Faculty and Staff

A portrait of John Provo.



John A. Provo, Ph.D.

John Provo is the director of Virginia Tech's Office of Economic Development. Provo provides leadership for the office in the design and implementation of applied research and technical assistance projects that link university and community resources to address the economic development needs of the Commonwealth. He builds program partnerships and secures funding as a major point of contact between the office, academic departments within the University, federal, state, and local governments, as well as other public and private sector leaders.

Provo develops and manages projects with communities, agencies, and companies around Virginia, on a range of topics. He has developed partnerships between Virginia Tech and entities in the public, private and non-profit sectors to address economic development needs of communities around the Commonwealth. Recent accomplishments include securing more than $10 million in three large federal grants for western Virginia in green jobs and health IT training and curricular development and engineering technical assistance for transportation manufacturing equipment firms.

Provo received his Ph.D. from the School of Urban Studies and Planning at Portland State University. He received a master's degree in Urban and Regional Planning from Virginia Commonwealth University in 1999 and a bachelor's degree in government from the College of William and Mary in 1989. While in Richmond, he worked for Virginia's Secretary of Commerce and Trade on implementation of revisions to the state's workforce development system. He presents regularly before scholarly and professional associations, and maintains affiliations with the American Planning Association, Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning, University Economic Development Association, and Virginia Economic Developers Association.    

Scott Tate, Senior Economic Development Specialist, Economic Development

A portrait of Scott Tate.



Scott Tate, Ph.D.
Associate Director

Dr. Scott Tate joined the Office of Economic Development as senior economic development specialist on August 1, 2014, and was promoted to Associate Director in June, 2016.  Tate comes to the office from Virginia Cooperative Extension, where he served as a community development extension specialist for nine years.

Tate’s new role connects Virginia Tech faculty and resources with businesses and communities in ways that help create, retain and enhance jobs and economic opportunities throughout the Commonwealth and beyond.  Tate’s specific areas of expertise include:  regional development, community economic development, strategic planning and process facilitation, urban change and development, policy analysis and implementation, arts and culture-based development, and entrepreneurship and innovation.

Tate has conducted field research on urban change dynamics in the United States and Northern Ireland and his work has appeared in journals and edited volumes published by Ashgate, ABC-CLIO, and Zeta Books.  He has also researched and written on cultural development and is co-editing (with Virginia Tech faculty member Max Stephenson) and contributing to a forthcoming Routledge volume titled, Arts and Community Change:  Exploring Cultural Development Policies, Practices and Dilemmas.

Dr. Tate is passionate about place-based development. “While every community faces challenges and benefits from external knowledge and resources, places are idea-rich and possess a wealth of assets.  What excites me about my new role is the opportunity to discuss ideas, develop projects, and provide expertise to help regions and communities thrive.”

Tate has directed regional economic development planning efforts, assisted start-up businesses, and consulted for non-profit organizations. He developed the Extension publication, Question and Answer Guide for Starting & Growing Your Small Business in Virginia, now in its second edition.   He also serves as an adjunct instructor in the Virginia Tech Department of Urban Affairs and Planning.

Tate and his family live in Roanoke, where he has been active in development concerns, and completed a three year term as an appointee to the city’s neighborhood commission.

A portrait of Afroze Mohammed.



Afroze Mohammed
Associate Director of Strategic Alliances, National Capital Region

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

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

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

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

Sarah Lyon-Hill Graduate Research Assistant

A portrait of Sarah Lyon-Hill.



Sarah Lyon-Hill
Senior Economic Development Specialist

Sarah Lyon-Hill became an economic development specialist in the office in 2014. As a graduate student in the Office of Economic Development (OED), her work ranged from researching how to most effectively gauge and articulate economic impact of a university system (ongoing); to assisting in an examination of economic and community development opportunities resulting from the creation of a Community Kitchen in the City of Roanoke (2012); to facilitating a community meeting in the Town of Tazewell to develop a community-driven vision for economic development (2013); to leading a team of faculty in a feasibility study for a possible viticulture and ecology center in Loudoun County (2014).

Now as a full-time specialist, her role is to link university expertise and resources with the commonwealth’s communities and industries. Lyon-Hill can provide support and insight into projects requiring feasibility studies, economic impact analyses, market analyses as well as broader content specific program coordination in which the client, OED and Virginia Tech faculty work closely to design and development a project to meet the needs of the clients and involved community stakeholders.

Lyon-Hill’s background lies in international and community development, where she studied and engaged in collaborative governance and non-profit activities. As a Peace Corps volunteer in Niger, she worked with individuals and organizations to coordinate community projects such as a women’s micro financing project. Her experience culminated in a master thesis which explored how education policy is adapted at the local level and ways in which local entities may better collaborate both locally and regionally to improve education within their communities. Now as a third year PhD student in Virginia Tech’s School of Public and International Affairs, Sarah pursues her interest in community development by studying methods of encouraging greater community collaborate, connectivity and bottom-up reform through the theatre arts.

Elli Travis

A portrait of Elli Travis.



Elli Travis
Economic Development Specialist

Elli Travis works to connect communities across Virginia to resources within the university through applied research programs and introductions of businesses and community members to faculty. She is passionate about working with organizations to plan and evaluate their work in a way that is consistent with their mission and goals, especially in the areas of agricultural and community development. Examples of her work at OED include economic impact analyses, strategic planning for non-profit organizations and economic development authorities, and visioning and feasibility studies. She is also the lead evaluator of Catalyst, a program that connects VT faculty and students with regional business owners around technology commercialization and proof of concept services.

Prior to moving to the New River Valley in 2013, Travis coordinated international development projects in the areas of economic training, health, monitoring and evaluation, disaster management, and gender and social inclusion for an international development consulting firm. A native of Washington, DC, Travis received a Master’s degree from Virginia Tech in Agricultural and Applied Economics in 2015. She received a bachelor’s degree in Economics and Russian from Indiana University, Bloomington. She is currently pursuing a PhD at Virginia Tech in Agricultural, Leadership, and Community Education with a focus on program impact evaluation. 

A portrait of Albert Alwang



Albert Alwang
Economic Development Specialist

Albert started his position as an economic development specialist in September, 2017. A Blacksburg native, he attended Blacksburg High School and later received a B.A in Economics from Virginia Tech in 2011. Upon graduation from Virginia Tech he began his career working in international development agencies, conducting research on international agriculture, health, and trade policy, program evaluation, economic impact analyses, and improving the effectiveness of development aid programs.

In 2015, he started a master’s program in Agricultural Economics at Purdue University. While pursuing his graduate degree, he researched the causations and consequences of migration on the wellbeing of small-holder farmers in Malawi. After he graduated from his master’s program, he joined the office early in the summer of 2017 as a research assistant, and provided research support on several ongoing projects within the department. Now in his new role as an economic development specialist, he plans on pursuing his interests in rural community and economic development with particular focus on economic modeling and forecasting, the impacts of trade on regional development, and using agriculture and natural resources assets as a driver for growth.

a photo of doris



Doris J. Waddell
Program Support Technician

Doris began her career at the Office of Economic Development in 2003.  A native of the New River Valley, Doris has also called Dallas and Atlanta home. During her 12 years in Dallas, Doris worked as the assistant Coordinator for the Career Development Center at Skyline Center, a magnet school with over 4,000 students. After relocating to Atlanta, Doris worked as a contract administrator for a regional equipment supplier for the municipal water industry, where she became familiar with multi-million dollar budgets and contract language.

In her current role as Program Support Tech, Doris works alongside the director and specialists on the varied economic development projects in communities and municipalities across the state. She also manages the federal and state grant budgets and oversees the day-to-day management of the office. She holds an AAS degree in Computer Information Systems and a bachelor’s degree in Business Management and Leadership.

In 2007, Doris was nominated for the President's Award for Excellence. In January, 2008, she was the Virginia Tech employee of the month, and in December, 2008, she won the Virginia Tech Outreach Employee Recognition Award for cost savings and initiative. In her spare time Doris enjoys painting, gardening, reading science fiction, and watching VT football.

Jennifer Morgan


Jennifer Morgan

Communications Coordinator




Jennifer Morgan joined the Office of Economic Development as the Communication’s Coordinator in June 2018. Combining her desires to connect with people and engage in communities, she works diligently to lead the team in developing communication and outreach strategies to help advance the office’s broad impact through sharing effective ideas and practices throughout the state, country, and world.

Prior to joining the Office of Economic Development, Jennifer earned her Master’s in Public Administration and a Bachelor’s in International Affairs both with focuses in community and economic development from James Madison University. Jennifer spent time volunteering in Nicaragua and saw firsthand how impactful community and economic development can be in a community. Her experiences led her on the path to a career in community wealth building and economic growth. In her role now, she uses her previous experiences to connect people and communities to resources, faculty, and staff within the Virginia Tech network to broaden engagement.

New to the Blacksburg and New River Valley region, in her free time Jennifer likes to explore the natural beauty that surrounds the region to discover new and exciting places.

Graduate Research Assistants

image of josh standing against hokie stone wall




Ross Hammes

Graduate Research Assistant


Ross was born and raised in Roanoke, Virginia, where he lived until moving to Blacksburg where he completed a bachelor's degree in Geography focusing on Geospatial and Environmental Analysis in 2017. He is now a student in the Masters of Urban and Regional Planning program at Virginia Tech where he plans to focus his studies on clean renewable energy and green infrastructure. He aims to better understand complex natural and human systems using geographic information systems as a tool set and sustainability as a mindset. In his work, he primarily focuses on sustainable economic development, green job growth, and building stronger communities. His other interests include using earth observation techniques to promote environmental conservation, conservative land-use, biodiversity, ecosystem functionality, natural resource management and assessment, such as using forests as carbon sinks in the fight against global climate change. The impact he hopes to make on the world ultimately comes down to the smiles on the faces of those he helps in the present and those he wishes to help in the future. 

Ross enjoys working with a group of people that also aspire to not only grow the surrounding community, but the world around us. He also enjoys canoeing, camping, hiking, and doing other outdoor activities with his girlfriend, friends, and dog Esri. 

A portrait of Khushboo Gupta.



Khushboo Gupta
Graduate Research Assistant

Khushboo was born and brought up in Kanpur, a city in Uttar Pradesh, India and believes her life is an example of Odysseus in the poem The Odyssey by Constantine P. Cavafy. In this poem the author describes one’s journey towards the final goal in life and how important it is to truly enjoy the journey and use it to be wealthy with experience and wisdom.

After completing a masters in Civil Engineering from Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur, Khushboo joined Virginia Tech in 2015 as a PhD student in School of Public and International Affairs. She became a part of the Office of Economic Development in 2016. Her research area focuses on Smart City Development in developing countries.

Khushboo enjoys travelling, watching films, swimming and heading out on trails with friends in leisure time.

A portrait of Ronnie Stephenson.



Ronnie Stephenson
Graduate Research Assistant

Ronnie Stephenson is from Grand Blanc, Michigan. She recently graduated from Western Michigan University with her Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice with a minor in Addiction Studies. For two years, she worked for the Michigan House of Representatives as a legislative aid, where she wrote policy, assisted in constituent work, and did some field work. Afterwards, she worked for the Kalamazoo County Government as a program assistant and community liaison for Nurse Family Partnership. She now attends Virginia Tech as a dual-Master’s student, studying for her Master’s in Public Administration and Urban and Regional Planning. During her time studying, she also works for the Office of Economic Development at Virginia Tech as a Graduate Assistant. When not in school or working, she enjoys spending time with her three dogs, hiking, and golfing.