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Sarah Lyon-Hill, Ph.D.

Associate Director for Research Development

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.