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Faculty Fellows

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Faculty Fellow program

The goal of the program is to increase the prevalence of and quality of service learning in the curriculum at Virginia Tech through curricular, faculty-led experiences. These experiences can include community-based work 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 to June.)

During the program, VT Engage supports the design of high-quality community engagement experiences. Fellows collaborate with community organizations to create or enhance mutually beneficial partnerships, build assessment strategies for student learning and community outcomes, and serve as community engagement ambassadors to the Virginia Tech community.

Fellows will present the development of their course and their findings to peers and will engage with broader scholarly and practitioner audiences.

Questions about the program?

All questions can be directed to VT Engage Assistant Director for Campus & Community Engagement, Catherine Cotrupi, at or 540-231-9186.

  • This program is open to any full-time teaching or administrative and professional faculty member at Virginia Tech. 
  • Graduate students are not eligible. 
  • 2019-20 VT Engage Faculty Fellows are ineligible for this cycle of awards. 
  • Proposed courses may be at the undergraduate or graduate level. 
  • Applications will be accepted from individual faculty members or faculty teams. Interdisciplinary teams or teams from single departments are all 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 to create mutually beneficial community-based learning programs. Fellows will have access to VT Engage networks of community collaborators and can develop or enhance existing relationships with governmental and non-governmental partners.
  • Learning Community: Fellows will have opportunities to seek feedback and support from a growing body of faculty with expertise in community-engaged experiential learning. This diverse community can provide assistance as Fellows 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. 
  • Develop new community-based learning course(s) or add substantial community-based learning elements to existing courses in the areas of service-learning, leadership education, and/or civic engagement. Course(s) must be offered at least once in the program cycle and twice in the three academic years following course development.
  • Meet monthly with the cohort to discuss progress, challenges, and strategies.
  • Establish a sustainable and mutually beneficial community-based learning program with at least one community partner.
  • Present about the work at a conference or professional meeting focused on the scholarship of engagement, teaching, or learning. Share experiences with developing and teaching a service-learning, leadership education, or civic engagement course with interested faculty.
  • Create an assessment plan to document student learning and community outcomes.
  • Collaborate with VT Engage to publicize the project in appropriate outlets. 
  • Submit a mid-term and final report documenting the results of course and partnership development relative to the original proposal and the proposed teaching schedule.


  1. Proposal/Concept Paper (<2500 words), including: 
    1. Course description to be developed/redesigned
      1. If team proposal, indicate why coordinated development is desirable
      2. How will community-based learning pedagogies support specific student learning goals?
      3. How will you ensure that students will learn about the societal issues or social justice perspectives in depth and/or from multiple perspectives?
      4. How do you anticipate the course’s academic content and the community-based learning experiences will be linked?
      5. How will you structure this to ensure that students will learn the academic content more deeply or rigorously than if they did not participate?
    2. Vision for how the course(s) will engage students and community partners
      1. Anticipated community partner(s)
      2. Proposed projects: include the clear and substantive need or issue that the community or partner has identified and that contributes to the public good
      3. Anticipated support needed from VT Engage
      4. Connections to broader curriculum or university initiatives such as: Destination Areas or Strategic Growth Areas, Pathways to General Education, VT-Shaped Student, Aspirations for Student Learning, etc.
    3. Anticipated course development and offering timeline
      1. Self-assessment
      2. Primary Barriers to Success 
        1. What other expertise would be necessary for success? (Academic Units/Offices, Community Partners) 
  2. 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 based upon the type of project and program needs.
  3. Faculty Profiles: 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. 
    1. Letter(s) of Support from Department & Community Organizations: 
      1. 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. 
  4. If partners are identified, include letters of support from the organizations.
  5. Additional Requirement for Teams: submit the email address and phone number for the team’s primary point of contact as well as a list of courses and who will teach them. 
  • Course Proposal Quality (35 points): the quality of course proposals will be scored based on the clarity of learning goals for students, the relevance of community-based learning pedagogy, the depth of the 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 (25 points): points will be awarded based on the plan for involving community in the identification of community needs, 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 (25 points): proposals deemed to have a high probability of implementation success will be favored—including departmental support, support from ommunity 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 campus and community are preferred.
  • Self-Reflection (15 points): 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 challenging societal issues. Has identified potential barriers associated with community engagement and discussed plans for support.

All questions can be directed to VT Engage Assistant Director for Campus & Community Engagement, Catherine Cotrupi, at or 540-231-9186.  If you are an individual with a disability & desire an accommodation, welcome! For requests related to submitting this application, please contact Catherine during regular business hours.

If you anticipate needing accommodations during the program period, we are glad to discuss any needs before or after your application is submitted. Our goal is to remove whatever barriers possible for faculty members (and the students they work with) to be able to fully participate in the program.

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.