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Faculty Fellows

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About our Faculty Fellows program

The goal of the VT Engage Faculty Fellows program is to increase the prevalence of and quality of community engagement in the curriculum at Virginia Tech through curricular, faculty-led experiences in the areas of service learning, leadership education, and civic engagement.

Selected Fellows will join other scholar-educators dedicated to integrating high-impact, ethical community-based learning experiences in their academic courses and programs. Fellows will receive financial resources and technical support from VT Engage during the one-year program (June 2021 to June 2022.)

Learn more about our 2020-21 Faculty Fellows, Craig Arthur and Natalie E. Cook in this VT Daily article.

Thank you to everyone who applied to the 2021-22 cycle. Applicants will be notified of the status of their application by June 1, 2021.

Questions and Accommodations Requests: all questions about the program or the application process can be directed to Catherine Cotrupi at cotrupi@vt.edu or 540-231-9186. If you are an individual with a disability and need an accommodation for any part of the application process, welcome! Please reach out to Catherine with any requests.

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Spr21_VTEngage_FacultyFellowsApp.pdf
  • This program is open to any full-time, instructional or Administrative/Professional faculty member at Virginia Tech.
  • Proposed courses may be at the undergraduate or graduate level.
  • Graduate students are not eligible.
  • No previous VT Engage Faculty Fellows are eligible for this program.
  • Applications will be accepted from individual faculty members or faculty teams. Interdisciplinary teams and teams from single departments are encouraged to apply. Team proposals should create community-based learning experiences across course sequences or curricula.

Focused Investment: Individual faculty may request up to $13,000 in support of the development process or $26,000 for a team.

Partnership Development: Fellows will have designated time to invest in local, regional, or global partnerships with nonprofits and/or government entities to create mutually beneficial community-based learning programs. Fellows will have access to VT Engage networks of community partners and/or they can use their own connections to develop new relationships or enhance existing relationships with partners.

Learning Community: Fellows will have opportunities to seek feedback and support from a growing body of faculty with expertise in experiential learning, community engagement, leadership education, civic engagement, and service programs. This diverse community can assist the Fellows as they strengthen courses, test innovative pedagogies, and collaborate on projects to advance the scholarship of engagement, teaching, and learning.

Increased Visibility: VT Engage will showcase the community-based work of each fellow or team at key points during the project lifecycle. Fellows will have access to mini grants that may be used for course materials, professional development, conference registration, and travel.

Develop new community-based learning course(s)/program(s) or add substantial community-based learning elements to existing courses/programs. Courses/programs must be offered at least once in the program cycle and twice in the three academic years following course development.

Meet monthly during the funding cycle with VT Engage and the Faculty Fellows cohort to discuss progress, challenges, and strategies.

Establish a sustainable and mutually beneficial learning program with at least one community partner, typically nonprofit or government entities.

Create an assessment plan to document student learning and community outcomes.

Present about the project and/or course development at a conference or professional meeting focused on the scholarship of engagement, teaching, or learning (e.g., Conference on Higher Education Pedagogy).

Collaborate with VT Engage to publicize the project in appropriate outlets.

Share experiences with developing and teaching a service-learning course with other interested faculty and future Faculty Fellows candidates.

Submit a mid-term and final report to VT Engage documenting the results of course and partnership development relative to the original proposal and the proposed teaching schedule.

Proposal/Concept Paper (<2,500 words), including:

Course/program description to be developed or redesigned
  • If team proposal, indicate why coordinated development is desirable
  • How will community-based learning pedagogies support specific student learning goals?
  • How will you ensure that students will learn about the societal issues or social justice perspectives in-depth and/or from multiple perspectives?
  • How do you anticipate the course or program’s academic content and the community-based learning experiences will be linked?
  • How will you structure this to ensure that students will learn the content more deeply or rigorously than if they did not participate?
Vision for how the course/program will engage students and community partners
  • Anticipated community partner(s)
  • Proposed projects: clear and substantive need, issue, or initiative that the community or partner has identified and that contributes to the public good
  • Anticipated support needed from VT Engage.

Connections to broader curriculum or university initiatives such as Destination Areas, Strategic Growth Areas, Pathways to General Education, Aspirations for Student Learning, etc.

Anticipated course/program development and offering timeline

Self-assessment:

  • Primary Barriers to Success
  • What other expertise would be necessary for success (such as campus units, community partners, etc.)?

Budget: Individual faculty may request up to $13,000 in support of the development process or $26,000 for a team. Budget transfers to faculty members’ departments will be made in installments.

Faculty Profile: For each faculty member, provide a brief biographical sketch (1 page maximum) including any similar or related courses taught and level of experience with community-based learning.

Letter(s) of Support from Department and Community Organizations:

  • Each application must provide evidence of support from the department chair(s) associated with the course(s) and/or faculty member(s).
  • Specifically, the letter should affirm departmental intent to offer the courses under development. Proposals should include letters of support from community organizations (if partners are identified).

Additional Requirement for Teams: For team applications, please submit the email address and telephone number for the team’s primary point of contact along with a list of courses and who will teach them.

Course/Program Proposal Quality: The quality of course/program proposals will be scored based on the clarity of learning goals for students, the relevance of community-based learning pedagogy, the depth of the community engagement experience for students, and the vision for benefit to the community. Proposals that include active, ongoing student reflection as part of the course design are preferred, as are proposals that address assessment of student learning outcomes.

Community Engagement: Points will be awarded based on the plan for involving community in the identification of community needs/initiatives, strategies, and outcomes presented in the concept paper. Proposals that identify authentic, meaningful roles for community members during the project are preferred, as are proposals that address assessment of community outcomes.

Feasibility and Sustainability: Proposals deemed to have a high probability of implementation success will be favored—including departmental support, support from community partners, faculty/team, and consideration of ongoing costs. Proposals that explicitly address efforts to sustain the partnership will be favored. Opportunities for continuing, post-course engagement between faculty, students, and community members are preferred.

VT Linkages: Points will be awarded for proposals with clear linkages to broader and relevant university and college initiatives including, but not limited to: Destination Areas, Strategic Growth Areas, and Pathways to General Education. Additionally, proposals aligned with VT Engage’s core values will be favored.

Self-Reflection: Faculty have a clear understanding of the supplemental coursework and reflection that will need to be integrated into the curriculum to support student learning and community-based pedagogies in connection to difficult and challenging societal issues. Has identified potential barriers associated with community engagement and discussed plans for support.

2020-21 Faculty Fellows

A headshot of a smiling Craig Arthur wearing a baseball hat and cardigan.

Craig Arthur is the head of foundational instruction and community engagement for University Libraries and is our first A.P. Faculty member to be chosen as a VT Engage Faculty Fellow. His project focuses on the co-curricular program, VTDITC: Hip Hop Studies at Virginia Tech, which collaborates with a wide variety of community organizations to offer hands-on experiential workshops that celebrate STEAM ingenuity and explain the systemic oppression that created hip hop culture.

These workshops are co-lead by a team of Virginia Tech students with varying expertise; they work closely with faculty, staff, and community members from a variety of disciplines. The Fellows project will work to develop the critical consciousness of the students participating in the program with regard to a community-engagement mindset, and will also support research and scholarship coming out of the program as well. The program will have a more sustained, scaffolded curriculum with significantly more substantial assessment practices.

A headshot of a smiling Natalie Cook who is wearing a colorful headband and black sweater.

Natalie Cook is an assistant professor for the public health department and is redesigning her PHS 5644: Program Evaluation course so that it has a critical, community-engaged focus.

Students will be developing knowledge and skills on the entire evaluation process (needs assessment, program design, logic models, evaluation planning, data collection, analysis, reporting, etc.), with a focus on leveraging evaluation for social transformation. Partners will receive support on evaluation-related activities, to be determined closer to the spring semester and in conjunction with the students and partners.

Projects and programs can be at any stage of the process, and students can focus on what would be most beneficial to the community programs for their final “deliverable(s)”. The course will also be teaching students to have a more broad definition of health and wellness and can encompass anything human- or community-oriented.

2019-20 Faculty Fellows

Formal headshot of Dr. Matthew Komelski

Matthew Komelski, Ph.D.

Dr. Komelski is an advanced instructor of human development and family science. His research focuses on lifespan development, gerontology and mind-body/psychophysical practices. He routinely teaches courses on child development, aging, mid-body health and human services. Dr. Komelski holds a Ph.D. from Virginia Tech in human development.

As a VT Engage Faculty Fellow, Dr. Komelski plans to develop a Peer Mentor program to support his Principles of Human Services (HD 2335) course that involves approximately 100 students across more than a dozen sites in the New River Valley. The Peer Mentors will provide support to community partners when working with student volunteers by serving as a leader and mentor to service learning students.

The Peer Mentors will connect with and provide guidance to the volunteers on how to engage in meaningful ways, participate in professional development focused on community engagement, leadership and collaborate on how to improve the program. The hope is that this pilot year working with Warm Hearth and the Lunch Buddies program at Margaret Beeks and Harding Elementary School will provide a model for how to expand this program in the future.

Image of Dr. Karen Kovaka

Karen Kovaka, Ph.D.

Dr. Kovaka is an assistant professor of philosophy. Her research is all about life science and environmental science, and considers questions such as how do disciplines like biology and ecology manage to come to grips with the messy, chaotic, and complex phenomena that they study? How can we use results from these sciences to solve social and environmental problems? What does the general public need to know about life science and environmental science? Dr. Kovaka holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania.

As a VT Engage Faculty Fellow, Dr. Kovaka is developing a course called Philosophy of Environmental Conservation. The aim of the course is to equip students to investigate core principles of contemporary environmental conservation movements.

Formal headshot of Dr. Frederick Paige

Frederick Paige, Ph.D.

Dr. Paige is the assistant director of the Virginia Center for Housing Research and an assistant professor at Virginia Tech in the Vecellio Construction Engineering and Management Program. His main scholarship goal is to create the knowledge needed to develop an informed public that lives in a sustainable built environment. Previous work with a variety of utility companies, sustainability nonprofits, and educational institutions has provided Dr. Paige with a versatile toolkit of knowledge and skills needed to address a diverse range of civil engineering issues. His main areas of work focus on social phenomena related to high-efficiency homes and sustainable communities. Dr. Paige holds a Ph.D. in civil engineering from Clemson University.

As a VT Engage Faculty Fellow, Dr. Paige will integrate social (in) justice and community engagement into two engineering courses, CEE 3014 Construction Management and CEE 5984 Policy Making for Infrastructure. Specifically, in the CEE 5984 Policy Making for Infrastructure course he will have students work directly with community stakeholders who are currently fighting gentrification.

2017-19 Faculty Fellows

Dr. Elizabeth Austin

Dr. Austin is an associate professor of Spanish in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures. Her research centers on 19th-century Spanish American literature and culture, with a focus on authority, gender, and scientific discourse. Her teaching includes subjects such as 19th- to 21st-century literature, history and culture, South America and the Hispanic Caribbean, and U.S. Latino communities. In her research and teaching, Dr. Austin addresses diversity, cultural multiplicity, and social justice issues throughout the Hemisphere. Dr. Austin holds a Ph.D. in romance languages, Hispanic studies from the University of Pennsylvania.

As a VT Engage Faculty Fellow, Dr. Austin implemented a new service-learning course in Spanish, called Community through Service: Latino NRV, where students learned about the Hispanic communities in the U.S. through volunteering to increase literacy within that community.

Formal headshot of Dr. C. L. Bohannon

Dr. Bohannon is an assistant professor of landscape architecture in the School of Architecture and Design. His research focuses on the relationship between community engagement and design education and building methodological approaches that can enhance community-university relationships in the design process.

Through his research, Dr. Bohannon works in the landscape context of community history and identity, environmental (in)justice, and community learning. He holds a Ph.D. in architecture and design research: landscape architecture from Virginia Tech.

As a VT Engage Faculty Fellow, Dr. Bohannon developed a new course, titled Landscapes of Social & Environmental [In]Justice: Engaging for Progressive Change, in which students explore the history of social and environmental justice movements and their relationship to both the historical and contemporary forces that impact marginalized communities. He also implemented a community engagement lab.

Kimberly Carlson, Interim Center Director/Instructor, Management. Pamplin.

Dr. Kimberly Carlson

Dr. Carlson is an assistant professor of practice in management and the director of the Business Leadership Center in the management department of the Pamplin College of Business. Her teaching and research experiences include leadership and organizational and workforce development in national and local organizations, governments, and universities. She holds a Ph.D. in public administration and policy from Virginia Tech.

As a VT Engage Faculty Fellow, Dr. Carlson established a course called Leadership for Managers and Entrepreneurs, which is an introductory leadership course that serves as a foundation for a new Pathways Minor in Organizational Leadership. This course explores a broad range of concepts and theories important for a basic understanding of leadership skills for managers and entrepreneurs.

Dr. Matthew Eick

Dr. Eick is a professor in the Department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences. His teaching and research experiences include environmental soil chemistry, and service learning courses which focus on the impact of human activities and climate change on ecosystems. He holds a Ph.D. in environmental soil chemistry from the University of Delaware.

As a VT Engage Faculty Fellow, Dr. Eick created the Ecosystems, Health, and Culture Alternative Pathway, which is a 9-credit program in the College Agricultural and Life Sciences that examines the connection between ecosystems and the services they provide to communities, cultural impact on the environment, and the pathways associated with human and animal health risks.

Jacob Richard Grohs, Instructor, BEAM/ESM, Engineering Education Department.

Dr. Jacob Grohs

Dr. Grohs is an assistant professor of engineering education with affiliate faculty status in learning sciences and technologies and biomedical engineering and mechanics (BEAM). Prior to beginning as tenure-track faculty in 2015, he served as an instructor in BEAM, and before that as associate director of engaged learning and scholarship with VT Engage. His research primarily focuses on understanding and designing educational environments that foster the problem-solving skills, complex reasoning capacities, and socio-ethical competencies necessary to address the significant interdisciplinary challenges in the professional world. He holds a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction from Virginia Tech.

As a VT Engage Faculty Fellow, Dr. Grohs restructured various aspects of the course Foundations of Engineering II, in order to provide students with an integrated community engagement experience by incorporating real community needs and working with organizations in major course assignments.

2014-15 Faculty Fellows

Formal headshot of Dr. Sarah Misyak

Dr. Misyak is a postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She holds bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in human nutrition, foods, and exercise from Virginia Tech. Dr. Misyak is a management team member for the Appalachian Foodshed Project and a board member of Friends of the Farmers Market.

As a VT Engage Faculty Fellow, she supported a summer internship program by creating two courses that “prepared nutrition students for entering community settings and working with diverse populations”.

Formal headshot of Dr. Takumi Sato

Dr. Sato is a clinical assistant professor in the School of Education. He holds a doctorate in curriculum, instruction and teacher education with a focus in science education from Michigan State University and a bachelor’s degree in biology from Washington University. Dr. Sato previously served as a graduate assistant for the Journal of Research in Science Teaching.

As a VT Engage Faculty Fellow, he revamped his course Dynamics of the 21st Century Classroom, which prepares students for the challenges facing today’s teachers. Dr. Sato increased the number of service hours to 20 per semester and incorporated more robust reflection activities.

Formal headshot of Dr. Brett Shadle

Dr. Shadle is an associate professor in the Department of History in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. Dr. Shadle holds a doctorate in African history from Northwestern University and bachelor’s degree in philosophy and political science from Northern Illinois University.

As a VT Engage Faculty Fellow, he offered a new course in fall 2014 called Development and Humanitarianism in Africa, which “ traced the history of western involvement in Africa”. The course offered an opportunity for students to work with resettled refugees in Roanoke via the student-led Coalition for Refugee Resettlement. He is the Director of Service-Learning Kakuma, an experiential learning program at the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya.