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Sarah Lyon-Hill Graduate Research Assistant

A headshot of John Provo

John A. Provo, Ph.D.
Director

jprovo@vt.edu
(540) 231-4004

John Provo is the director of Virginia Tech's Center for Economic & Community Engagement. Provo provides leadership for the university in the design and implementation of its economic engagement mission. A “pracademic,” he has more than 15 years of experience in higher education and government. He builds relationships between businesses, communities, and the university and leads a team that delivers applied research projects that create economic opportunities.

Provo received his Ph.D. from the School of Urban Studies and Planning at Portland State University. He received a master's degree in Urban and Regional Planning from Virginia Commonwealth University in 1999 and a bachelor's degree in government from the College of William and Mary in 1989. While in Richmond, he worked for Virginia's Secretary of Commerce and Trade on implementation of revisions to the state's workforce development system.   

Scott Tate, Senior Economic Development Specialist, Economic Development

A headshot of Scott Tate.

Scott Tate, Ph.D.
Associate Director
atate1@vt.edu 
(540) 231-2351

A writer, teacher, and consultant, Scott Tate helps people, places, and organizations address challenges and pursue opportunities for positive change.  Currently Associate Director for the Virginia Tech Center for Economic & Community Engagement, Scott has over twenty years of experience working with public, private, and nonprofit sector organizations on opportunity analysis, strategy development, organizational change, leadership capacity, and creative innovation.

Among other projects, he has developed and led programs and conducted research to: develop regional economic strategies across the Commonwealth; support first-generation college students and vulnerable youth; enhance training and career pathways for former coal industry workers; explore arts-based community change efforts in Northern Ireland; encourage social entrepreneurship in Tunisia; enhance manufacturing in rural regions; promote anchor institution and wealth building strategies in communities; assess entrepreneurial ecosystems in smaller metros; and advance sustainable development in Appalachia and on the Eastern Shore.

Tate’s doctoral degree focused on interdisciplinary, theory-informed, problem-driven analysis at the intersection of social, political, ethical, and cultural domains.  His master’s degree is in management from the Pamplin College of Business at Virginia Tech with a focus on talent development and organizational change.  Scott has taught courses at the undergraduate and graduate level related to planning, public policy, sustainable development, Appalachian studies, leadership, economic development, and political science.

His research and writing has appeared in journals such as the Economic Development Quarterly; the Journal of Enterprising Communities:  People and Places in the Global Economy; Environment, Space, Place; and Community Development.  His research and writing has also appeared in books and edited volumes published by Ashgate, Routledge, Taylor & Francis, ABC-CLIO, and Zeta Books.

Tate and his family live in Roanoke, where he explores the neighborhood with his wife Meighan; plays in the yard with his dog Biscuit; loses at basketball to his son Toby;  and frequents coffee shops, libraries, greenways, and odd, quiet cozy corners.

A headshot of Doris Waddell

Doris J. Waddell
Program Support Technician
dwaddell@vt.edu
(540) 231-5278

Doris serves as center manager, as well as administrative assistant to the Director.  Born and raised in Christiansburg, Virginia, she has been employed at Virginia Tech since 2003.  Doris previously lived in Dallas, TX, and worked as the Associate Coordinator for the Skyline Career Development Center, and at Carlisle Companies, as Executive Administrative Assistant to the Vice President.  After relocating to Atlanta, GA, Doris gained experience as a Contract Administrator for Eco-Tech, a water and wastewater equipment manufacturer in the southeast. 

Doris holds a Bachelor's of Science Degree in Business Management and Leadership. She was a semi-finalist for the Virginia Tech President's Award for Excellence in 2007.  Virginia Tech Employee of the Month, January, 2008. And Doris was presented the Virginia Tech Outreach and International Affairs "Piggy Back" Award for cost savings and efficiency, and the effective use of resources in a resource-scarce environment, December, 2008.  

In her free time, Doris enjoys gardening, golfing, reading science fiction, and watching college football. 

Faculty

Headshot of Zach Jackson

Zach Jackson
Economic Development Specialist
zachj@vt.edu
(540) 231-6669

Zach Jackson serves as an economic development specialist for the Virginia Tech Center for Economic & Community Engagement. Zach is a recent graduate of Virginia Tech, where he earned his undergraduate degree in Urban Planning in 2018 and Masters of Urban and Regional Planning in 2019. Zach strives to support economic development efforts throughout the state by applying both his professional and educational experience and passion for positive change and economic opportunity. 

Sarah Lyon-Hill Graduate Research Assistant

A headshot of Sarah Lyon-Hill

Sarah Lyon-Hill, Ph.D.
Senior Economic Development Specialist
sarahlh@vt.edu
(540) 231-9940

As Senior Economic Development Specialist, Sarah Lyon-Hill specializes in cultivating viable solutions for community and economic challenges by integrating community and industry input, university resources and data-driven analysis. She works across disciplines to engage key stakeholders, collecting and interpreting both quantitative and qualitative data to provide multiple perspectives and garner the greatest impact.

Sarah has significant expertise in understanding community impact and much of her research investigates how to most effectively gauge and articulate the social and economic impacts of different organizations, initiatives, and technologies.

Some of her recent work has been in the autonomous systems field, exploring how a technology can impact a particular region or industries. For the past several years, she has led the center’s development of Quarterly Workforce Reports for three Workforce Development Areas in Southwest Virginia. She has also conducted opportunity assessments and strategic planning processes, including an agritourism opportunity analysis for James Madison’s Montpelier in Orange County, VA. Finally, Sarah has focused on examining entrepreneurial ecosystems through a grant from the Kauffman Foundation that outlines the different types of entrepreneurs, the resources they utilize, how to foster entrepreneurship, and the metrics with which to measure the system.

Over the past decade, Sarah has worked both nationally and internationally in the fields of community and economic development. She joined the Center for Economic & Community Engagement as a graduate student in 2011 and became an economic development specialist in 2014. During these years, she has proved herself an invaluable asset to the team through her tenacity, dedication to research and caring engagement with those she serves.

Beyond her work in Virginia, Sarah also served in Northwest Africa as a Peace Corps worker, leading many community groups and facilitating vision and strategy meetings. Her work led to collaborative projects such as a community kindergarten, a region-wide birth certificate writing campaign, and a goat microfinance lending program across five women’s groups. Sarah has her Ph.D. in Planning, Governance, and Globalization, where she examined the changing national dynamics and roles of arts-based community organizations in community and economic development. She holds a master’s degree from Virginia Tech in Urban and Regional Planning from Virginia Tech, as well as bachelor’s degrees in French and International Relations from Beloit College.

A headshot of Afroze Mohammed

Afroze Mohammed
Associate Director of Strategic Alliances
afroze@vt.edu
(571) 858-3007

Afroze Mohammed joined Virginia Tech as Associate Director of Strategic Alliances in December 2011, based in the National Capital Region.  Her role focuses on building strong partnerships between Virginia Tech and companies in metropolitan Washington, DC, with the goal of fostering greater collaboration in research endeavors, entrepreneurial activities, and economic development.  Afroze is active in economic development and industry groups in the National Capital Region.

Afroze brings to Virginia Tech a high performance track record in industry, consulting, and research. She has directed successful product marketing and alliance development programs at leading energy, educational technology, and telecommunications software companies.

At the CURRENT Group, an innovative smart grid company, Afroze developed a partnership program with complementary technology providers, including both Fortune 500 companies and start-up ventures. Earlier, as Director of Product Marketing at Blackboard Inc., an educational software company that is one of Washington DC's top entrepreneurial success stories, Afroze led marketing initiatives for Blackboard's flagship e-learning products and managed partnerships with industry associations to increase Blackboard's market penetration and reputation. At Lucent Technologies, Afroze ran product marketing and alliance programs for business intelligence products. In the academic arena, she worked as a Research Associate at Harvard Business School, developing best-selling case studies on topics in marketing, policy, operations, and international business.

Afroze has an M.B.A. from the Yale School of Management and a B.A. in Economics, summa cum laude, from Georgetown University.

A headshot of Ashley Posthumus

Ashley Posthumus
Economic Development Specialist 
ashleypos@vt.edu
(540) 235-2806 

Ashley Posthumus recently received her master’s degree in urban and regional planning with a particular focus in economic development from Virginia Tech. Previously, she received a B.S. in human geography and environmental science from the University of McMaster in Ontario, Canada. Ashely served as a Graduate Assistant at CECE prior to her time as Research Associate. During her time as a GA, Ashely contributed to a number of projects, including CECE’s quarterly workforce reports, national research on unmanned aircraft, an economic gardening study in Botetourt County, and others. She has established herself as a valuable member of CECE’s dynamic team, lending her skills in quantitative and qualitative analysis as well as her thoughtful insight and keen attention to detail. With her free time, she enjoys hiking, road trips, exploring new restaurants with friends and spending time with her dog, Radar. 

Elli Travis

A headshot of Elli Travis.

Elli Travis
Economic Development Specialist
emtravis@vt.edu
(540) 231-8324

I am an economic development specialist who inspires communities to envision their best, most prosperous future. I help make that vision a reality through high-impact research methods as well as connecting communities and businesses to resources within the university. My passion is working alongside organizations to plan and evaluate their work in a way that is consistent with their mission and goals, especially in the areas of agricultural and community development.

Examples of my work include economic impact analyses, strategic planning for non-profit organizations and economic development authorities, as well as visioning and feasibility studies. Additionally, I am the lead evaluator of Catalyst, a program that connects VT faculty and students with regional business owners around technology commercialization and proof of concept services.

As a dedicated qualitative researcher and analyzer, I also facilitate workshops that challenge assumptions and provide a deeper understanding of decision-making processes. Attendees are guided through ways to measure the holistic impact of programs and learn how certain values, like jobs, investments, and equity, will affect the community long term.

A native of Washington, DC, I hold a master’s degree from Virginia Tech in Agricultural and Applied Economics and dual bachelor’s degrees in Economics and Russian, from Indiana University, Bloomington.

Currently, I am pursuing a Ph.D. at Virginia Tech in Agricultural, Leadership, and Community Education with a focus on program impact evaluation. I further support my community by sitting on the board for Downtown Christiansburg, Inc. and frequenting local restaurants, shops, and farmers markets.

A headshot of Mallory Tuttle

Mallory T. Tuttle
Associate Director, Newport News Center
mtuttle@vt.edu
(757) 964-8855

Mallory T. Tuttle is the associate director of the Newport News Center where she is responsible for engaging the community with the university’s graduate, professional development, and lifelong learning programs.  In addition to managing a portfolio of continuing education programming, Mallory creates and facilitates uniquely tailored coursework for organizations in the private and public sector. She also provides center management and new business development for the university’s Center for Economic & Community Engagement and promotes regional partnerships and collaboration throughout the Hampton Roads region. 

Prior to working for Virginia Tech, Mallory served in a dual role with Old Dominion University as the Strome Entrepreneurial Center Program Manager and Adjunct Professor for the Strome College of Business. Mallory also has years of experience in rural economic development from her tenure working as a Business Development Manager with Franklin Southampton Economic Development, Inc. She is passionate about entrepreneurship, innovation, tourism, economic development, and small business. She holds a master's degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management from Virginia Tech and a Bachelor of Science degree from Ferrum College. 

Mallory is also very involved in philanthropy in the Hampton Roads region and serves on the executive board of the Portsmouth Service League, a volunteer nonprofit organization composed of young women dedicated to improving the welfare of the community that has raised and distributed over $1,000,000 in the Portsmouth and Hampton Roads communities since inception. Mallory also serves as a board member and capital campaign marketing chair for the Portsmouth Museums Foundation, a nonprofit organization that serves as a tax-deductible conduit for contributions to all City of Portsmouth Museums: the Children’s Museum of Virginia, Portsmouth Art & Cultural Center, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Museum and Lightship Portsmouth, and the Portsmouth Community Colored Library Museum.

In the past Mallory was named one of Inside Business’ Top 40 Under 40 in Hampton Roads (2019) and a CoVa BIZ Millennial on the Move (2017). She was also awarded the Virginia Tech Pamplin College of Business Ut Prosim Alumni Award (2019) for her philanthropic work and was selected as an American Councils for International Education YSEALI Professional Fellow in Thailand (2019).   

A headshot of Margaret Cowell

Margaret Cowell, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Urban Affairs and Planning
mmcowell@vt.edu

Margaret Cowell, PhD is an Associate Professor of Urban Affairs and Planning at Virginia Tech where she teaches courses on economic development, urban economics, and public policy. Dr. Cowell previously worked for the Buffalo Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and was also a member of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation-funded research project, “Building Resilient Regions.” She is currently a co-PI for Virginia Tech’s National Science Foundation Research Traineeship (NRT) program on Disaster Resilience and Risk Management. She is the author of Dealing with Deindustrialization: Adaptive Resilience in American Midwestern Regions (Routledge 2014) and has published numerous peer-reviewed articles focused on economic resilience, economic restructuring, and economic development. She is a frequent collaborator with colleagues in Virginia Tech’s Center for Economic & Community Engagement including a co-edited book (with Sarah Lyon-Hill) about the ties that bind Virginians across the urban-rural spectrum. Dr. Cowell’s research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, Kauffman Foundation, National Association of Counties, and the United States Economic Development Administration. She holds a Ph.D in City and Regional Planning from Cornell University, Master of Urban Planning from SUNY Buffalo, and B.A. in Urban Studies from Brown University.

A headshot of Anna Nagorniuk

Anna Nagorniuk 
Research Assistant
anagor1@vt.edu

Anna Nagorniuk joined the CECE team, first as a Graduate Assistant and now as a Research Assistant, shortly after graduating with her Master’s in Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) from Virginia Tech in May of 2021. She also completed her undergraduate degree in Public and Urban Affairs at Virginia Tech in 2019. Anna initially engaged with CECE as part of the MURP Economic Development Studio where she worked with other graduate students on 2 projects: a redevelopment proposal for the City of Galax, VA in 2018, and the creation of a post-COVID-19 economic recovery toolkit in 2021. Anna has a background in architecture and land use policy, tailored with a focus in economic and community development. In her free time, Anna enjoys trying new foods, fitness, traveling to see friends, and spending time with family and pets (Rex the dog, and Winston and Kai, the cats).

Staff

Headshot of Rachel Jones

Rachel Jones
GO Virginia Region 2 Program Coordinator
rachelcj@vt.edu

Rachel Jones joined the center as the GO Virginia Region 2 Program Coordinator in October 2019. Rachel is pursuing a Bachelor of Business Administration and has been employed at Virginia Tech since October 2018, formerly serving on the Human Resources team within the Division of Information Technology.

Driven by a passion for community engagement, Rachel serves the regional GO Virginia Program through the various stages of grant management, as well as evaluation of project performance and coordination of the regional council.

A Christiansburg, Virginia native, Rachel enjoys outdoor activities such as lake days, hiking, and camping. 

Headshot of Julia Kell

Julia Kell
Communications Specialist
juliak97@vt.edu
(540) 553-2526

Julia Kell joined the center as the Communications Assistant in October 2019. A recent graduate from Radford University with a degree in English and Professional Writing, Julia is passionate about story-telling, art, Appalachian Studies, and Shakespeare.

As a sophomore Julia took an Appalachian Studies class, which ignited an interest in the region around her and introduced her to faculty members that would later become important mentors. During her junior year, Julia and a classmate participated in an oral history collection project in Dante, VA - once a bustling coal town – where they each interviewed six seniors in the community.

After transcribing their interviews, they traveled to the Appalachian Teaching Project conference in Washington D.C. and the Appalachian Studies Association conference in Cincinnati, Ohio to help present Dante's stories and suggest revitalization plans for the town. From the project, Julia learned the importance of providing individuals a space in which to share their memories and perspectives. She learned how fascinating and vibrant the community around her is and how stories are often hiding just within reach.

Julia was an editor and writer for Radford University’s online magazine Whim and the website bSmart Guide where she sought to create content that was clear, engaging, and thought-provoking. She hopes to continue to hone her writing and editing skills in her new position.

In her free time, Julia enjoys exploring the outdoors, listening to music, and playing with her pets.  

A headshot of Emma Ruby

Emma Ruby
Project Coordinator
emmaru97@vt.edu
540-231-5278

Emma joined the Center as project coordinator in July 2021. A forever Hokie, she graduated in May 2020 with a Bachelor’s in Political Science and is currently pursuing a Master’s in Public Administration. Prior to joining the Center, Emma completed a service year with AmeriCorps VISTA at Blue Ridge Area Food Bank focusing on child nutrition programming and community engagement.

A headshot of Quina Weber-Shirk

Quina Weber-Shirk
Regional Internship Project Coordinator
quina@vt.edu
540-231-8891

As the Project Coordinator for the GO Virginia Region 2 Internship Collaborative, Quina Weber-Shirk works with partners in business, education, and local government to connect employers to students and assure the readiness of employers, students, and institutions to significantly increase the number of high-quality paid internships and other work-based learning opportunities in the New River Valley, Roanoke Valley - Alleghany Highlands, and Lynchburg Region. Quina prioritizes strong collaborative relationships, innovative communication and outreach, and data-driven decision-making for the development and implementation of a robust internship ecosystem throughout GO Virginia Region 2. 

Quina joined the Center for Economic and Community Engagement in August 2021. She comes to Virginia Tech from North Carolina, where she supported food systems and community development in Guilford County through a variety of roles with non-profits, local government, and higher education. She brings her experience partnering with local organizations to align programs and reach new audiences. Quina holds a master's degree in Library and Information Studies from UNC-Greensboro and a bachelor’s degree in Peace and Global Studies from Earlham College. 

Student Researchers

A headshot of Will Ferris

William Ferris
Student Researcher
fwill17@vt.edu

William Ferris is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics. His research focuses on Chesapeake Bay TMDL policy and on Opioid Crisis harm reduction. He brings local government economic development experience and hands-on knowledge of the region to the office. When not at work, he can usually be found checking out a new trail or waterway in the area.

A headshot of Ceara Redd

Ceara Redd
Student Researcher

cmredd@vt.edu

Ceara Redd is an accelerated master’s student in Urban and Regional Planning in the School of Public and International Affairs at Virginia Tech. As an undergraduate senior, Ceara double majors in Environmental Policy and Planning, her primary major, and Philosophy, her secondary major. Ceara is interested in combatting environmental and social issues through policy and law. She would like to explore avenues to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address issues of displacement and transnational migration. Additionally, Ceara serves as an ambassador for her college, the College of Architecture and Urban Studies, and she is a member of Students for Sustainable Practice at Virginia Tech. 

A headshot of Jason Schwartz

Jason Schwartz
Student Researcher
jason31@vt.edu

Jason is a full-time Master’s Urban and Regional Planning degree candidate at the Virginia Tech National Capital Region campus in Arlington, Virginia. He previously worked for 6 years at Cummins Inc. and GE Power in manufacturing engineering, warehouse operations and lean process improvement. He graduated from Virginia Tech with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering in 2015.

Jason has proudly served on multiple civic, youth leadership and performing arts committees.  He loves to immerse himself in the Washington, DC region’s cultural amenities and go for long runs through the dense cityscapes and urban parks. 

A headshot of Hye-jeong Seo

Hye-jeong Seo
Student Researcher
seohj@vt.edu

Hye-jeong is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the Planning, Governance, and Globalization program at Virginia Tech and also a fellow in the Interfaces of Global Change Program. She is interested in the role of information and expertise in community development. Her research focuses on how to navigate the complex dynamics between science and decision-making for better and more legitimate planning outcomes.

Hye-jeong finished her B.S. in Urban Engineering from the Pusan National University in 2011, graduating on the President’s list and Summa Cum Laude honors. She studied environmental and hazard mitigation planning at the same university and received her M.S. in 2013. After graduation, Hye-jeong worked at the Korea Environment Institute for a few years, researching participatory methods for climate change adaptation planning, developing climate change risk assessment tools, and facilitating participatory processes for community climate change adaptation.

A headshot of Allison Ulaky

Allison Ulaky
Student Researcher
allisonu@vt.edu

Allison Ulaky is pursuing her Master's in Urban and Regional Planning at Virginia Tech in Arlington, VA. She is interested in community, economic, and international development. 

Allison is from Lancaster, PA and graduated in May 2020 from Albright College with a Bachelor's in Urban Affairs, Spanish, and Anthropology with a minor in Criminology. Her undergraduate honors thesis focused on the social and economic impacts of immigration in Cuenca, Ecuador, where she studied abroad.

Prior to joining the Center, Allison worked in workforce development conducting outreach to young adults in her community, assisting them in receiving their high school diplomas, and placing them into employment. In her free time, Allison has worked as a dance teacher and also enjoys spending time with her dogs.