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magazine of the college of liberal arts & human sciences


Multimedia Center puts students on fast track

Volume 8 | 2 015 -16

A message from

Elizabeth Spiller

Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences

Dear Friends and Alumni: I am very pleased to share this issue of Spheres. As you will see inside, it has been a very good year across the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. We have just welcomed more than 700 new students to the college, including 532 freshmen. This is the college’s largest class since 2006 and part of Virginia Tech’s biggest, most diverse, and most academically qualified class ever. Some of these students will study new majors in such fields as multimedia journalism, national security and foreign affairs, criminology, residential environments and design, and creative writing. Others are attracted by the quality of the internship programs, study abroad locations, and opportunities for undergraduate research. I am also very pleased and grateful that our alumni and friends have provided four-year scholarship support for many of these students through our new Destiny Scholars program. This year, 5 percent of our incoming class will be Destiny Scholars, and our goal is to be able to make this commitment every year. Our faculty had an outstanding year, sweeping many of the university teaching awards. A number of faculty members also received national recognition for major fellowships, prizes, and grants across the arts, humanities, and human and social sciences. Our alumni are also thriving. The university just completed a survey with Gallup (see graphic below) studying the impact of education on life success and well-being. It is remarkable, and yet not surprising, that Virginia Tech alumni are more likely to be thriving in all measures than are alumni from other schools. I hope you enjoy this issue of Spheres. All best,

Elizabeth Spiller

Virginia Tech


56% 57%

Purpose well-being

Social well-being

52% Financial well-being

49% 52%


Community well-being

Physical well-being

46% 42% National average


Other Gallup results of note: Many Virginia Tech alumni have “great jobs,” which Gallup defines as full-time employment for an employer and being engaged at work. Two-thirds of Virginia Tech graduates work full time for an employer, higher than the national average of 58%. Employed Virginia Tech alumni are also more likely to be engaged at work than other college graduates nationally.

ities | Social and Human Sciences | Education Volume 8 | 2015 -16 Arts | Human

Contents 2 6 8 10 11 12 14 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24

Liberal education and the (V)T-shaped learner Smithsonian to showcase oral history interviews by David Cline New digital studio prepares students for broadcast careers Patricia Raun teaches scientists to communicate Karen Roberto named University Distinguished Professor Three faculty members win NSF CAREER awards The ongoing legacy of James I. Robertson Jr. Amy Azano: Tapping the talents of rural children Bringing the classics to life On the cover: Josh Gonzalez, a 2015 multimedia Inside Beethoven’s head journalism graduate, operates a Ross Hokies on the Hill Carbonite production switcher during Outstanding senior Nancy Fowlkes Mason a Digital Newsroom class in Virginia Tech’s new Multimedia Center. Outstanding recent alumnus Mac Stone Faculty kudos Class's research leads to new Virginia law The Marching Virginians ... a home of their own




College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences (0426) | Wallace Hall, Suite 260, Virginia Tech | 295 West Campus Drive | Blacksburg, VA 24061 | (540) 231-6779

Managing Editor Jean Elliott

Art Director, Graphic Designer Tiffany Pruden

Graphic Designer Sarah Cisneros

Creative Services Manager Ed Lemire

Contributing Writers Jean Elliott Deanne Estrada Cathy Grimes John Pastor Elizabeth Spiller

Copy Editors Mason Adams, Debra Stoudt


Jean Elliott, Jason Jones, Michael Kiernan, Brad Klodowski, Kelsey Kradel, Amanda Loman, Shelby Lum, John McCormick, Jim Stroup, Logan Wallace, Anne Wernikoff, Bob White


Departments and Schools

Elizabeth Spiller

Apparel, Housing, and Resource Management ASPECT (Alliance for Social,


Tom Ewing

Associate Dean Graduate Studies and Research Director, College Diversity Initiatives

Brian Shabanowitz Associate Dean Administration and Finance

Robert Stephens Associate Dean Undergraduate Academic Affairs

Debra Stoudt Associate Dean Academic Policies and Procedures

Jill Ashton Director of Development

Jean Elliott Director of Communications

Angela Mills Director of Alumni Relations

Politcal, Ethical, and Cultural Thought)

Center for Gerontology Communication English Foreign Languages and Literatures History Human Development Philosophy

Political Science International Studies program

Religion and Culture ROTC Air Force, Army, and Naval School of Education

Leadership, Counseling, and Research Learning Sciences and Technologies Teaching and Learning

School of Performing Arts Music, Theatre, Cinema

Science and Technology in Society Sociology

Virginia Tech does not discriminate against employees, students, or applicants on the basis of age, color, disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, veteran status, or any other basis protected by law. For inquiries regarding nondiscrimination policies, contact the executive director for Equity and Access at 540-231-8771 or Virginia Tech, North End Center, Suite 2300 (0318), 300 Turner St. NW, Blacksburg, VA 24061. MidAtlantic/1015/55K/TP/ART2015-0266

Liberal education

and the (V)T-shaped learner By Elizabeth Spiller Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences

I am often asked, why liberal arts? Why liberal arts at Virginia Tech? How can the liberal arts help students? How can they help our society and community? These are good questions. The dynamic between science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and liberal education goes back to at least the Renaissance, a period that gave rise to both the modern university and the beliefs that provide the basis for modern science. The Renaissance is a good historical moment for us to remember because modern science was made possible when artisanal practices—ways of making, doing, and inventing that had the same energy and excitement that we now see in some of the Virginia Tech hackathons and maker’s camps—intersected with a different excitement that surrounded liberal education. The intersection of those two ways of thinking—making and knowing—led to some of the most powerfully creative impulses of the Renaissance. Take two examples, one from 1509 and the other from 1610. In 1509, a book entitled “On Divine Proportion” was published in Venice. Written by the mathematician Luca Pacioli, this book demonstrated that proportion, the mathematical ratios between things, both defines man and also stands at the intersection of art, nature, and technology. Pacioli was a mathematician, but he was also a teacher. His greatest student was probably Leonardo da Vinci, who produced a number of the illustrations in “On Divine Proportion.” Leonardo's works—paintings like the Last Supper and the Mona Lisa, and thousands of notebook pages covered in flying machines and anatomical studies—would not have been possible had he not learned both mathematics and anatomy.


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Other Renaissance inventions started with art and led to science. Just over a hundred years later, in 1610, Galileo Galilei published a book called “The Starry Messenger,” also in Venice. Galileo’s book contained the first published observations of what he had seen looking through the age’s newest invention, the telescope. Few professors would have been able to build a telescope, and most refused to even look through the ones that Galileo built. Galileo, however, was the son of a musician and studied and later taught at the Academy of the Arts of Drawing. His training in the arts gave him the expertise to create the engravings in his often scandalously unconventional books. More importantly, without that education, Galileo would almost certainly not have been able to fully understand—to actually “see”—what the new telescope was showing him. An artist who trained in the sciences, a scientist whose studies began with the arts: What made Leonardo and Galileo who they were had a great deal to do with how their education demanded that they learn, think, and see outside and across boundaries. The intersection between the arts and sciences, between liberal and practical education, should not just be a moment in the past, particularly not at a land-grant institution like Virginia Tech. In 1862, the Morrill Act called for the establishment of land-grant institutions, schools that would “without excluding other scientific and classical studies and including military tactic . . . teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts . . . in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes.” “Liberal and practical education.” The mandate and call for a “practical education” is a clear one. Yet, what about a

“liberal education”? What is a liberal education? Is it something that is fundamentally distinct from, or, worse, at odds with, a “practical education”? And why do we need both of those things, either as institutions or as individuals? Liberal and practical education are not so much two different things as they are two distinct but interrelated parts of the same thing. In its traditional sense, the term “liberal” in “liberal arts” ought not be understood to have any particular political valence, beyond its commitment to transformation—education is neither Republican nor Democratic. It does, however, have a civic valence, the civitas that implies obligation to the community, to the welfare and well-being of a community. Liberal education involves being able to balance a free range of inquiry alongside the needs and obligations of the community. It is this interplay between inquiry and service that defines Virginia Tech’s Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) model. While this first dimension may sketch out the interrelationship between liberal and practical education of the campus as a whole, my second suggestion addresses that interplay as I think we hope to see it in any individual student. Liberal education should not be antithetical or supplemental to practical education. Rather, we need both, if only because practical education is also necessarily transient, in the sense that the very qualities that make practical education most practical are rooted in the here and the now. For our students, the hardest part about inventing the future will be the demands that they will face, exciting but constant, to invent, and then reinvent, themselves in often unimagined futures. Virginia Tech President Timothy D. Sands has invoked both these aspects of the interrelationships between liberal and

We want our students to be able to think from art to science as Galileo did, from science to art as Leonardo did.


The greatest of land-grant institutions continue to integrate practical and liberal education, and they do so because technology never works without people as part of the equation, because innovation is fundamentally a human pursuit.

practical education in some of his remarks over the past several months. As he reminded the campus recently, “comprehensive programs in the liberal arts” are “needed to prepare the commonwealth’s citizens to contribute to our democracy.” He has also asked us to consider the need for T-shaped learners because, “What important problem can be solved only by engineers who are trained only in engineering, or by poets who have mastered only poetry?” In the model of the T-shaped learner, practical education constitutes the stem of the “T”—the expertise and knowledge that ground you in the here and the now. Liberal education, by contrast, serves as the top “bar” of the “T”—that which allows you the breadth and range to balance your expertise, a balance needed precisely because the very nature of practical education is to be necessarily bounded in time. To create these kinds of T-shaped learners, it may be useful to remember that, alongside invention, we need to find both inspiration and imagination. The greatest of land-grant institutions continue to integrate practical and liberal education, and they do so because technology never works without people as part of the equation, because innovation is fundamentally a human pursuit. Pacioli’s “On Divine Proportion” ends with a series of images for all the letters of the alphabet, forms that were intended to showcase his belief that proportion was an expression of man’s ability to use art to create knowledge in ways that would allow humans to realize their highest potential.


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The College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences follows in that intellectual tradition. We have outstanding programs that span the arts, the humanities, and human and social sciences. Steve Jobs, who credited a class in calligraphy and typefaces for part of the human appeal of his computers, insisted that “technology alone is not enough—it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the results that make our heart sing.” The college’s programs are designed to give students the tools that allow them to think across, around, and through what might for others be problems. Our majors are up to date and immediately relevant. Some of our newest majors and minors for the class of 2019 will include opportunities to study: • • • • • • • •

Arabic Cinema Creative writing Criminology Japanese Multimedia journalism National security and foreign affairs Residential environments and design

Renovations to begin in January on


Liberal Arts


The future administrative home of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences will occupy the oldest Hokie Stone building on campus. Located at the end of the Drillfield, the Liberal Arts Building is adjacent to the Upper Quad and arts district, giving the college a central location in the university’s footprint. Two students suggested during the 1894-95 term that the university, then VPI, needed a YMCA building. Legendary fundraiser Lawrence Priddy, Class of 1897, set about getting money for the project, and the cornerstone was laid in spring 1900. The building was made from the native limestone known today as Hokie Stone and trimmed with sandstone from Ohio. “With the exception of the trimming, all the building material came from the State of Virginia,” stated the Bulletin of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute in October 1913. The YMCA moved out in 1937, and the building was used as the Military Building until the late 1960s, when it became the Student Personnel Building. The YMCA in 1972 deeded its interest in the building to Virginia Tech as part of the university’s centennial observances. It was named the Performing Arts Building in the 1970s and is now known as the Liberal Arts Building.


Our programs are designed to give students opportunities for internships, study abroad, and undergraduate research. These opportunities are part of why our students excel in obtaining good jobs and make solid candidates for professional and graduate school. These are also among the learning experiences that seem most likely to lead to a lifetime of success. At the same time, our students also have a chance to explore questions that recur at the very heart of the liberal arts: How can I find the proportion that balances what I make, do, and know? We want our students to be able to think from art to science as Galileo did, from science to art as Leonardo did. In 2015, our problems are larger and more complex than ever. Not all of the solutions to those problems will be technological. Indeed, some of those problems arise from the mistaken belief that technology can ever be separated from the people who use that technology. The many successes of our alumni provide perhaps the strongest possible testament to the ways in which Virginia Tech’s programs across the liberal arts give our students the tools to understand the human component to any equation.


Construction began





G R AY 15,900 s q u a re f e e t





New Smithsonian Museum to showcase David Cline’s oral histories The past comes to life when hearing history told by those who experienced it, said David Cline, who has heard many amazing stories over the last two years. In advance of the 2016 opening of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, Cline, an assistant professor of history, conducted dozens of oral history interviews to be included in the museum’s collection on the civil rights movement. With videographer John Bishop, he recorded accounts by those involved in that tumultuous period for a collection that will be used in the museum and is already available online through the Library of Congress. Their stories, he said, bring “those times and events and feelings back to life in ways that are consistently compelling and often inspiring.” Among his interviewees were: • The Rev. Wyatt Tee Walker, a Richmond minister who was the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s chief of staff and was executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference from 1960 to 1964. • John Carlos, one of the two sprinters who raised black-gloved fists on the medal stand at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. • Aaron Dixon and Elmer Dixon, brothers who as teenagers founded the Black Panther Party chapter in Washington state. • Children’s author, teacher, and women’s advocate Mildred Pitts Walter. • Clarence Jones, who wrote the first draft of King’s seminal “I Have a Dream” speech.


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Cline said he particularly enjoyed speaking with John and Jean Rosenberg, who worked across the South as staff members with the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. The couple followed up on claims of illegal voting practices, turning them into actionable cases. “The Rosenbergs are among those whose names we never know, but without whom there would have been no movement and no lasting change through judicial or legislative action,” Cline said. A specialist in 20th-century U.S. social movements, Cline speaks passionately about fieldwork and teaching oral history interviewing techniques to undergraduates and graduate students.

Photos from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture’s “Through the African American Lens: Selections from the Permanent Collection,” an exhibit at the National Museum of American History. More information is available on the museum’s website:

In fall 2014, he taught two oral history courses, both of which explored the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender history of the South with an emphasis on Virginia Tech’s stories. He and his students interviewed two dozen alumni, faculty, staff, and students for inclusion in the university’s archives. Cline was also the director of the Graduate Certificate Program in Public History for the past two years, a position that rotates between him and colleague LaDale Winling. Cline said the program is “the study of how history is presented to and used by the public.” In addition, he is co-editor of the leading oral history series, Palgrave Studies in Oral History, published by New York’s Palgrave Macmillan. Books in the series use interviews to explore a range of historical topics through first-person accounts. In 2012, Cline’s students interviewed a dozen former students from the Christiansburg Institute, which educated black children in the New River Valley from 1867 to 1966. That ongoing project is featured at the Harrison Museum of African American Culture in Roanoke’s Center in the Square. He is also part of a team working on a pilot project to interview Virginia Tech alumni. After a research leave this past spring, thanks in part to a Dean’s Faculty Fellowship Award from the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, Cline is completing two books under contract with the University of North Carolina Press. One is on a seminary-based civil rights organization called the Student Interracial Ministry, and the second is a collection of oral histories exploring the participation of blacks in the Korean War and the war's relationship to the civil rights movement.

The Graduate Certificate Program in Public History In Virginia Tech’s Graduate Certificate Program in Public History, students take classes in oral history interviewing techniques, digital history, museum studies, and historic preservation. Internships are a key part of the program, with students recently clocking hours at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest, the Virginia Museum of Transportation, and other significant sites. Students who complete the certificate program are prepared for careers as educators and curators at museums, historic sites, and other public history venues. Their classroom and practical experience empowers them to put historical knowledge to work in contemporary settings.


New digital studio

prepares students for broadcast careers

Production day in Virginia Tech’s new Multimedia Center encompasses all elements of a national news broadcast, including comparable state-of-the-art equipment. “It is real-life professional experience, not only in TV but in video production,” said Syrenthia Robinson, a faculty member in the Department of Communication. “We are multiple platform and multimedia.” The students even produce their own news feed. “The best part about the Digital Newsroom class is that it is all hands-on,” Robinson said. “Students share their discoveries … and as they share, they learn by teaching. They also work with a Ross graphics system and Adobe Premiere Pro editing suites, which puts them ahead of the competition.” The new studio provides students with the opportunity to implement skills and knowledge, and build on-camera confidence. In addition, Robinson said that the state-of-the-art facility is outfitted with the same technology used in top-50 newsrooms across the country.


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Students often intern with TV stations in Roanoke and work basketball and football games for Raycom Sports and ESPN. Recent Virginia Tech alumni are on the air across the United States. Wolf Gohlke, a 2014 graduate, is a sports reporter and anchor for WVIR, the NBC affiliate in Charlottesville, Virginia. “The new multimedia studio’s digital newsroom was great,” Gohlke said. “It gave me insight into what it would be like to work in TV news. Many things I learned there translated to the professional arena. “The new studio gave me the opportunity to perform on set and develop an on-air decorum. The field technology was easy to use and made recording stand-ups and interviews seamless. A number of the elements incorporated into classes at Virginia Tech are utilized by real news-station affiliates.” Cameron Austin, who graduated in December 2014 with a degree in multimedia journalism and a minor in sociology, served as editor-in-chief of the Collegiate Times and now works as a reporter for the Roanoke Times.

This state-ofthe-art facility is outfitted with the same technology used in top-50 newsrooms across the country.” - Syrenthia Robinson

“I always planned a career in print journalism, but because of the multimedia center, I also feel like I have a really strong background in broadcast journalism,” said Austin, who served as a studio mentor for other students. “It helped me to think more digitally as a leader for the Collegiate Times as we incorporated broadcast and digital platforms, and it continues to help me to understand the competition in my position with the Roanoke Times.” The studio will also provide a great opportunity for student recruitment, said Austin. “Prospective students will be wowed when they tour that facility,” she said. “It will be a great boost for the Department of Communication and the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.” Mary Dunleavy, a 2010 communication alumna, covers the Arkansas Razorbacks as sports anchor for KTHV11 in Little Rock. Previously she worked in New York at Original Media, TLC, ESPN, and Bloomberg Global Business Network. She also covered the Washington Redskins and Nationals as well as Atlantic Coast Conference sports and local high school teams for WVIR. Dunleavy visited campus shortly after the studio was completed. “As soon as I set foot in the new studio, I was so proud to be a Virginia Tech grad,” she said. “All of this equipment will assist students as they walk into their first interviews. They'll be ahead of the competition because they've already worked in a fully functioning studio. “Virginia Tech's aspiring broadcast journalists can walk into a news director’s office and say, ‘I can shoot, write, edit, and produce a newscast. Oh, and did I mention, I know what happens behind the scenes in the director’s chair?’” Dunleavy said she has seen the evolution of the communication department over the years: “I am so envious of the equipment the students get to touch and feel before stepping out into the real world.”

At left, top to bottom: Cameron Austin ’14, Wolf Gohlke ’14, and Mary Dunleavy ’10 have taken their skills to the real world. Below, students prepare a broadcast in the Multimedia Center.

All of this equipment will assist students as they walk into their first interviews. They'll be ahead of the competition.” - Mary Dunleavy 9

Patricia Raun What do a scientist, a forestry expert, and an actor have in common? All must communicate well with others to be good at their jobs. That common thread is the basis for a leadership communication course taught by Patricia “Patty” Raun, longtime actor and director of the School of Performing Arts. Using exercises familiar to theatre majors but far less so to scientists, Raun introduces graduate students from various disciplines to unconventional ways of thinking about communication. Raun uses relaxation and concentration techniques, roleplaying, and improvisation to teach students how to get across a message, techniques she refined at the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University in New York. Established in 2009, the Alda Center aims to train the next generation of scientists and health professionals to communicate effectively with the public, public officials, and the media. “I am a firm believer in the power of play,” Raun said. “Actors refine their abilities to connect with others through story, improvisation, and deep listening. The same tools can help sustainability leaders, scientists, and doctors do their work effectively.” “We’re at a crucial time in science,” Raun said. “If the scientists can’t explain the importance of their work to everyday people, we’re all in trouble. If it is possible for others to manipulate the message to their own advantage, they will. Scientists have to take the story into their own hands.” When Raun was approached in 2010 by Karen P. DePauw, vice president and dean for graduate education, about creating the course, she was at reluctant at first to do so. Attending a workshop at the Alda Center helped to sway her. She said she realized that “what they’re asking me to do, I’ve been doing for 25 years in my acting classes.” She now leads

teaches scientists how to tell their own stories

communication science workshops across the Blacksburg campus and in the National Capital Region. No one sits at a desk during Raun’s seminars and classes. Instead, students learn through listening and concentration exercises, storytelling, and impromptu conversations. Raun said the goal is to equip students to talk about their work with people who are not scientists. This goes beyond merely translating jargon. Students must learn to convey their passion for their work as well as its significance. “There is a disconnect between scientists and the stakeholders,” said forest resources doctoral student Kristin McElligott. “Learning how to speak to people of diverse backgrounds about your research is important. You have to effectively communicate the problem.” Raun, who also offers Communicating Science workshops to departments and programs, said she hopes the university can develop “a web of communicating science” opportunities. “There is no end to the opportunities to expand,” she said. “There is a huge hunger for it.”

Students use theatre techniques to improve how they relate their research to non-field-specific audiences as they participate in the Communicating Science course taught by Patty Raun.


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Gerontology pioneer

Karen Roberto named

University Distinguished Professor

Karen A. Roberto has always been curious about how older people are managing their daily lives. Early in her career, Roberto refined questionnaires, knocked on doors, and went into people’s homes to get a sense of how their lives changed as they grew older. She made discoveries about elder abuse, the unspoken effects of illnesses, and the hidden health conditions of aging people and their families—information she shares with Virginia Tech students and the world. This year the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors awarded Roberto a University Distinguished Professorship, a rank bestowed on no more than 1 percent of Virginia Tech faculty whose scholarship has attracted national and international recognition. A family gerontologist, Roberto asks basic questions to get a clear picture of rural older women, family relationships and caregiving, elder abuse, and coping with chronic conditions such as osteoporosis, pain, falls, and cancer. “The good news, particularly with women I have worked with over the years, is about 75 percent of them are doing fine,” Roberto said. “They manage, they restructure and reconstruct their lives to meet new situations, and they are happy. It’s not that dreadful downside of aging that people like to stereotype. For the most part, older people face controversy, figure it out, and move on.” But the exceptions to healthy aging add up, especially in a nation where one in eight Americans is 65 or older, according to the Administration on Aging.

“My real passion is learning about health in the context of everyday lives,” Roberto said. “What do old people do when they have a problem or illnesses? How does that play out in their families and communities?” Roberto's research on the family care partners of people with mild cognitive impairment, or MCI, is the preeminent program of scholarship in this area, said William E. Haley, a professor in the School of Aging Studies at the University of South Florida. Roberto and her collaborators introduced the concept of "ambiguous loss" to mild cognitive impairment in a 2007 paper, the most widely cited article in this field of study. Until this work was published, family coping in MCI was virtually ignored, with nearly all efforts focused on biomedical and neuropsychological studies of MCI. In 1996, Roberto was named the director of the Center for Gerontology. In 2006, she was named the founding director of the Institute for Society, Culture, and Environment at Virginia Tech. She has been recognized with national awards for her research as well as her mentoring. Dozens of her former students serve in leadership positions in community service organizations and academia across the United States. A valued keynoter, Roberto has crisscrossed the globe to address medical and scientific audiences in Korea, Hong Kong, Australia, Turkey, Ireland, Costa Rica, and Canada.


Three faculty members secure


To create a robot scientist. Those are the aims of projects that brought national recognition and more than $1.3 million in grants to three assistant professors in Virginia Tech’s College of Liberal Arts and Human Science. Benjamin Jantzen (left), Sarah Ovink (center), and Sonja Schmid (right) each won the National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Development (CAREER) Award during the 2014-15 academic year. One of the nation’s most prestigious for especially promising junior faculty members, the CAREER Award provides multiyear support for outstanding and innovative research. “From expert improvisation in disasters to building better algorithms for automated scientific discovery or creating stronger STEM pathways for women and underrepresented minorities, each of these projects stands at the intersection between technological invention and human achievement,” said Elizabeth Spiller, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. “This is an intersection that we as a university and a culture need to continue to explore, and it is also one at which faculty in this college have a truly significant and nationally distinctive level of achievement.”


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To increase the numbers of women and minorities in science and technology careers. To design an effective global response to nuclear accidents.

The robot scientist

The STEM challenge

Jantzen, who joined the Department of Philosophy in 2011, is using his CAREER Award grant of $443,427 to develop computer algorithms—step-by-step procedures for solving problems—that can automatically choose the variables to be considered. “The challenge is how to get machines to carry out scientific research on their own,” he said. “I have developed a solution to this philosophical problem, and my CAREER project will allow me to test that solution by developing some radically new programs for automated scientific discovery.” As part of his research, Jantzen is leading two summer initiatives: a weeklong session for graduate students in philosophy and computer science, followed by a workshop for middle school students with leadership by the graduate students. “The idea is to help foster a community of researchers with the skills and understanding to exploit the overlap between the philosophy of science and machine learning,” said Jantzen. “This project brings philosophical understandings of how humans create and use categories as a tool for automating what have always been the most human of activities: curiosity-driven knowledge making and discovery,” said Spiller.

Ovink’s research centers on inequalities in students’ college achievement and subsequent career success. Ovink, who joined the Department of Sociology in 2011, will use her CAREER Award grant of $453,359 to study how ethnicity, gender, and family income are linked to career success in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). A key component of her project will be interviews with more than 100 undergraduate students in STEM and nonSTEM majors at Virginia Tech and focus groups with peer interviewers. She and a team of graduate and undergraduate research assistants will follow up with these students as they begin their careers. Besides examining individual students’ choices, Ovink will link her findings to national data in designing policies with broad social relevance. “Individual pathways and choices are just one piece of the puzzle,” Ovink said. “We must also study how institutional practices affect students’ experiences and expectations across categories of gender, ethnicity, and income." “Virginia Tech, like other universities across the country, is deeply invested in seeing STEM access translate into STEM success,” said Spiller. “As Sarah’s research suggests, technology alone is often not enough. Her project takes a multifaceted sociological approach to help find ways to solve a complex human problem.”

Nuclear emergency response A key issue for Schmid, who joined the Department of Science and Technology in Society in 2008, is how to convince the world that any nuclear accident is everybody’s problem. “Nuclear disasters don’t respect national boundaries," she said. After the failure of Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in March 2011, scientists began to focus on response to disaster as well as prevention. Schmid’s NSF grant of $420,000 will help her to develop an education and outreach program for responders to nuclear accidents and create a global map of nuclear disaster expertise. Partnering with Virginia Tech’s Nuclear Engineering Program and the Center for Public Administration and Policy, Schmid is designing a curriculum to teach engineers and policymakers how to respond when existing plans fail. She is also developing criteria for what makes an effective international response. By incorporating scenarios, role playing, and simulations, Schmid aims to give students “a handle on how to react when not everything goes according to plan.” “Given its policy implications for any future nuclear disaster, Sonja’s collaborative project is urgently relevant to the human condition with its future policy implications,” said Spiller.



legacy continues During his 44-year career at Virginia Tech, Alumni Distinguished Professor James I. Robertson Jr. taught more than 22,000 students. The following tributes obtained from a select few of his students reveal how his legacy endures. Meanwhile, the renowned Civil War scholar and teacher continues to lecture and publish—most recently with his “Annotated Edition” of Judith Brockenbrough McGuire's “Diary of a Southern Refugee During the War,” (University of Kentucky Press, December, 2013). His popular book, “The Untold Civil War,” was published by the National Geographic Society in 2011 and has gone through multiple printings.


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What made Professor Robertson such an engaging teacher?

What made him special was his commitment to writing and his ability to instill this desire in us. It’s always enjoyable to meet other students of Dr. Robertson; one of the things we all laugh about is how we all still use the same system for research projects. -James W. Finck

His knowledge is amazing, his delivery is mesmerizing, but it is his emotional attachment to the subject matter that makes him such a beloved, inspirational historian. -April M. Danner

How has he impacted your career? My teaching education came from sitting in Dr. Robertson’s class three times a week for two years. I try to copy Dr. Robertson’s approach to lecturing. I also teach all my students in my research class how to take notes on 3-by-5 cards. -James W. Finck

Too many history professors and teachers focus on the mundane facts of what happened, so much so that you lose the sense that the people you are studying are real human beings. Dr. Robertson conveyed, better than anyone I've ever known, the raw human drama and emotion of history, particularly the Civil War era. His remarkable ability to convey the drama of human events helped me not only to understand the past but to connect with it on an intimate level. Every day when I walk into my classroom, I try to emulate his keen wit, engaging style, and incomparable ability to convey history's lessons through the power of the human spirit. -Jonathan A. Noyalas

James W. Finck (M.A. ’02), assistant professor of history, University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma

April M. Danner

Jonathan A. Noyalas

(B.A. ’94, M.A. ’02), museum director, Historic Smithfield, and chairwoman, Montgomery County Sesquicentennial Committee

(M.A. ’03), assistant professor of history and director, Center for Civil War History, Lord Fairfax Community College

Among the things Dr. Robertson taught me as a student were diligence and passion. Both are essential to be a good historian. -Patrick Schroeder (M.A. ’92), historian, National Park Service, Appomattox, Va.

While we always associate Bud with teaching the Civil War, he was an incredibly effective writing instructor as well. I still follow his advice about how to research, and I teach many of his practical lessons now in my own history methodology courses. -Kenneth W. Noe

Since I was a young kid, Dr. Robertson was this icon that I listened to on the radio. I bought his books, I came to lectures and talks, and I longed to meet him. I came to Virginia Tech as a student because Dr. Robertson was here. Anyone who has heard him speak knows that his lectures will inform you, make you laugh, and make you cry. I try to give that experience to our guests at Historic Smithfield and model him in my presentations. My greatest compliment was from a visitor who asked if I knew Dr. Robertson. He said I must because I told stories in the same style. I knew I was doing things right if I followed the “Robertsonian” way of presenting history. Kenneth W. Noe -April M. Danner (M.A. ’81), Alumni Professor and Draughon Professor of Southern History, Auburn University


Amy Azano: Tapping the talents of rural children Students everywhere learn about the rainforest, Amy Azano said, but they don’t always learn about the animals and plants in their backyard. They learn about historical events but may not understand how those events affected the people and places in their local communities. “Place is a way to make the curriculum more engaging and personally relevant to students,” said Azano, who with a colleague received a federal grant of nearly $2 million to help rural school districts in Virginia develop programs for gifted children. The five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education focuses on identifying rural gifted learners and developing place-based curricula for them. “This work might make a real and positive difference in the lives of young people living and learning in remote communities,” Azano said. Azano grew up and attended school in the small Shenandoah Valley town of Luray, Virginia, and saw poverty close to home. When she finished college and started teaching English in a suburban high school, she said, “the educational inequities became evident. I pursued a doctorate to address these inequities and to become a rural literacies researcher.” Azano’s collaborator on the grant is Carolyn Callahan, professor of education at the University of Virginia and an expert in gifted education. Their program is called Promoting PLACE (Place, Literacy, Achievement, Community, Engagement) in Rural Schools. Azano says children in rural areas have unique experiences and needs compared with those in urban and suburban settings. “Students have a wealth of knowledge they bring to the classroom,” Azano said. “Too often that local knowledge is ignored or dismissed.” She and Callahan aim to increase the number of students identified for gifted education services in rural, high-poverty schools; create place-based language arts units; and implement interventions designed to increase growth mindset (versus a fixed mindset) and reduce stereotype threat, a factor inhibiting student performance. They will measure their success in terms of increased achievement in reading, writing, student engagement, and self-efficacy. Azano, an assistant professor in the School of Education, is also an affiliate faculty member with the Virginia Tech Center for Autism Research. She finds that gifted students and those with special needs face some of the same challenges, such as limited resources and personnel. “In rural schools, students with exceptionalities are often marginalized for a variety of reasons,” she said, “including lack of funding.” “The geographic isolation and pervasive poverty in rural communities can sometimes make my work challenging,” Azano said. “But it's important work—work I believe in and am committed to.” Amy Azano – past, present, and future. Her book will be published by Bloomsbury and available in 2016.


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Chloé Benner brings the classics to life Magic spells and the Coptic alphabet. Mythology and teaching children. Bluegrass and cello. These may sound like disparate pairings, but Chloé Benner embraces all of them. This 2015 graduate who majored in classical studies creatively links ancient worlds, teaching, and the arts. Applying lessons of the past to challenges of the future is Benner’s passion. In a scene reminiscent of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, one of her undergraduate projects involved Coptic texts on invisibility spells, charms, and enchantments. “It's important to study these documents because they provide a window into daily life,” Benner said. “They reveal the concerns and wishes of people who may not have had their voices preserved in ancient literature otherwise.” A University Honors student, Benner received the 2013 Class of 1956 Ut Prosim University Honors Fellowship, which identifies “students with outstanding ability and the capacity to make a difference in the world in which we live through volunteerism or service,” and awards them a $10,000 scholarship. Thanks to the scholarship, Benner studied in Greece in 2014, visiting 121 sites in six and a half weeks with the America School of Classical Studies in Athens.

For her project related to the fellowship, Benner initiated an after-school program at Gilbert Linkous Elementary School in Blacksburg that combined Latin, her minor, with mythology and art. “Kids love stories,” she said. “Myths help communicate about culture and provide background for how we approach things today.” Her work in classical studies has been cited by the Foreign Languages Association of Virginia, which last fall bestowed upon her the College/University Student Recognition Award. She has also presented her work to Latin teachers in the state of Virginia at the spring meeting of the Classical Association of Virginia. Benner applies her passion for storytelling to another discipline: music. A classically trained cellist, she also plays mountain dulcimer and folk harp. She is a mainstay at Friday night jamborees in Floyd, Virginia, and has adapted her cello to traditional bluegrass. She is a fan of ballads because of their storytelling capacity—not unlike myths, she said. Whether performing onstage or working with children, Benner is adept at connecting past and present, said Andrew Becker, associate professor of classics. He called Benner “intellectually adventurous and ever curious” and “a teacher and scholar of languages, music, cultures.” Benner is attending Hollins University this fall to pursue a master of arts in teaching.

Chloé Benner works with Assistant Professor Richard Phillips on Coptic spells. At left, Benner in Athens.


Student composer aims to get inside Beethoven’s


The first time pianist Travis Whaley held a Beethoven sketchbook in his hands, tears came to his eyes. “It was cool to read his actual words,” Whaley said. “It’s how we get in his head in trying to understand what he was thinking at the time a piece was being composed.” That experience came to Whaley in 2014 at the Beethoven-Archiv, part of the BeethovenHaus in Bonn, Germany, during six weeks of study abroad. A senior with triple majors in piano performance, music composition, and German, Whaley returned to the archive this past summer, thanks to a 2015 Atlantic Coast Conference Creativity and Innovation grant and support from the Undergraduate Research Institute of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. Whaley’s research project was titled “Beethoven’s compositional process and the evolution of the Waldstein Sonata, op. 53.” He worked with the final manuscript of the score, in which Beethoven included fingerings for some of the difficult passages. This feature had been overlooked by previous music scholars and constitutes a noteworthy discovery by Whaley. “Fingerings are usually added by editors when music is published to help guide the performer,” Whaley said. “The fact that Beethoven included some fingerings shows that he was beginning to think about music more progressively.” Besides the grants supporting his summer studies, Whaley is a Virginia Tech Calhoun Liberal Arts Scholar and has won the James B. West Music Scholarship and the Presidential Alumni Scholarship. He is writing two versions of his honors thesis, one in English for his music degree and the other in German to fulfill requirements for his German major. “Travis possesses the German language, musical, and research skills to pursue original scholarship, an impressive combination for an undergraduate,” said his mentor, Debra Stoudt, an associate dean in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences and professor of German. Known globally as a pianist, Whaley was one of 45 participants in the 2014 International Johann Sebastian Bach competition. At age 20 then, he was the fourth-youngest competitor. It is Beethoven, however, who fascinates him. The composer “was known to almost always carry a sketchbook with him,” he said, and would sketch and rework the same measure repeatedly. Whaley uses sketchbooks as well but also composes without one. While touring Italy with the Virginia Tech Chamber Singers in summer 2012, he was surprised by Dwight Bigler, director of the chamber singers, with an opportunity to play the postlude at a Mass at the Vatican. “Dr. Bigler turned to me and asked, ‘Do you have anything ready?’” Whaley recalled. “I told him that I wrote a piece on the plane on the way over. So I spent the rest of the Mass sitting there making sure I remembered it because I didn’t have any music with me.”


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Hokies on the Hill

program jumpstarts

Meghan Oakes’ career When May 2015 graduate Meghan Oakes began work in June with U.S. Rep. Diane Black’s policy staff, she applied skills acquired in diverse disciplines and internships during her college years. An alumna of Virginia Tech’s Hokies on the Hill program, Oakes spent spring 2014 in the office of U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf of Virginia, earning a semester of academic credit while learning firsthand about the legislative process. Today, Oakes is assisting Black, of Tennessee, with writing and research on health policy. “I was not very interested in domestic politics until I joined Hokies on the Hill,” Oakes said. “Initially, I was very interested in diplomacy and international development, but I felt that if I wanted to work internationally for the United States, I needed to have a better understanding of its domestic politics.” For the 113th Congress, Wolf chaired the Commerce, Justice, and Science Subcommittee for the House Appropriations Committee. Oakes created a spreadsheet that showed the budget allotment for NASA and the National Science Foundation from the 1960s to present day. She also wrote letters to constituents to clarify the congressman’s stance on issues. “Interning in Congressman Wolf’s office completely changed my perspective and career interests,” Oakes said. Oakes was then invited to work with the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security that summer, topping off a nine-month stint in Washington, D.C. She returned in November 2014 with a group of Virginia Tech students to serve as chairwoman for the Joint-Defense Council at the Capital Area Model Arab League, a diplomatic simulation and leadership development program. She helped “control and choreograph the flow of the debate” and ended up winning the award for outstanding chair for her abilities as a parliamentarian. Oakes said her academic path sharpened her ability to identify the politics of cultural representation. She has a double major in international studies and religion and

culture, and a minor in Russian, all in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. During her undergraduate career, she also completed two research projects with Emily Satterwhite, an associate professor of Appalachian studies. “Meghan’s examination of fan mail to Appalachian author Jesse Stuart illuminated the concerns of Kentuckians who felt themselves marginalized” even as many of them, including Stuart, fought in World War II, Satterwhite said. In the second project, Oakes documented plot lines and budgets for “backwoods” horror movies to show the prevalence and persistence of negative stereotypes about rural people. “When Meghan then took advantage of the Hokies on the Hill experience, she could see firsthand that assumptions about rural people in films could have realworld consequences in national policy making,” said Satterwhite.


Nancy Fowlkes Mason Outstanding Senior Award

Nancy Fowlkes Mason could have graduated from Virginia Tech in December 2014. Instead, she added a semester of advanced classes heavy on research and writing. “It was hard, but I grew,” said Mason, who received the 2015 College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences Outstanding Senior Award. “Our best and brightest students from all our departments are nominated for this award,” said Robert Stephens, associate dean for undergraduate academic affairs. “Nancy is an extremely deserving candidate who personally exemplifies extraordinary commitment to academic excellence, leadership, and service.” A native of Bluefield, Virginia, Mason graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in hisBy coming here I’ve tory and a minor in Asian studies. She plans to study the Chinese language at Virginia Tech gotten a lot of people on my before going to graduate school. team. Also, with the university’s She was invited to present two of her reemphasis on research and its search papers at Eastern Washington Univerbrilliant faculty who take sity during the 29th Annual National Conference on Undergraduate Research in April. One research seriously, you have of them, titled “Bethsaida in the Gospels: A the advantages of a major Dynamic Portrait,” also earned her an invitaresearch university. You tion to the 18th Annual Mediterranean Studies wouldn’t get that at a small Association International Congress in May at the University of Athens, Greece. college.”


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Mason credits Elizabeth Struthers Malbon, professor of religion and culture, with encouraging her to challenge herself and pursue the Bethsaida project. “She got me interested in the research and told me how to get involved,” Mason said. “Up to that point I was trained the way the system trains you: Get good grades, don’t do anything too hard or you won’t succeed. She encouraged me not to do that but to take the more difficult, more rewarding road.” Malbon was one of Mason’s many positive faculty influences—“too many to mention,” Mason said. Associate Professor Helen Schneider “taught me what it’s like to be a historian, how to look at primary resources, what it’s like to be a professor.” Titled “China during the 1920s1940s: Interactions between Orientalism and Ideals of Domestic Science,” the paper described a goodwill movement in which women scholars traveled to Peking University in China to establish home economics programs. Mason, whose goal is to earn a Ph.D. and join the faculty at a university, caught a glimpse of what her own future might be by working with Schneider. “She was honest about the challenges, the reality, the hard stuff, the good stuff, the drawbacks, the plusses and minuses,” said Mason. “I knew it was what I want to do.” Virginia Tech was a perfect fit for Mason. “Because it is an engineering school, you would think liberal arts would not be a great choice. But the schools in CLAHS are smaller, the departments are smaller, and the faculty can give more personal attention. “By coming here I’ve gotten a lot of people on my team. Also, with the university’s emphasis on research and its brilliant faculty who take research seriously, you have the advantages of a major research university. You wouldn’t get that at a small college.”

Conservationist, author, and international

award-winning photographer named

Outstanding Recent Alumnus Mac Stone, who graduated in 2006 with degrees in Spanish and international studies with options in world politics and policy as well as environmental affairs and a minor in biology, was named the college’s Outstanding Recent Alumnus. From the summit of Mount Rainier to the coastal waters of South Africa, Mac Stone has viewed our scenic planet from incredible vantage points. Even for those who don’t find venturing through alligator- or shark-laden waters exciting, Stone’s photography and environmental knowledge are stunning, informative, and transformational. His recent book was five years in the making. “Everglades: America’s Wetland” contains more than 240 images and 15 essays. Already in its second printing, this compelling coffee-table volume is used as a tool for more than 50 organizations dedicated to Everglades restoration, reaching a broad audience. Stone’s book turned the head of reporter Bill Weir at CNN, resulting in Stone being featured on the season finale of “The Wonder List.” The series highlighted places in a state of change—cultural or environmental—and the Everglades, the only U.S. location to be featured, was pegged as “a wetland of international importance … on life support.” Stone has delivered keynote addresses across the Southeast, including an inspiring TED talk, and he will continue on the speaking circuit as long as there is an audience to listen. He is determined to draw attention to conservation issues through imagery. Known internationally as an award-winning photographer, Stone is also gaining a reputation as a cultural and ecological conservationist. The Save Our Seas Foundation selected him as one of two winners of its inaugural Marine Conservation Photography Grant. The expedition destination was False Bay, South Africa, an ecological hotspot for the great white shark and 27 other shark species, just off the densely populated urban coast of Capetown. In November 2014, Stone worked for a month in the field, “diving with sharks, flying in gyrocopters, and shadowing local fishermen and conservation groups.” The story “Sharks Safe People Safe,” which was edited by National Geographic staff and published this summer, presents “unique problem solving that includes pulling locals out of poverty, giving them jobs as shark spotters, and making them lifeguards with binoculars,” Stone said. “Large numbers of people like

to fish and surf there but are beginning to accept the sharks and have found a safe and innovative way to coexist. We are changing public perception of these critically important species.” Along with his global contributions, Stone serves as executive director of Naturaland Trust in South Carolina, which has helped to protect more than 100,000 acres along the southern Blue Ridge escarpment. “I write grants and photograph properties with unique ecological or connective traits,” Stone said. As president of the Partnership for the Blue Ridge, he works with various organizations and agencies to purchase land and create public space for hiking, hunting, and outdoor recreation. “At the end of the day we have a tangible result—protecting real physical land in perpetuity—and that is the best reward of all,” he said.

I’ve walked dozens of trails hauling 50 pounds of cameras with me. It’s just another creative way to bring wilderness to the forefront.” Stone has worked for Google in its Trekker program, which outfits its ambassadors with 16 cameras that take a photo every two seconds.

To see more of Stone’s work or to purchase a signed copy of his book, visit


Faculty recognized with national awards For exceptional scholarship, groundbreaking research, or creative achievements, six faculty members in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences won national honors in 2014-15.

Danna Agmon

Melanie Kiechle

Tim Luke

Joseph C. Pitt

Bob Hicok

Matthew Vollmer


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Danna Agmon, an assistant professor of history, won a Huntington Fellowship for the 2015-16 academic year. She will spend a year in residence at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, to continue her research on French colonialism in India. She is working on a book manuscript titled “The Nayiniyappa Affair: Commerce, Conversion, and a Colonial Scandal in French India.” Melanie Kiechle, assistant professor of history, was awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship to expand her doctoral dissertation into a book titled “Smell Detectives: An Olfactory History of Urban America, 1840-1900.” Made through the American Antiquarian Society, Kiechle’s grant enabled her to spend the academic year in Worcester, Massachusetts, studying the Clara Barton papers and other 19th-century records to compile “a cultural history of fresh air and foul odors in urban environments.” Tim Luke, University Distinguished Professor and chair of the Department of Political Science, was honored by the American Political Science Association with its 2014 career achievement award for a long and successful career as a writer, teacher, and activist. A Virginia Tech faculty member since 1981, Luke was also instrumental in establishing the university’s Alliance for Social, Political, Ethical, and Cultural Thought doctoral program. The interdisciplinary program encourages critical engagement among the social sciences, humanities, and arts. From the Department of Philosophy, Professor Joseph C. Pitt was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world's largest scientific society. Pitt, the interim head of the department in 2014-2015, was elected based on his contributions to the history and philosophy of science, particularly for his work on pragmatism, Galileo, and the impact of technology on scientific change. Two Department of English faculty members were winners of the 2015 Pushcart Prize, which honors the “best of the small presses” by selecting stories, poems, and essays from literary magazines, journals, and independent publishers. Associate Professor Bob Hicok was honored for a poem, “Why We Must Support PBS,” which first appeared in Field. Assistant Professor Matthew Vollmer was selected for an essay, “For Beds,” originally published on the New Orleans Review website.

University award winners from the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences

Katherine Allen Human Development Alumni Award for Excellence in Graduate Academic Advising

Anthony 'Kwame' Harrison Sociology Alumni Award for Excellence in Teaching

Peter Wallenstein History Alumni Award for Excellence in Teaching

Heather Gumbert History Edward S. Diggs Teaching Scholars Award

Amy Nelson History Edward S. Diggs Teaching Scholars Award

Katrina Powell English Edward S. Diggs Teaching Scholars Award

Marlene Preston Communication XCaliber Award

Brandi Quesenberry Communication XCaliber Award

Jennifer SanoFranchini English XCaliber Award

Carlene Arthur Center for Gerontology and Institute for Society, Culture, and Environment President's Award for Excellence

Trudy Harrington Becker History William E. Wine Award

Making an impact Class’s research leads to new Virginia law A person who calls 911 to report a drug or alcohol overdose now has legal safeguards under Virginia’s new Good Samaritan law, whose passage became a mission for a group of students in the School of Education. Students in Associate Professor Gerard Lawson’s Orientation to Professional Counseling graduate course researched Good Samaritan laws, which allow individuals to seek help for someone who may have overdosed without fear of being arrested themselves—even if they also have been using alcohol or drugs. Lawson contacted Sen. Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax), who drafted and introduced the bill with support from a coalition of organizations and individuals. Lawson testified at a Senate panel hearing on the issue in January during the 2015 General Assembly session. “More than 800 Virginians died from drug overdoses in 2012, and every one of those deaths left behind parents, families, and friends who were devastated by the tragedy,” Lawson said. The new law requires 911 callers to remain at the scene until emergency services arrive and identify themselves to the responding officers. It was passed by the state Senate in January and the House of Delegates in February, then signed into law by Gov. Terry McAuliffe in March. Law enforcement officials emphasized that the new policy, while protecting Good Samaritans, does not provide immunity

for drug dealers. Those who sell substances illegally can still be prosecuted. “It really is very exciting across the board and especially for Virginia Tech and our land-grant mission,” Lawson said in an interview with the Roanoke Times just before the law took effect July 1. “This is exactly what it’s designed to do—to take stuff out of the classroom and move it into the community.” Tori Hayes, a student involved in the project, said the process “was rewarding to me for several reasons. As a student, it made me realize that I truly can impact public policy. … Personally, it was even more meaningful because I had a dear friend who died of a heroin overdose.” This project was just one of many ways that the counselor education program has made an impact. For example, interns work in school and clinical mental health settings across Virginia. “This year, our 21 interns from Falls Church and Roanoke each contributed at least 600 hours of unpaid counseling service to their communities,” Lawson said. “That by itself is a contribution of 12,600 hours of services to vulnerable students and individuals who may not otherwise be able to receive services.” Between interns and practicum students, Lawson estimated a contribution “worth at least $255,000 has been made to the communities in Northern Virginia and the New River and Roanoke valleys.”

CLAHS student award winners Outstanding Doctoral Student—Jennifer Henderson

Outstanding Master’s Student—Thomas Seabrook

A doctoral student in the Department of Science and Technology Society, Jennifer Henderson co-authored two forthcoming publications on science policy and the public arena. Additionally, she wrote several essays on the meaning of space and time in natural environments, and she is an active collaborator with the National Weather Service and the National Center for Atmospheric Research. A faculty member noted that Henderson is “advising both researchers and practitioners about how to better integrate public visions of what they do into how they, in turn, share … research outcomes with public audiences.”

In his master's thesis for the Department of History, Thomas Seabrook focused on Civil War monuments erected in Virginia from 1914 to 1920 and explored the construction of memory in distinct historical circumstances. Through the public history program, Seabrook worked with the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies, the Virginia Tech Undergraduate History Journal, and the Montgomery Museum and Lewis Miller Regional Art Center. Paul Quigley, the James I Robertson, Jr. Associate Professor of Civil War Studies and Seabrook’s advisor, noted, “Tom is a conscientious worker, talented researcher, and skilled writer.”



Marching Virginians return to a home of their own

Over the last 41 years, Virginia Tech’s highly acclaimed marching band has performed for hundreds of nationally televised football games and parades across the United States. When the Marching Virginians—330 members strong—returned to campus this fall, they finally had a place to call home. “The band has lived a nomadic life,” said Dave McKee, who is in his 30th year as director of the Marching Virginians. “The Marching Virginians have practiced at the far end of the recreation fields, inside the track, crammed into the recital salon, under the stadium, in McBryde Hall 100 auditorium, and in the back gym of Cassell Coliseum,” recited McKee, “or a combination thereof in any given season.” That’s just a list of practice locations. Instruments have been stored in multiple facilities—including the former Kmart on South Main Street, the old security building, the basement of Owens, and, most recently, in the baseball bunker. Not only were most places far afield and hard to access, but all of those places “were Port-A-John maintained,” McKee said wryly. Those days are gone. The new Marching Virginians Center, located on Southgate Drive, features a 7,800-square-foot pavilion, restrooms, public address systems, and a full-sized synthetic turf field with lights. There is also storage space that includes shelving appropriate for the smaller instruments and places to hang the tubas. “This entering rookie class will have something that no other Marching Virginian has had before: four seasons of the collegiate marching band experience with a centralized athletic band headquarters,” said Evan Fitts, a junior majoring in political science who plays the clarinet and serves as the band’s public relations officer. “Because of the Marching Virginians Center, the MVs now have a building to call our own. At last,” Fitts said, “there is a home for the Tuba players are generally regardspirit,” referencing the band’s other moniker, “The Spirit of Tech.” ed as the “goofballs and crazies” of The facility was built with help from numerous donations. the band, said McKee, “but there are More than 280 people contributed to help make the project posusually more Eagle scouts in that secsible, including Michael Sciarrino. He played tuba in the band while attending Virginia Tech in the 1980s and was a driving force tion than any other. They are a moin the effort to have the building named for the band’s former tivated bunch – with more serving as director and current arranger, James Sochinski, and McKee, after executive officers over the years than their retirement from the university. any other group. Plus, they know how McKee said that Sochinski, who directed from 1977-93, still gives the band its musical life. “Jim has written in every genre and to have fun.” style, creating challenging and spirited arrangements.”

A note about tuba players


Marching Virginians alumni remember… Members of the Marching Virginians hail from nearly every major in the university, making the organization a true representation of the Virginia Tech community. Participating in the band also provides a unique camaraderie to uncertain freshmen. “Being in the Marching Virginians shaped my college experience,” said Judy McIntire Springer (international studies ’95; communication ’95). “My best memories from Tech involve being in the band, which was essentially my fraternity … and to this day, my best friends from college are my band friends,” said Springer, a member of the Virginia Tech Alumni Association Board of Directors and president of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences Alumni Advisory Board. Springer, who plays the mellophone, remembers not only enduring the cold, the rain, and the wind, but, as days became shorter, being accompanied “by the loud noise of generators running lights for the field.” “I will always remember coming in as a freshman and finding out that the storage facility was a set of old 58-foot trailers— filled with bees,” said tuba player Brian Grieb (music ’11). Bonnie Maccubbin (psychology '84; English '92) recalled, “Our biggest fans were the cows in the next field that would assemble at the fence line to moo out a tune of their own while the band practiced.” Maccubbin, who played piccolo and alto saxophone, also noted, “This new facility gives the band a home—a sense of legitimacy and appreciation—that former band members could only dream of.”

McKee—the driving force Despite playing under some tough conditions over the years, alumni are quick to agree that McKee has poured heart and soul into making the new center a reality. It’s his passion for people that has earned McKee rave reviews.

“I attribute my success as an educator in large part to Dave,” said Grieb, director of bands at Naples High School in Florida. “Dave is the spirit of Tech. He cares so much about each and every student and brings a very diverse group together to form one cohesive unit.” “Dave is like your parent when you’re away at school—he makes sure that everyone is safe, that everyone gets their stuff done, and that you are OK,” said Sarah Hilbert Grieb (urban planning and environmental policy ’10). “Every band member knows that if they have an issue—whether it’s a family issue, a personal issue, a school issue, a health issue— Dave is the person to go to. He may not always be able to fix the issue, but he can give you a dose of perspective on life and get you through. He’s not just a professor—he’s the leader of the MV family.” “To call David McKee a band leader is to miss the bulk contribution of this remarkable man,” said Maccubbin. “While he certainly does build musicians, he is more a builder of character. He is first and foremost a mentor. He is boisterous, funny, caring, yet firm. Always aware that the Marching Virginians represent Virginia Tech, Dave instills in each band member the importance of representing the university with pride and dignity.”

The bottom line… “The new facility will give kids the best possible experience as members of the Marching Virginians,” said McKee. And to steal a line from the famed children's song “Hokey Pokey,” “that’s what it’s all about.”

Spheres magazine College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences (0426) Wallace Hall, Suite 260, Virginia Tech 295 West Campus Drive Blacksburg, VA 24061



Spheres, fall 2015  

Spheres is the annual magazine of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. Learn more at