing runoff from urban development is a daunting challenge for many Virginia communities. Development increases impervious surfaces, including buildings and roofs, roads, sidewalks, driveways, and parking areas, leading to increased runoff and transport of pollutants downstream. These impacts can be addressed using many small infiltrative stormwater treatments upland or a few large storage-based practices downstream. Fredericksburg provides an ideal location to explore tradeoffs between upland and downstream controls. This project potentially provides a reproducible example of sound stormwater planning.

Contact David Sample for more information.

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