Vibrant Virginia

Join us in Southern Virginia for our regional topic conversations! More information here!

Vibrant Virginia engages and supports university faculty in exploring community and economic development in urban and rural Virginia. The initiative examines the nexus within and among the regions of the Commonwealth with an eye towards highlighting opportunities for community stakeholders from all sectors (government, education, industry, and non-profit) to address the challenges that they face. This is a unique partnership between Virginia Tech’s Outreach and International Affairs, Virginia Cooperative Extension, College Access Collaborative, School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA), and the Policy Strategic Growth Area (SGA).

At the core, Vibrant Virginia aims to:

  • Connect and grow a network of researchers and development practitioners interested in Virginia regions;
  • Enhance the number and quality of University projects and initiatives related to Virginia regions and urban-rural concerns.
  • Strengthen the long-term vibrancy of Virginia regions through applied research, policy analysis, and engagement projects.

The program, piloted over 2018-2019, will focus on four key regions: Southwest Virginia, Hampton Roads, Northern Virginia, and Southside Virginia. Initial targeted issue areas may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Education & Workforce Development
  • Agriculture & the Environment
  • Cyber Security & Data Analytics
  • Opioid & Health Research
  • Advanced Manufacturing
  • Entrepreneurship & Innovation
  • Hospitality & Tourism

Vibrant Virginia has three distinct avenues through which faculty and students can participate; Seed Funding, Regional Conversations, and Academic Projects.

Vibrant Virginia (VV) invites seed funding proposals from faculty, and faculty-mentored graduate students. The funding seeks to encourage University faculty research projects on significant urban-rural related public policy issues for the state. Projects must include active engagement with groups, agencies, or organizations in Virginia regions directly involved with the issue. 

Selected faculty members will be expected as part of their project to:

  • Substantively engage with appropriate community organizations or groups in Virginia regions directly involved with the issue (and/or to engage students)
  • Prepare a report for the organization or agency where appropriate
  • Prepare a 3500-word manuscript for Vibrant Virginia publication. Graduate students who apply must do so in tandem with a faculty co-applicant

Application materials consist of a short (150 words maximum) abstract; a 3-5 page letter; and the CV’s of project team members. The abstract should clearly and succinctly describe the policy issue, the research strategy, and the expected outcome(s). The abstract may be used in Vibrant Virginia publications, press releases, or promotional materials.

Applicants should also include a letter that includes the applicant’s background and familiarity with the topic; an indication of consultation with the regional agencies, groups, or organizations that will be involved with the project; and a consideration of the potential public policy implications of the research. Letters must also include the total funding amount requested, how funds will support project, and an approximate timeline and plan of work for completing the project. 

Applications should be submitted by email to: Please place Seed Funding Proposal, Vibrant Virginia in the subject line. For questions, please contact Scott Tate at or (540) 231-2351.

We envision a major outgrowth of the Vibrant Virginia initiative being a body of scholarly work that showcases the knowledge co-created by the Virginia Tech community and its partners across the Commonwealth. To that end, we are looking for engaged scholars and practitioners who are either presently working with, or would like to work with, Virginia communities on initial targeted issues. We hope to attract a diverse field of scholars from across Virginia Tech and practitioners from around the Commonwealth.

The final product will be a book manuscript that synthesizes relevant outcomes and materials created during the Vibrant Virginia initiative. Similar efforts in Oregon resulted in the publication of an edited book, entitled, Toward One Oregon (Oregon State University Press, 2011). The book, which adeptly synthesizes the many challenges and opportunities related to Oregon’s rural-urban divide, could serve as a model for Vibrant Virginia.

If interested, participants may also decide to produce interim products that react to, or engage with, the works being presented in the regional conversations. Such products may include journal articles, Op-Eds, policy reports to state and local governments, web-based products, or others.

If you are interested in joining our team or learning more about the work, please contact Margaret Cowell at or fill out this Contact Information form. We also ask that you plan to attend at least one of the regional conversation events. Seed funding may be available to support the work of some team members.

For more information, please contact Margaret Cowell at or (703) 706-8101.

Vibrant Virginia invites faculty, and faculty-mentored graduate students to participate in regional community and economic development engagement events in each of the four key regions of the state (Southwest, Southside, Hampton Roads, and Northern Virginia). These conversations will provide Virginia Tech faculty and stakeholder partners with an opportunity to share learnings from their experiences with current and prior economic and community development activities. As part of the event, participants will have an opportunity to discuss and celebrate their accomplishments and highlight successes in each region. The conversations will look beyond current activities and dive into brainstorming on future partnerships, projects, and public policies to address the challenges in each region. .

The Vibrant Virginia team held their first conversation in St. Paul, VA on June 12 & 13. Community stakeholders and Virginia Tech faculty held a discussion on how the university may serve as a better regional partner in the areas of Education & Workforce Development, Entrepreneurship & Innovation, Agriculture & the Environment, and Community Development. For more information on this conversation please read the following news update: Southwest Virginia Regional Conversation.

The Vibrant Virginia team traveled to Hampton Roads on February 11-13 for its second community conversation. Community stakeholders and Virginia Tech faculty held a discussion on how the university may serve as a better regional partner in the areas of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Food Processing; Unmanned Systems; Manufacturing and STEM; and Coastal Policy and Resilience. 

In the beginning of the summer, the team plans to travel to Southside Virginia. If you would like to participate in the event or learn more about the development of conversation, please send an email to Sarah Lyon-Hill at  

Community Change Collaborative (CCC) seeks to build a coalition of action around the development of regional partnerships to use theory and practical application to create long lasting partnerships. The CCC is composed of faculty, practitioners, and students who will use research rooted in team development and group dynamics, community surveying, focus groups, ethnography, and participatory action research to inform community development projects in Southwest Virginia. Their efforts with connect communities in need of education, workforce development, agriculture and the environment, healthcare, adaptable infrastructures, entrepreneurship, and tourism with knowledge, research, and professional skills. Funding will allow research activities to be conducted, community workshops and speakers to be sponsored, and conversations to be held.

Contact Dr. Max Stephenson ( or Andrew Morikawa ( for more information.

Connecting Schools and Businesses/Promoting Workforce Development through Teacher Internships works to promotes education and workforce development in Southwest Virginia by creating internship opportunities for students by connecting their teachers with area businesses and fostering a classroom environment that prepares students to enter the workforce. Workforce development is central to economic development and thriving communities. Funding will be used to research the potential to develop effective internships for students in local businesses and ultimately create an internship curriculum and evaluation plan that allows for educators to measure the effectiveness of internships with local businesses in Southwest Virginia.

Contact Lisa McNair ( or Sue Magliaro ( for more information.

DELTA Digital Research Lab seeks to develop social media campaigns that allow small non-profits in Southwest Virginia raise their voices online. Small non-profit organizations lack the staff expertise and capacity to carry out robust digital programs. This limits their ability to engage the public in their mission, raise funds and volunteer hours online, and impact public policy. Funding will allow DELTA Digital Research Lab to expand their efforts and partner with under-resourced organizations that possibly cannot afford to hire social media personnel.

Contact Dr. Katherine Haenschen ( for more information.

Building Healthy Families and Communities through Collaborative Strategies to Reduce Opioid SUD works to connect population health expertise with policy and organizational assessment capabilities to provide a foundation on which to build community-engaged collaborations and strategic approaches for the prevention and treatment of opioid and related substance use disorders. The opioid epidemic continues to impact Virginia residents. Research is primarily focused around the impact of the epidemic on the individual, not the family, community, and upper level systems. Funding will be used to explore the impact of the opioid epidemic at the family, community, and upper levels in Southwest Virginia.

Contact Kathy Hosig ( , Mary Beth Dunkenberger (, or Sophie Wenzel ( for more information.