Vibrant Virginia

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 Vibrant Virginia program, piloted over 2018-2019, focused 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.

The Arlington Legacy Business Initiative seeks to expand and synthesize its collection of oral histories of long‑standing character‑defining commercial establishments and increase public awareness of these vibrant community assets. The Principal Investigator will also analyze material about existing and nascent “legacy business” projects throughout the United States and for the first time develop a framework and typology that will help communities in Virginia and beyond. Anticipated outcomes of the project include: an enhanced and more publicly‑accessible website; the development of innovative interpretation strategies to recognize the heritage of under‑represented groups; the preparation of policy recommendations specific to Arlington County; and a general guide relevant to a broad range of communities throughout the Commonwealth.

Contact Dr. Elizabeth Morton ( for more information.

The Chickahominy Tribe of Virginia seeks to capture their tribal history, culture, and contemporary perspectives in a way that can be shared within and beyond their boundaries, preserving the past and envisioning the future. A faculty team at Virginia Tech with relevant expertise in education, American Indian studies, and documentary film production will collaborate with Chickahominy community members and tribal high school youth to create an educational video that can be used for education and economic development purposes. The final product will be a useful mechanism that will allow the tribe to share their story with K-12 schools, non-profit organizations, federal agencies, and prospective business partners.

Contact Dr. Barbara Lockee ( for more information.  

The Refugee and Migrant Partnerships project seeks to understand how rural communities accommodate refugees who must comply with policies that assume refugees live in and have access to resources available in urban areas. Focusing on the social networks built to accommodate refugees, the project will examine policy implementation in rural places to determine whether disparities exist and in what form, concentrating on the connections and communications between rural/suburban/urban spaces. Using as a case study policies that address employment requirements, faculty will work with service providers and refugees to understand how these policies impact the lived experiences of refugees as they seek to comply with integration requirements. Furthermore, faculty will convene a state-wide consortium of higher education institutions involved and interested in research with and for refugees. The coinvestigators individually and collectively have focused their outreach and research efforts on displaced populations and bridging academic and public resources to benefit these communities.

Contact Dr. Katrina Powell ( for more information.

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. 

Vibrant Virginia invited 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 provided 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 had an opportunity to discuss and celebrate their accomplishments and highlight successes in each region. The conversations looked beyond current activities and dived 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, 2018. 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, 2019 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. Learn more about outcomes here: Hampton Roads Regional Conversation.

For their third conversation, the team traveled to Southside Virginia in June, 2019. The four conversations were spread between Farmville, Danville, South Boston, and South Hill between June 3-12 and covered the topics of Education Pipeline, Entrepreneurship, Agriculture and Forestry, Advanced Manufacturing, and IT. Learn more about the outcomes here: Southside Virginia Regional Conversation.

Most recently, the Vibrant Virginia team traveled to Northern Virginia on November 4-6, 2019 to discuss Innovations in Workforce Development and Affordable Housing in the region. Outcomes from this conversation can be found here: Northern Virginia Regional Conversation.

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  

Call for Chapters: Vibrant Virginia: Engaging the Commonwealth to Expand Economic Vitality

Proposal deadline: February 15, 2020

There are myriad efforts to advance community development, foster economic competitiveness, and improve the quality of life for populations in Virginia cities, rural areas, and many places in between. Virginia faculty and students continue to work alongside community partners, civic institutions, and policymakers who live, work, and recreate across the Commonwealth. While existing scholarship and practice has identified a long-standing schism between what are presumed to be two ends of the urban-rural spectrum, our vision suggests that a truly vibrant Virginia will depend on our ability to harness the powers of an urban-rural interdependence and acknowledge or reconcile our differences.

For this edited collection, we are soliciting contributions from practitioners and faculty that investigate the ties that bind us across the urban-rural spectrum. The collection will include both practical experiences and scholarly contributions related to Vibrant Virginia, which seeks to “connect the dots” between learning, discovery, and engagement to advance the important work being done at Virginia Tech and other colleges and universities in Virginia.

We are especially interested in chapter proposals that a) incorporate multiple perspectives and b) demonstrate collaboration among academics, policymakers, and practitioners. This may take the form of co-authored chapters or chapters that include a postscript reflection/dialogue incorporating two or three of these vantage points.

Special consideration will be given to proposals that identify promising solutions to strengthen the long-term vibrancy of Virginia regions, especially in the key issue areas of: education & workforce development, agriculture & the environment, cyber security & data analytics, opioid & health research, advanced manufacturing, entrepreneurship & innovation, hospitality & tourism, or other evolving industrial sectors.

Others may wish to consider submissions that:

●        Reconsider the definitions (or frameworks) and meanings of urban, rural, and the spaces in between from both practitioner and academic perspectives;
●        Highlight research and/or practical experiences that reveal differences or similarities between Virginia’s urban and rural areas;
●        Explore policy issues from the perspective of the practitioner and/or academic;
●        Consider successful cases of urban-rural collaborations; and
●        Propose strategies to overcome discrimination and other community and regional development challenges present in both urban and rural areas.

The book will be published in an innovative way by Virginia Tech Publishing. Portions of the volume will appear first online, allowing for an online community of readers to engage with the chapters and react to the ideas put forth by the contributing authors. As such, authors will be encouraged to share any supplementary information or data contributing to their chapters. The supplemental information will be accessible via hyperlinks, enabling a more in-depth, interactive learning experience for readers. Supplemental information may include data sets used by the chapters’ authors, audio or visual recording, or op-eds and policy briefs related to the chapter topic.

Vibrant Virginia

The Vibrant Virginia Initiative is led and supported by Virginia Tech’s Outreach and International AffairsVirginia Cooperative ExtensionCollege Access CollaborativeSchool of Public and International Affairs, and falls under the Policy Strategic Growth Area. Founded in 2018, Vibrant Virginia has thus far included coordinated applied research and technical assistance projects, opportunities for experiential learning and engaged scholarship, and high profile regional engagement activities. While the edited book will include chapters related to these particular efforts, prior participation in the Vibrant Virginia initiative is not a requisite for publication in the book. Faculty and students from any of Virginia’s colleges, universities, or related institutions are encouraged to participate, as are practitioners and policymakers who work in Virginia or are knowledgeable about the Commonwealth’s urban and rural areas.

For more information on the program, please see the Vibrant Virginia website.

Submission Procedure:

If you have any questions about topic fit, possible collaborative partners or the application, please contact Maggie Cowell ( or Sarah Lyon-Hill (

You are invited to submit a Word document that includes the author name(s), title of the proposed chapter, and an abstract (500-800 words). All proposals should be submitted to:

Proposals submission deadline: February 15, 2020
Notification of acceptance: March 1, 2020
Chapters due to editor: September 1, 2020
Length of chapter: 5000-7000 words

Submitted chapters should not have been previously published or sent to another editor. Please use the APA (American Psychological Association) 6th Edition style to cite sources. More here:

Please note: All manuscripts submitted to the editors will be subject to rigorous peer, editorial, and production reviews.