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Faculty, Staff, and Student Researchers

Conaway Haskins


Trey Gordner
Student Researcher

Trey Gordner is a master’s student in urban and regional planning at Virginia Tech's Arlington campus. Before joining OED as a graduate assistant, Trey spent 5 years running his own business, a marketing technology company for public libraries ( He graduated with honors in 2013 from the University of South Carolina (B.S.B.A., International Business) and is a Scrum-certified software product manager (CSPO). Trey's interests include tinkering in Python, language learning, local politics, and sailing. He also serves on the boards of FairVote Virginia and USC's McNair Institute and leads a small group with his wife at The District Church. After graduation, he wants to found or join another startup to develop software for smart cities.

Conaway Haskins


Conaway Haskins
Extension Specialist, Economic Development

Conaway B. Haskins III has spent over 15 years in leadership roles at the nexus of economic development, government affairs and nonprofit management at the local, state, and national levels. He currently serves as the statewide Extension Specialist for Economic Development at Virginia Tech where he initiates and leads a number of partnerships and programs for Virginia Cooperative Extension and the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics.

Conaway regularly provides applied research, technical assistance, and training opportunities for community leaders, policymakers, and university personnel on a variety of policy and planning issues related to community and economic development. He holds appointments as a Fellow of the Virginia Tech Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability and the Virginia Tech Center for Food Systems and Community Transformation. He is based at the Virginia Tech Richmond Center campus.

Conaway previously served as Executive Director of the Virginia Community Economic Network, a nonprofit organization promoting entrepreneurship, placemaking and social innovation strategies for community and economic development; he successfully led the merger of that organization into Virginia Tech. He also held a variety of organizational and project leadership roles for Virginia State University, the Council on Foundations, the US Senate, and the Cameron Foundation. He began his career as an economic and workforce development researcher at the Aspen Institute in Washington, DC.

Conaway currently serves on the board of directors of the Center for a Better South and is a member of the Professional Development, Program and Public Policy Committees of the Virginia Economic Developers Association. He earned a Master of Regional Planning degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a Bachelor of Arts in Government & Politics from George Mason University, and is currently completing a PhD in Planning, Governance and Globalization at Virginia Tech.

Zach Jackson Pic


Zach Jackson
Economic Development Specialist

Zach Jackson serves as an economic development specialist for the Virginia Tech Office of Economic Development. Zach is a recent graduate of Virginia Tech, where he earned his undergraduate degree in Urban Planning in 2018 and Masters of Urban and Regional Planning in 2019. Zach strives to support economic development efforts throughout the state by applying both his professional and educational experience and passion for positive change and economic opportunity. 

A portrait of John Provo.


Julia Kell
Communications Specialist

Julia Kell joined the office as the Communications Assistant in October 2019. A recent graduate from Radford University with a degree in English and Professional Writing, Julia is passionate about story-telling, art, Appalachian Studies, and Shakespeare.

As a sophomore Julia took an Appalachian Studies class, which ignited an interest in the region around her and introduced her to faculty members that would later become important mentors. During her junior year, Julia and a classmate participated in an oral history collection project in Dante, VA - once a bustling coal town – where they each interviewed six seniors in the community.

After transcribing their interviews, they traveled to the Appalachian Teaching Project conference in Washington D.C. and the Appalachian Studies Association conference in Cincinnati, Ohio to help present Dante's stories and suggest revitalization plans for the town. From the project, Julia learned the importance of providing individuals a space in which to share their memories and perspectives. She learned how fascinating and vibrant the community around her is and how stories are often hiding just within reach.

Julia was an editor and writer for Radford University’s online magazine Whim and the website bSmart Guide where she sought to create content that was clear, engaging, and thought-provoking. She hopes to continue to hone her writing and editing skills in her new position.

In her free time, Julia enjoys drawing in her sketchbook, listening to music, and playing with her pets.  

Sarah Lyon-Hill Graduate Research Assistant

A portrait of Sarah Lyon-Hill.


Sarah Lyon-Hill, Ph.D
Senior Economic Development Specialist

As Senior Economic Development Specialist, Sarah Lyon-Hill specializes in cultivating viable solutions for community and economic challenges by integrating community and industry input, university resources and data-driven analysis. She works across disciplines to engage key stakeholders, collecting and interpreting both quantitative and qualitative data to provide multiple perspectives and garner the greatest impact.

Sarah has significant expertise in understanding community impact and much of her research investigates how to most effectively gauge and articulate the social and economic impacts of different organizations, initiatives, and technologies.

Some of her recent work has been in the autonomous systems field, exploring how a technology can impact a particular region or industries. For the past several years, she has led the office’s development of Quarterly Workforce Reports for three Workforce Development Areas in Southwest Virginia. She has also conducted opportunity assessments and strategic planning processes, including an agritourism opportunity analysis for James Madison’s Montpelier in Orange County, VA. Finally, Sarah has focused on examining entrepreneurial ecosystems through a grant from the Kauffman Foundation that outlines the different types of entrepreneurs, the resources they utilize, how to foster entrepreneurship, and the metrics with which to measure the system.

Over the past decade, Sarah has worked both nationally and internationally in the fields of community and economic development. She joined the Office of Economic Development as a graduate student in 2011 and became an economic development specialist in 2014. During these years, she has proved herself an invaluable asset to the team through her tenacity, dedication to research and caring engagement with those she serves.

Beyond her work in Virginia, Sarah also served in Northwest Africa as a Peace Corps worker, leading many community groups and facilitating vision and strategy meetings. Her work led to collaborative projects such as a community kindergarten, a region-wide birth certificate writing campaign, and a goat microfinance lending program across five women’s groups. Sarah has her Ph.D. in Planning, Governance, and Globalization, where she examined the changing national dynamics and roles of arts-based community organizations in community and economic development. She holds a master’s degree from Virginia Tech in Urban and Regional Planning from Virginia Tech, as well as bachelor’s degrees in French and International Relations from Beloit College.

Neda Moayerian


Neda Moayerian, Ph.D
Post-Doctoral Researcher

Neda Moayerian received her Ph.D in Planning, Governance, and Globalization at the School of Public and International Affairs with a focus on international development and community building especially through cultural activities. She is also a member of the Virginia Tech Institute for Policy and Governance (IPG). Neda graduated with her Bachelor’s in Urban Planning from the Art University of Tehran, Iran and a Master’s in Urban Management from the University of Tehran. In her free time, she enjoys swimming, reading, and watching movies.

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 M.B.A. from the Yale School of Management and a B.A. in Economics, summa cum laude, from Georgetown University.

Margaret Cowell

Margaret Cowell, Ph.D
Associate Professor of Urban Affairs and Planning

Margaret Cowell, PhD is an Associate Professor of Urban Affairs and Planning at Virginia Tech where she teaches courses on economic development, urban economics, and public policy. Dr. Cowell previously worked for the Buffalo Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and was also a member of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation-funded research project, “Building Resilient Regions.” She is currently a co-PI for Virginia Tech’s National Science Foundation Research Traineeship (NRT) program on Disaster Resilience and Risk Management. She is the author of Dealing with Deindustrialization: Adaptive Resilience in American Midwestern Regions (Routledge 2014) and has published numerous peer-reviewed articles focused on economic resilience, economic restructuring, and economic development. She is a frequent collaborator with colleagues in Virginia Tech’s Office of Economic Development, including a co-edited book (with Sarah Lyon-Hill) about the ties that bind Virginians across the urban-rural spectrum. Dr. Cowell’s research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, Kauffman Foundation, National Association of Counties, and the United States Economic Development Administration. She holds a Ph.D in City and Regional Planning from Cornell University, Master of Urban Planning from SUNY Buffalo, and B.A. in Urban Studies from Brown University.

Elena Muraca


Elena Muraca
Project Coordinator

Elena Muraca joined the office as the Project Coordinator in April 2019. A recent graduate of Virginia Tech’s Public and Urban Affairs program, her undergraduate research focused on sustainable development, intersectional urban policy, and equitable economic practices.

Early on in her academic career, Elena was introduced to urban theorists such as Jane Jacobs and William H. Whyte, two of the many figures who impacted the lens in which she saw the world. When it comes to developing strong urban and rural communities, Elena deeply values the importance of citizen input and collaborations between diverse stakeholders. This way of approaching the planning process was heavily influenced from her time at Piedmont Virginia Community College where she helped to organize ways for her fellow peers to develop political agency in local and state politics. While interning for the Senior Policy Director at D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development, she channeled this passion for highlighting community through developing a personal blog, Jane’s Theory, where she began writing articles related to urban and economic policy, as well as record podcasts. In her most recent podcast funded by the Virginia Tech Honors College and the Policy Strategic Growth Area (PSGA), Elena had the honor of traveling the country from Houston to Boston to New York to interview former colleagues of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on a philosophy entitled the Beloved Community. This research has led her to develop a strong sense for what it takes to nurture a shared sense of belonging in any given neighborhood.  

Elena’s passion for Urban Planning has taken her all over the world, from districts across China to London to attend the Conscious Cities Festival at the Bartlett School of Architecture. Now at OED, Elena channels her research experience into providing coordination, administrative, and research support for projects in the office.

In her free time, Elena enjoys listening to NPR, taking on interior design projects, writing music, reading, and spending time outside. 

Ashley Posthumus


Ashley Posthumus
Research Associate

Ashley Posthumus recently received her master’s degree in urban and regional planning with a particular focus in economic development from Virginia Tech. Previously, she received a B.S. in human geography and environmental science from the University of McMaster in Ontario, Canada. Ashely served as a Graduate Assistant at OED prior to her time as Research Associate. During her time as a GA, Ashely contributed to a number of projects, including OED’s quarterly workforce reports, national research on unmanned aircraft, an economic gardening study in Botetourt County, and others. She has established herself as a valuable member of OED’s dynamic team, lending her skills in quantitative and qualitative analysis as well as her thoughtful insight and keen attention to detail. With her free time, she enjoys hiking, road trips, exploring new restaurants with friends and spending time with her dog, Radar. 

Sarah Lyon-Hill Graduate Research Assistant

A portrait of Sarah Lyon-Hill.


John A. Provo, Ph.D.

John Provo is the director of Virginia Tech's Office of Economic Development. Provo provides leadership for the university in the design and implementation of its economic engagement mission. A “pracademic,” he has more than 15 years of experience in higher education and government. He builds relationships between businesses, communities, and the university and leads a team that delivers applied research projects that create economic opportunities.

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.   

Sarah Lyon-Hill Graduate Research Assistant

A portrait of Sarah Lyon-Hill.


Ceara Redd
Student Researcher

Ceara Redd is an accelerated master’s student in Urban and Regional Planning in the School of Public and International Affairs at Virginia Tech. As an undergraduate senior, Ceara double majors in Environmental Policy and Planning, her primary major, and Philosophy, her secondary major. Ceara is interested in combatting environmental and social issues through policy and law. She would like to explore avenues to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address issues of displacement and transnational migration. Additionally, Ceara serves as an ambassador for her college, the College of Architecture and Urban Studies, and she is a member of Students for Sustainable Practice at Virginia Tech. 



Hye-jeong Seo
Graduate Research Assistant

Hye-jeong is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the Planning, Governance, and Globalization program at Virginia Tech and also a fellow in the Interfaces of Global Change Program. She is interested in the role of information and expertise in community development. Her research focuses on how to navigate the complex dynamics between science and decision-making for better and more legitimate planning outcomes.

Hye-jeong finished her B.S. in Urban Engineering from the Pusan National University in 2011, graduating on the President’s list and Summa Cum Laude honors. She studied environmental and hazard mitigation planning at the same university and received her M.S. in 2013. After graduation, Hye-jeong worked at the Korea Environment Institute for a few years, researching participatory methods for climate change adaptation planning, developing climate change risk assessment tools, and facilitating participatory processes for community climate change adaptation.

Scott Tate, Senior Economic Development Specialist, Economic Development

A portrait of Scott Tate.


Scott Tate, Ph.D.
Associate Director 

A writer, teacher, and consultant, Scott Tate helps people, places, and organizations address challenges and pursue opportunities for positive change.  Currently Associate Director for the Virginia Tech Office of Economic Development, Scott has over twenty years of experience working with public, private, and nonprofit sector organizations on opportunity analysis, strategy development, organizational change, leadership capacity, and creative innovation.

Among other projects, he has developed and led programs and conducted research to: develop regional economic strategies across the Commonwealth; support first-generation college students and vulnerable youth; enhance training and career pathways for former coal industry workers; explore arts-based community change efforts in Northern Ireland; encourage social entrepreneurship in Tunisia; enhance manufacturing in rural regions; promote anchor institution and wealth building strategies in communities; assess entrepreneurial ecosystems in smaller metros; and advance sustainable development in Appalachia and on the Eastern Shore.

Tate’s doctoral degree focused on interdisciplinary, theory-informed, problem-driven analysis at the intersection of social, political, ethical, and cultural domains.  His master’s degree is in management from the Pamplin College of Business at Virginia Tech with a focus on talent development and organizational change.  Scott has taught courses at the undergraduate and graduate level related to planning, public policy, sustainable development, Appalachian studies, leadership, economic development, and political science.

His research and writing has appeared in journals such as the Economic Development Quarterly; the Journal of Enterprising Communities:  People and Places in the Global Economy; Environment, Space, Place; and Community Development.  His research and writing has also appeared in books and edited volumes published by Ashgate, Routledge, Taylor & Francis, ABC-CLIO, and Zeta Books.

Tate and his family live in Roanoke, where he explores the neighborhood with his wife Meighan; plays in the yard with his dog Biscuit; loses at basketball to his son Toby;  and frequents coffee shops, libraries, greenways, and odd, quiet cozy corners.

Elli Travis

A portrait of Elli Travis.


Elli Travis
Economic Development Specialist

I am an economic development specialist who inspires communities to envision their best, most prosperous future. I help make that vision a reality through high-impact research methods as well as connecting communities and businesses to resources within the university. My passion is working alongside 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 my work include economic impact analyses, strategic planning for non-profit organizations and economic development authorities, as well as visioning and feasibility studies. Additionally, I am 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.

As a dedicated qualitative researcher and analyzer, I also facilitate workshops that challenge assumptions and provide a deeper understanding of decision-making processes. Attendees are guided through ways to measure the holistic impact of programs and learn how certain values, like jobs, investments, and equity, will affect the community long term.

A native of Washington, DC, I hold a master’s degree from Virginia Tech in Agricultural and Applied Economics and dual bachelor’s degrees in Economics and Russian, from Indiana University, Bloomington.

Currently, I am pursuing a Ph.D. at Virginia Tech in Agricultural, Leadership, and Community Education with a focus on program impact evaluation. I further support my community by sitting on the board for Downtown Christiansburg, Inc. and frequenting local restaurants, shops, and farmers markets.

Mallory Tuttle

Mallory T. Tuttle
Associate Director, Hampton Roads Centers

Mallory T. Tuttle is the associate director of the Virginia Tech Hampton Roads Centers where she is responsible for engaging the community with the university’s graduate, professional development, and lifelong learning programs.  In addition to managing a portfolio of continuing education programming, Mallory creates and facilitates uniquely tailored coursework for organizations in the private and public sector. She also provides center management and new business development for the university’s Office of Economic Development and promotes regional partnerships and collaboration throughout the Hampton Roads region. 

Prior to working for Virginia Tech, Mallory served in a dual role with Old Dominion University as the Strome Entrepreneurial Center Program Manager and Adjunct Professor for the Strome College of Business. Mallory also has years of experience in rural economic development from her tenure working as a Business Development Manager with Franklin Southampton Economic Development, Inc. She is passionate about entrepreneurship, innovation, tourism, economic development, and small business. She holds a master's degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management from Virginia Tech and a Bachelor of Science degree from Ferrum College. 

Mallory is also very involved in philanthropy in the Hampton Roads region and serves on the executive board of the Portsmouth Service League, a volunteer nonprofit organization composed of young women dedicated to improving the welfare of the community that has raised and distributed over $1,000,000 in the Portsmouth and Hampton Roads communities since inception. Mallory also serves as a board member and capital campaign marketing chair for the Portsmouth Museums Foundation, a nonprofit organization that serves as a tax-deductible conduit for contributions to all City of Portsmouth Museums: the Children’s Museum of Virginia, Portsmouth Art & Cultural Center, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Museum and Lightship Portsmouth, and the Portsmouth Community Colored Library Museum.

In the past Mallory was named one of Inside Business’ Top 40 Under 40 in Hampton Roads (2019) and a CoVa BIZ Millennial on the Move (2017). She was also awarded the Virginia Tech Pamplin College of Business Ut Prosim Alumni Award (2019) for her philanthropic work and was selected as an American Councils for International Education YSEALI Professional Fellow in Thailand (2019).   

Doris Waddell


Doris J. Waddell
Program Support Technician

Doris serves as office manager, as well as administrative assistant to the Director.  Born and raised in Christiansburg, Virginia, she has been employed at Virginia Tech since 2003.  Doris previously lived in Dallas, TX, and worked as the Associate Coordinator for the Skyline Career Development Center, and at Carlisle Companies, as Executive Administrative Assistant to the Vice President.  After relocating to Atlanta, GA, Doris gained experience as a Contract Administrator for Eco-Tech, a water and wastewater equipment manufacturer in the southeast. 

Doris holds a Bachelor's of Science Degree in Business Management and Leadership. She was a semi-finalist for the Virginia Tech President's Award for Excellence in 2007.  Virginia Tech Employee of the Month, January, 2008. And Doris was presented the Virginia Tech Outreach and International Affairs "Piggy Back" Award for cost savings and efficiency, and the effective use of resources in a resource-scarce environment, December, 2008.  

In her free time, Doris enjoys gardening, golfing, reading science fiction, and watching college football.