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Outreach + Engagement

CAUS Engagement | Outreach | Service Learning

Patrick Miller
Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Outreach, Professor of Landscape Architecture


The faculty and students in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies have been active in a broad range of outreach and engagement activities over the past year (5/16/2016 to 5/15/2017).  They work with community groups, industry, professional societies and governmental agencies in creating safer and more sustainable communities; economic development opportunities, public education and places that support people, both physically and spiritually.  They do this work both domestically and internationally.   The work takes many forms from one-time professional advice to long-term interaction or engagement, and it often serves as a laboratory for student service learning.  But, perhaps more importantly, engagement contributes to our sense of self-worth and relevance as teachers, scholars and students.  



CAUS Engagement Programs


CAUS Outreach and Engagement Activities fall into four main programs:  1) pedagogy or teaching,  2)  faculty advice and assistance,  3) International engagement,  and  4) CAUS  centers.  The first two are relatively informal.  Faculty members are free to teach, engage and provide assistance as they see fit.  Some faculty members are passionate about teaching this way, because they believe that learning is greater.  Not only do students learn more, but their ability to apply what they have learned and their attitude toward the subject matter is greatly enhanced.

In terms of pedagogy, much of architectural design and planning is taught in a studio format.  There are not simply right answers or wrong answers to many of the tasks that professionals in these disciplines must undertake.  In the design or planning studio, students are assigned design or planning problems, often drawn from the community. As the students work through the projects, the professor asks questions, criticizes, and helps shape student thinking, so they can arrive at a stronger solution.  This is often done working in concert with citizens and officials from the community where the project is located.  This benefits student learning and also provides the community with new ideas and solutions to problems they are facing.  This work occurs at both the domestic and international levels.  For further description of these activities see the “Students Engaged” and the “International Engagement” sections of this report below.

Faculty assistance is the second CAUS engagement program.  Faculty members routinely provide advice and technical assistance to community groups, government officials and industry on state of the art practices, policies, and procedures related to the faculty member’s expertise.   Faculty members engage in these activities both domestically and internationally.  This provides faculty members with the opportunity to stay connected to their constituencies and stay current in professional practices.  See the “Faculty Engaged” and the “International” sections of this report below for more a more detailed description of these activities.

The fourth form of CAUS Engagement is through CAUS Centers.  While many of the CAUS centers are primarily research-oriented centers, because of the applied nature of the research there is often an outreach or engagement component.   The CAUS center dedicated primarily to engagement is the Community Design Assistance Center (CDAC).  CDAC is a regionally significant center with student and faculty teams addressing planning and design problems in communities located in Southwest Virginia, Southern West Virginia, Eastern Kentucky, Eastern Tennessee, and Northern North Carolina.  CDAC is a relatively unique center among American universities and plays a significant role regionally.  CDAC works with the Urban Forestry Section of the U.S. forest Service on community improvement projects funded by the Forest Service.  CDAC has received a $400,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to assist local communities in this region with Brownfield Remediation projects.  See the “CAUS Centers and Institutes Engaged” section of this report for a more detailed description of CAUS center engagement activities.

Future plans for CAUS Engagement

It is anticipated that CAUS Engagement Programs will continue with modest growth.  While the faculty commitment to engagement is strong, there is a need for greater emphasis on the scholarship of engagement (the publication and sharing of engagement efforts) and recognition of the amount of time that is required to teach in a truly engaged fashion.

Because of the diverse nature of CAUS engagement projects, it is difficult to find a suitable metric to measure the impact of CAUS engagement programs.  CAUS has relied on descriptive measures and photographs to convey the human dimension (student, community participant and faculty interaction) of its engagement projects.  There are only four or five design assistance centers in universities across the country, so clearly CAUS is a leader in engagement.   

It is also clear that CDAC community planning and design projects enable communities to garner substantial funding for implementation and construction.  CAUS outreach and engagement programs are currently active in Blacksburg, The Washington Alexandria Architecture Center, the NCR and Richmond.   

In terms of hiring, a staff position was allocated to CDAC this past year and that has provided needed support for the number of projects underway at CDAC.  A CDAC position at the WAAC would enhance engagement opportunities in the Washington Metro area, but no additional positions are anticipated at this time.  Many of the CAUS outreach and engagement projects confront issues important to equity, justice and diversity.

Description of Engagement Activities

The report below is divided into four sections.  The first section, “Students Engaged,” focuses on various forms of student engagement or service learning.  The second section, “Faculty Engaged,” describes various faculty projects, consultations and other activities by CAUS faculty that serve the community, industry and their professions.  The third section “International Engagement,” describes projects and activities that have an international component.  Lastly, the section, “CAUS Centers and Institutes Engaged,” describes engagement activities undertaken by three of the college centers and institutes: the Community Design Assistance Center, the Institute for Policy and Governance, and FourDesign.



Students Engaged


Educational Opportunities Promote Sustainable Design at RCI

Elizabeth Grant – School of Architecture + Design: “An article in Green Building News entitled “Educational Opportunities Promote Sustainable Design at RCI International Convention” by Jacqueline Tortorello was published on November 22, 2016.  The article alerted the design and building community to my upcoming presentation on the Reflective Roofing Research Project in March 2017 and broadened its visibility, along with that of the Center for High Performance Environments and Virginia Tech.

I announced and circulated information about a full scholarship program to attend the RCI International Convention in Anaheim in March 2017 to relevant programs at the SA+D and MLSoC.  Five third-year undergraduate architecture students from ARCH 4056 and two second-year undergraduate architecture students from a section of ARCH 2016 attended this year with scholarships.”

Arlington Economic Development

Adrienne Edisis – School of Public and International Affairs: “Students in PAPA 6514, Policy Inquiry (MPA), participated in a practicum with the Arlington Economic Development agency. Students developed proposals for data collection and program evaluation of a small business advisory program. The students presented their proposals to senior Arlington Economic Development executives. We have been told that several of the recommendations will be implemented. Arlington Economic Development has requested that we participate in another practicum next year.”

Creation Care Committee at Luther Memorial Lutheran

Elizabeth Grant – School of Architecture + Design: “I served on the Creation Care Committee at Luther Memorial Lutheran Church and prepared a display at the church to educate members and the community about climate change. Additionally, I obtained and secured approval for an architecture and engineering proposal to mitigate water infiltration into the church’s Fellowship Hall. I continued to work with WDP & Associates, the consulting engineering firm on the project, and Pitman Construction, during the design and pricing phases of this work, reviewing the contract documents and acting as liaison between the design and construction team and the church staff and leadership. All of this work was done pro bono.”

Industry Mentorship Program

Josh Iorio – Myers-Lawson School of Construction: “Sophomores, juniors, and seniors in Building Construction (CAUS) and Construction Engineering and Management (CoE) were matched with a professional in the construction industry.  A one-hour virtual or face-to-face meeting each month between mentor and mentee took place.  Discussion topics include work-life balance, job search skills, ethics, and challenges.  Travel for one visit for each student to the mentor’s job site or office was supported by MLSoC 2016-2017 cohort = 10 mentees with mentors from 10 companies.”

STEAMUp – Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math Festival

Josh Iorio – Myers-Lawson School of Construction: “Service project for CNST 5114 Leadership in AEC.  This service project was selected, designed, planned and executed by graduate students.  The goal was to provide a fun, hands-on and educational event for K-8 students that will kick-start interest in STEAM fields.  There was participation by 12 student organizations in 3 colleges (CAUS, COE, COS).  Activities included marshmallow catapults (physics), spaghetti towers (structural theory), and a roller coaster demonstration.  Attendees: 98 children, 50 parents.”

The Big Event

Margarita McGrath – School of A + D: “The Big Event at Virginia Tech is a student-run day of community service that has grown into the second-largest event of its kind in the nation. Every spring, almost 10,000 students come together to complete over 1,000 community service projects throughout Blacksburg, Christiansburg, and the New River Valley. An executive team of 20 students match students to projects and organize the funds and tools to needed to complete the jobs requested.”

Malama Kauai Agricultural Initiative

Nathan King – School A + D; Ashley Johnson – Myers-Lawson School of Construction:

“Formed a partnership with the Malama Kaua’i agricultural initiative charged with promoting sustainable agriculture in support of the nation’s most remote native communities.  This partnership will lead to student outreach opportunities. I led a design–build course focusing on the development of agricultural education that led to the student design–build project over spring break in Kaua’i where 10 students designed and built a support structure for a community garden at an elementary school.”

Eco Park Landfill

Nathan King and Robert Dunay – School A + D: “Co-led the development, funding, and execution of a community-centered ecological learning center for Prince William County – Eco Park/landfill. This project involved a significant community-based initiative involving a graduate studio, faculty, landfill administrators and county executives. The project is in final design phases.”

School Canopy Prototype Design-Build

Bill Galloway and Mehdi Setareh – School of A + D: “Over the course of the 2016-17 academic year, students in my 3rd-year studio (ARCH 3015-16) were engaged in the design of a canopy for the Harding Avenue Elementary School in Blacksburg.  Like a number of other schools in Montgomery County, children must walk long distances through the rain from the building entrance to the bus/parent pick-up driveways.  The canopy design provides a covered walkway for the Harding Avenue School, while also serving as a prototype for other local schools.  Each student made an initial design proposal; the students chose one of these schemes and developed it further.  Mehdi helped with the structural design.  Students have begun building a prototype for the canopy at the Research + Demonstration Facility. Construction work will continue over the summer.”

Global Forum on Urban and Regional Resilience

Maria Saxton, Ph.D. student – Myers Lawson School of Construction: EDP Ph.D. student Maria Saxton, working with funding support from the Global Forum on Urban and Regional Resilience, conducted summer field research to evaluate communities of tiny homes in the Pacific Northwest and North Carolina. These studies were the foundation of Maria’s doctoral research, which is designed to understand how collaborative building technologies and systems influence sustainability outcomes at the community level.

Graduate Student Service Excellence

Anurag Mantha, Ph.D. student – Myers Lawson School of Construction and Civil & Environmental Engineering: Ph.D. student Anurag Mantha won the 2017 university-level award for Graduate Student Service Excellence in recognition of his work to support the citizens of Flint, Michigan, during the Flint water crisis. Anurag is jointly advised by Dr. Annie Pearce (Building Construction) and Dr. Marc Edwards (Civil & Environmental Engineering). His research focuses on water quality impacts of residential water heating technologies.

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug

Ben Chambers, an interdisciplinary Ph.D. student – Myers, Lawson School of Construction:

Ben Chambers, an interdisciplinary Ph.D. student in Environmental Design and Planning and Entomology, worked with K-12 students throughout the year in multiple venues to share his work on the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug and other insects in the built environment. He worked with 4th graders from the Blacksburg New School, introducing them to specimens from the insect zoo and insect collection. In February, he and other entomology students took specimens from the insect zoo to Christiansburg Elementary for a program with 1st graders, and in November, he presented to a kindergarten class in West Marion Elementary School in North Carolina. The kids are still talking about it. Ben also participated in Hokie Bugfest in October, where he manned a booth and discussed the stink bug invasion with interested children and parents.

BioBuild Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Program

Annie Pearce – Myers-Lawson School of Construction: CAUS faculty and graduate students, participating in the BioBuild Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Program hosted two cohorts of middle school students in June 2016 to learn more about biology in the built environment.  Part of the hands-on half-day learning experience involved constructing and testing their own pavement cores to better understand how infrastructure design influences stormwater runoff. Students also worked together in teams to propose modifications to the Virginia Tech campus to reduce stormwater impacts while working within a limited budget for construction.

BioInspired Building

Mary Semaan, Ph.D. Student and Jenny Hart, MS student – Myers-Lawson School of Construction: Mary Semaan, Ph.D. student in Environmental Design and Planning, and Jenny Hart, MS student in Building Construction Science & Management, conducted an outreach program for a local elementary school class as part of their GRAD 5134: BioInspired Building final project. The team helped students construct their own interior gardens using lentil seeds and included a component on the cultural importance of lentils in countries such as Lebanon, Mary’s home country.

New River Access Points in Bisset Park

Annie Pearce – Myers-Lawson School of Construction: Students in BC 4334: Sustainable Building Performance Management and BC 5134: Sustainable Facility Systems (Spring 2017) worked on a semester-long design project for the City of Radford to develop designs for new river access points in Bisset Park. The plan included two micro-rail systems for enhanced access to the river, allowing access for recreation by people with disabilities as well as improved usability for transport of gear by all river users. The final proposals were presented to city staff on April 27. Students in BC 5144: Sustainable Infrastructure Systems (Fall 2016) conducted a semester-long effort to develop a Sustainable Riverfront Development Plan for the City of Radford, VA. The plan was presented to City Council and members of the Planning Commission and Recreation Commission on November 21.

2017 Virginia’s Outdoor Expo in Bisset Park in Radford

Annie Pearce – Myers-Lawson School of Construction: Graduate Students in BC 5134: Sustainable Facility Systems (Spring 2017) participated in the 2017 Virginia’s Outdoor Expo in Bisset Park in Radford, where they conducted a public participation exercise to identify recreational features and amenities desired by the public. An estimated 1500-2000 people attended the event, despite very unpleasant weather. The results were integrated as part of the recommendations to Radford for future sustainable recreational development.

Outreach Projects to Educate and Engage Stakeholders

Annie Pearce – Myers-Lawson School of Construction: Students in GRAD 5134: BioInspired Building (Fall 2016 – co-taught by Annie Pearce of BC and Bryan Brown of Biology) worked in teams to develop and implement outreach projects to educate and engage stakeholders about biology in the built environment as their major course deliverable. Projects included a proposal to a local apartment complex for improvements to increase amenities for dog owners, installations of educational signage along Stroubles Creek, indoor gardening programs to local elementary students, and mentoring of a team of elementary school students in designing a smart dog door as part of a robotics competition.

BioBuild Program

Georg Reichard- Myers-Lawson School of Construction: BioBuild Program of the Myers-Lawson School of Construction sponsored and engaged with a team participating in the 2017 First Lego League (FLL) Robotics competition.  FLL is an international nonprofit organization in support of STEM education organizing robotics competition around the globe that teaches children about “friendly competition” in the STEM area.  Each competition consists of an annually themed robots challenge stand-off and an outreach or education project the teams need to develop and then present to a jury.  This year’s topic was “Animal Allies,” which the sponsored team tackled in terms of the built environment.  Team “404 ” consisted of five 6th graders and two 5th graders recruited from Blacksburg Middle School and Beeks Elementary School and was coached by BioBuild faculty Reichard and assistant coach BioBuild Fellow Jeremy Brenner.

The students identified an issue for service dogs, which help people to live better lives, but being constrained in buildings requires direct help with basic needs, such going to the bathroom. The student team developed the idea of a technology-driven dog-door that could meet the following criteria: 1) be accessible and/or learnable by dogs; 2) creates no safety issue for accessibility to the building; 3) is reliable throughout changing seasons; 4) and is ultimately affordable. Under supervision and assistance of Jeremy, the students researched various technologies ranging from simple scales to complex systems such as iris scanners and evaluated each technology against the previous criteria. To find answers, they browsed the Internet, but also had to consult with external animal experts. They demonstrated their findings in an Animal Allies dog-door prototype, which was then presented to the jury. They scored second place in the regional tournament and thus advanced to the State finals, where they placed in the upper 30% of more than a hundred teams.

Studio Class:  Bikeshare in Merrifield, VARalph Buehler – School of Public and International Affairs:

In the Fall of 2016, Fairfax County launched bikeshare in Tysons, as well as Reston. In an effort to further expand their bikeshare network, the Fairfax County Department of Transportation has reached out to Virginia Tech to develop a feasibility study for a bikeshare expansion to Merrifield, Virginia. VT students did that in a studio class in Spring 2017.

ALUMNI MALL PROPOSAL: Serving and Honoring the Past, Present and Future of Virginia Tech

Todd Schenk – School of Public and International Affairs: UAP 5434 Studio Class, Spring 2017 engaged various campus stakeholders in a variety of ways, including a half-day “drop-in” on the Mall itself, where the class proposal was presented and feedback collected. The final product is a conceptual design and report recommending how VT might capitalize on the Alumni Mall as an asset for current community members, while concurrently acknowledging and honoring the past. Elements proposed include a small amphitheater, water features, and a sculpture park with pieces that honor various communities and individuals, ranging from the native peoples here before European arrival through to a cadet that died in combat.

Beth Sholom Courtyard Design: Engaging Older Adults in Therapeutic Landscapes

C.L. Bohannon – School of A + D: During the Spring 2017 semester, 4th year Landscape Architecture students, as part of the design construction documents studio, engaged with residents and staff at Beth Sholom, a life care community located in Richmond, Virginia. This community engaged design project focused on biophilic design, which is based on the “instinctive bond between human beings and other living systems” to provide the conceptual framework to redesign three existing courtyards located at the continual care community. Students led community workshops attended by residents and staff to better understand how the courtyards could be re-conceptualized to assist in the therapeutic program of Beth Sholom. The students, led by C.L. Bohannon traveled throughout the semester to engage with the Beth Sholom community during the design development stage of the project. Students also led a panel discussion in the Virginia Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects’ symposium on “Therapeutic Landscapes for Older Adults. This project is part of a larger departmental initiative to engage citizens in Virginia about the benefits of Landscape Architecture. This project fits within the strategic growth area of Equity and Social Disparity in the Human Condition, particularly as the country is faced with an aging population. A population that still has rights to accessible and equitable landscapes can provide health benefits to older adults.

Alexandria Archaeology Museum, on the Potomac River Waterfront

Marcia F. Feuerstein – School of A + D: “I organized and led the Architecture IV / ARCH 4015 and Architecture & Urbanism Lab / ARCH 5715  architecture studio, which included VT graduate and undergraduate students, as well as a number of consortium students.  The students studied Alexandria’s archeological and historical changes by tapping the resources of the Office of Historic Alexandria/Alexandria Archaeology at the Torpedo Factory.  The centerpiece of the project was an historic boat, discovered during construction of a new boutique hotel along the waterfront.   The students studied the boat, which was being stored in an off-site facility, and learned the importance, studied the drawings and photos of the excavation / protection, and restoration of the boat through  the city archaeologists (Gerrett Fesler, PhD and Ben Skolnik) and presented their projects to the public and the archaeologists, who were developing their own program and plans to renovate their facility within the Torpedo Factory. We had also shared the projects with the archaeologists.  The archaeologists were invited to both mid-reviews (which took place at the torpedo factory during the fall 2016 WAAC residency) and final reviews (which took place at WAAC).”

Practices of Public Engagement: Grassroots Organizing Theory & Practice (course and open training)

Christian Matheis – School of Architecture + Design: Undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, staff, local and regional community members (50+ participants) completed a 16-hour/2-day training course in grassroots, direct-action organizing, UAP 4984/5984 – Practices of Public Engagement: Grassroots Organizing Theory & Practice, co-hosted in partnership with Virginia Organizing, and with the VTAction Program in the Intercultural Engagement Center at Virginia Tech.



Faculty Engaged


Smart, Sustainable, Small Cities Initiative

Anne Khademian and Margaret Cowell – School of Public and International Affairs:

VT’s School of Public and International Affairs is collaborating with Hollins University in a partnership focused on the challenges and possibilities of Virginia’s small cities – aimed at raising visibility of small cities and directing problem-solving resources to generate new ideas and solutions. Through studio and place-based courses, internships, outreach projects, public engagement and creative written communication, the initiative provides insights and hands-on solutions to small city challenges across the Commonwealth and the United States, and highlights and shares successful efforts within smaller cities. The initiative will contribute directly to Virginia Tech’s Destination Area on Resilient Global Systems and to the re-imagined undergraduate degree within Urban Affairs and Planning, as it focuses on the creation of undergraduate research opportunities and eventually a Living Laboratory. An undergraduate course in Fall 2016 (SPIA 4984: Small Cities, Resilience, and Global Change), convened faculty and students at both universities and stakeholders from the region.

Dr. Virgil Wood Talks About His Life and Working with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Ralph Hall – School of Public and International Affairs: “I arranged for Dr. Virgil Wood to give a podcast on his life and working with Dr. Martin Luther King, here: https://ralphphall.wordpress.com/2017/03/28/virgil-wood/.  

I met Dr. Wood via this post: https://ralphphall.wordpress.com/2016/10/03/100andchange/. A year before MLK was assassinated; Dr. Wood was working to bring Louis Kelso and MLK together to start a discussion about how MLK’s Economic Dream agenda could be financed using Kelso’s theory of binary economics. After MLK’s death, this connection never happened. The economic approach I presented in my 100&Change video (that was developed in collaboration with students in one of my classes) was based on binary economics. Dr. Wood and I are now working to advance a new project to consider how the Economic Dream agenda could be financed using binary economics.”

#CivilityVt: Let’s Talk

Todd Schenk – School of Public and International Affairs: “This was a weekly series instigated by President Sands and co-sponsored by the Division of Student Affairs, the Office for Inclusion and Diversity, and the School of Public and International Affairs that I was asked to facilitate and co-organize. Topics important to the community were tackled each week, ranging from BELONGING: Undocumented and non-citizens in our community on March 22nd through to RELIGION: Does faith betray reason? on 4/26.  We provided the venue, and ground rules and guidelines for conversations across difference on a variety of important yet tough issues. Many students, staff and faculty participated over the course of the semester.”

Invited Talks to Community Groups

Ralph Buehler – School of Public and International Affairs: Buehler, R. 2017. Reducing Car-Dependence: Lessons from Europe and North America. University Of Westminster, London Cycling Campaign. Buehler, R. 2016. What is the Way Forward After SAFETRACK? Lessons from Europe.  Invited presentation by Arlington Committee of 100. Arlington, VA.



International Engagement


“Non-Referential Architecture”

Markus Breitschmid – School of A + D: As part of his research leave to write a new book titled “Non-Referential Architecture,” Professor of Architecture Markus Breitschmid researched Indi-Persian Mogul architecture and other Islamic architecture in the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Maharashtra. Breitschmid benefited from the insights of leading Indian architects such as Balkrishna Vithaldas Doshi and Bijoy Jain. 89-year old Doshi is considered an important figure of South Asian architecture and noted for his unfathomable contributions to the evolution of architectural discourse in India. Bijoy Jain and his firm Studio Mumbai is an internationally noted contemporary architect.

“Architects’ First Buildings”

Markus Breitschmid – School of A + D: As part of the Architecture Residency Program of the School of Architecture + Design, Professor of Architecture Markus Breitschmid organized an outreach forum on the subject of “Architects’ First Buildings” in Switzerland during the 2017 Spring Semester. The program included tours, site visits of buildings with the architects, as well as discussions and presentations. The program was open to Virginia Tech architecture students as well as to the public.

Global Design & Construction for Sustainable Development

Nathan King – School A + D: King developed and executed the new course series called Global Design & Construction for Sustainable Development with faculty in Building Construction to provide a vehicle for design–build programs in domestic and international communities.

African Design Center

Nathan King, Mark Leach and Jon Rugh – School of A + D: Contributed to the development of curriculum for the African Design Center – a new graduate architecture school in Kigali Rwanda, including the Materials, Processes and Systems module that will be taught Summer of 2017. Led the development of the Rwandan Wood initiative focused around the development of capacity building in East Africa for high-craft, export quality furniture. Involved in-country work during the summer of 2016.

Campus Library for Mzuzu University

Nathan King, Robert Dunay – School of A + D and Jack Davis – College of Architecture and Urban Studies: Developed a formal agreement with Mzuzu University in Malawi that has led to a project for a new campus library for the Mzuzu University (Fall 2017), to replace on that burned in a fire in 2015. An initial fact-finding and site visit to Malawi was conducted in February. The team met with university president, faculty, government officials, and the U.S. Ambassador to Malawi.

Design of a Deployable Medical Clinic

Nathan King – School A + D: Led the design of a deployable medical clinic that will be produced in Kenya for distribution in Sub Saharan Africa. The first clinic will be constructed in the summer of 2017.

Mzuni Library Book Collection

Ralph Hall – – School of Public and International Affairs: Over 10,000 books were collected, packed, and sent to Mzuzu University to support the Mzuni Library Initiative, replacing books for the library devastated by the 2015 fire. Over 20 volunteers gathered at Kentland Farms to send the textbooks on their way – the final leg of their journey to Mzuzu University in northern Malawi.



CAUS Centers and Institutes Engaged


Community Design Assistance Center

Elizabeth Gilboy – College of Architecture and Urban Studies: The Community Design Assistance Center (CDAC), an outreach center of CAUS, assists communities in the areas of landscape architecture, architecture, interior design, and planning.  Students are hired on sponsored projects to assist communities, thus providing communities with a service they otherwise could not afford and providing students with valuable transdisciplinary real-life work experience.  The conceptual designs provide a cohesive vision for communities and can be instrumental in helping communities leverage additional funding for next steps in design and for implementation.   

CDAC continues to be an innovative example of community engagement and public design assistance.  While utilizing creative strategies to fund the Center’s work, CDAC is proud to add the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Brownfields Assessment Grant as a funding partner alongside the Virginia Department of Forestry’s Urban and Community Forestry Program (VA DOF U&CF). The VA DOF and EPA grants enable CDAC to provide outreach services unique to Virginia Tech. They are both strong examples of inter-agency collaboration and regional innovation for the betterment of communities.

The Virginia Department of Forestry’s Urban and Community Forestry Program (VA DOF U&CF) has partnered with CDAC for 18 years to help underserved communities develop green space plans that conserve, enhance, connect, and protect community natural resources and encourage forest-based recreation and eco-tourism.  To date, DOF grants to communities through CDAC totaled over $638,000 with over 70 projects that to date leveraged over $8,675,000.  That means for every dollar granted through the VA DOF, an average of $14 in additional funding was leveraged.

In addition to projects throughout the Commonwealth, CDAC and VA DOF partnered with the NC Forest Service and the KY Division of Forestry to help restore environmental quality and economic vitality in the Appalachian regions of these states through conceptual design work.  Projects in the NC and KY communities are currently wrapping up due to the end of the three-year grant cycle.

The EPA’s $400,000 Brownfields Assessment Grant provides CDAC with the opportunity to help communities in southwest Virginia create conceptual designs for the redevelopment of potentially contaminated sites.  The decrease in coal production and associated jobs across the targeted area has taken a significant toll on the economy of the region.  The goal of the Brownfields Assessment Grant is to foster economic development through the redevelopment of the brownfield sites into retail, businesses, or tourism and recreation opportunities in the targeted communities.  CDAC will be working with approximately 9 communities through the course of the 3-year grant.  

CDAC’s final conceptual perspective of a mixed-use building was proposed where a gas station once operated in Damascus, Virginia.  Redevelopment efforts had previously stalled due to environmental concerns of the site’s previous use. CDAC’s Brownfields Assessment Grant has reinvigorated redevelopment conversations.

CDAC – Conceptual Design for the Reuse of the Former Chevron Site:

Kevin Jones – School of A + D: Graduate Master of Architecture students Divya Nautiyal and Lantian Zhang worked with members of the Community Design Assistance Center and industry partner Cardno to develop conceptual designs for a former gas station site in downtown Damascus, Virginia. With a focus on addressing the issues of seasonal tourism and economic development, the team developed a set of conceptual schemes and research, providing the community and town leadership with important tools to encourage redevelopment opportunities. Over the course of several months, Divya and Lantian facilitated several community visioning and feedback workshops, engaging dozens of members of the local community in a broader discussion about the role of design in rebuilding communities.  The project was supported by an EPA Brownfields Assessment grant.

Other projects through the year included improvements and expansion of the Russell County Fairgrounds main building, a sports complex and park for the town of Pearisburg, a trail for Prestonsburg, KY, a park design in Olive Hill, Kentucky, and a sports complex conceptual master plan for Greenbrier County, West Virginia.  This work not only aided many communities, but it also provided over 12 student jobs.

CDAC – Russell County Fairgrounds – Commercial Building Conceptual


Kevin Jones – School of A + D: Graduate Master of Architecture students Archi Dasgupta and Divya Nautiyal worked with members of the Community Design Assistance Center to reimagine an existing building on the site of the Russell County Fair, which welcomes tens of thousands of visitors every fall. With an eye to better serve the region and create a more welcoming experience, Archi, Divya, and the CDAC team worked with local stakeholders to develop renovation and expansion plans centered on the existing Commercial Building. The scheme addresses performance and security issues, improves the surrounding landscape with new shade trees, and features a small museum/shop, new meeting spaces, inviting porches, and improved spaces for staff.  The Russell County Fair Association is using the designs to pursue further economic development funding and opportunities. The project was supported by a grant from the U.S. Forest Service.

In the spirit of the award-winning Lost Communities of Virginia book, CDAC developed two driving tour brochures for 4-5 county regions in the Commonwealth.  The routes follow backroads, passing through small, once-thriving communities with suggested stops at places that tell stories of the places, provide unique cultural experiences, and patronize local businesses that exemplify the ideals of the tour through their buildings, landscapes, or history.

Covering the counties of Appomattox, Campbell, Charlotte, Halifax, and Pittsylvania, the Lost Communities of Virginia Southern Driving Tour brochure is now available on the CDAC website for download (http://www.cdac.arch.vt.edu/tour.html) and in print. The Lost Communities of Virginia Backroads of Southwest Virginia Driving Tour brochure covering Carroll, Montgomery, Pulaski, and Wythe Counties will be available on the CDAC website and in print summer 2017. “Like” the Community Design Assistance Center and Lost Communities of Virginia on Facebook to learn about projects, learn more about lost communities, and find out when driving tours have been printed.


Jeff Joiner – School of Visual Arts: FourDesign is a faculty-led, student-run design studio in the School of Visual Arts at Virginia Tech. We work with real clients to create strategy-based branding and marketing materials that strengthen relationships with their customers.

In addition to developing icons, posters, brochures and websites for several on-campus clients, FourDesign (www.fourdesign.co) worked with Kimberly Morgan in the Kohl Centre to design branding elements for Virginia MarketMaker.  MarketMaker is a national network of states that connect farmers and fishermen with food retailers, grocery stores, processors, caterers, chefs, and consumers. It is an ever-growing partnership of Land Grant Universities, Departments of Agriculture, and food and agricultural organizations investing in a coordinated effort to build a virtual infrastructure that brings healthier, fresher, and more flavorful food to the average consumer.

We are also wrapping up a website for TEAM Malawi, a collaborative outreach project with faculty from OIRED, the Carilion Research Institute, and Radford University. Also completed a Human-Centered Design poster announcing a new Graduate Education Program at Virginia Tech exploring the transdisciplinary research domains that exist at the nexus of Science, Engineering, Art, and Design.

Apex Systems Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship partners with the Virginia Tech Pamplin College of Business to provide resources to students that help their ideas become reality. We made a graphic element that also served as a pattern to create cohesion throughout the large-scale website. The WordPress CMS allowed the center to take over updating the site.

Institute for Policy and Governance

Max Stephenson – School of Public and International Affairs: The Virginia Tech Institute for Policy and Governance IPG) maintains an active program of empirical and theoretical research and learning linked to the Institute’s policy and governance-related domains of interest to achieve more fully democratic societies at all geographic scales. IPG engages in research, capacity building, technical outreach and community-based participatory inquiry with and on behalf of those IPG serves, principally disadvantaged and vulnerable populations.

Loudoun County Nonprofit Assessment :  The Loudoun County Department of Management and Budget, on behalf of the Board of Supervisors of Loudoun County, Virginia entered into an agreement with the Virginia Tech Institute of Policy and Governance this year to conduct an assessment to identify the funding gaps and unmet needs within the County’s nonprofit community in order to understand the extent of this need in Loudoun County.

New River Valley Community Services:  Building on years of experience in providing technical assistance and research in the areas of low-income and vulnerable populations, the Institute provided ongoing support and technical assistance to New River Community Services in the areas of policy and program for supportive employment, disability assessment and behavioral health for 3 programs this year.

Virginia Department of Veteran Services:  The Institute provided research and technical assistance support on data management and performance measures for two veterans’ programs to the Department this year.  VTIPG Senior Program Director Mary Beth Dunkenberger served on the Virginia Veteran Family Support – Virginia Military and Veterans Advisory Committee.

Virginia Tech Commission on Equal Opportunity and Diversity:  Mary Beth Dunkenberger has continued to serve on the Virginia Tech Commission on Equal Opportunity and Diversity (CEOD), appointed by Virginia Tech President Timothy Sands as a representative of the Women’s Alliance.   She served as CEOD Chair for 2016 – 2017.

Roanoke Valley Family Self-Sufficiency Network Analysis:  Institute Senior Program Director David Moore assisted the United Way of the Roanoke Valley in conducting a network analysis of the key players in their Family Self-sufficiency Initiative.  Convened large groups of stakeholders to share how organizations are working together collaboratively.

New River Valley Reentry Council:  David Moore served as a member of the New River Valley Re-entry Council and also was appointed to serve as Secretary and member of the Steering Committee.  This organization helps connect community initiatives seeking to reduce recidivism with each other and with evidence-based practice.

DePaul Community Services Community Advisory Board:  David Moore served as a member of the DePaul Community Services Community Advisory Board, served as Chairperson, and facilitated a multi-year focus on helping the NRV become a more trauma-informed community.

Alliance for Better Childcare Strategies Board:  David Moore served as a founding member of the Alliance for Better Childcare Strategies (ABCs) board of directors, a cross-sector partnership of organizations seeking to improve access, quality and affordability of child care in Montgomery County and also served on the finance committee.

Federal Reimbursement Unit:  The Federal Reimbursement Unit (FRU) has ongoing responsibilities to facilitate a collection of centralized processes to access federal, state and local resources on behalf of the Department of Family Services serving foster care youth, and youth and their families served by the Children’s Services Act. These resources include pursuing Medicaid funding ensuring compliance with CSA requirements to secure state matching funds, parental contributions, Title II and XVI—Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Benefits, Survivors’ Benefits (SSA), Title XIX – Medicaid benefits, and Title IV-D – Child Support.

The reimbursement of local expenditures reduces the local costs of providing services to children in foster care (expended through the Comprehensive Services Act).

The FRU goal is that fewer county tax dollars will be spent to support children who are in foster care placement and children in receipt of CSA pool funds and more will be reimbursed from the Federal Government and parent(s) of the children. The university has been contracting to Fairfax County to perform this work since 1994.  The average tenure for the FRU team is 9+ years. Fairfax County Department of Family Services and Fairfax/Falls Church Children’s Services Act.  The outcome in FY16: the FRU contributed $1,395,497 in third-party revenue to the two county programs that are supported.



In Conclusion

It is clear from the above report that the faculty, students, and centers/institutes in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies are committed to serving the citizens of the commonwealth and around the globe, through their outreach and engagement work.  This work spans in range from local art exhibits to works that contribute to a more sustainable life and world.  As an engaged learning experience, this work not only provides students with a solid and practical, professional education; but it is also transformational.  It inspires students be good citizens and serve a greater good.  It energizes them to overcome obstacles and see things they did not consider possible.  This is engagement in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies.