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2020 College of Architecture and Urban Studies Awards

Every April, CAUS celebrates its faculty, staff, and students with an awards ceremony that recognizes outstanding contributions to the college and Virginia Tech over the previous year. Since we weren’t able to host that event in person this year, we invite you to help us celebrate these individuals virtually! Below are CAUS award recipients as wells as notes made by their respective nominators.

CAUS Certificate for Excellence in Teaching

Patrick Finley
Graphic Design
School of Visual Arts

From Patrick’s nominators:

  • Not only does Patrick have an excellent attitude, but he is incredibly knowledgeable. He keeps current on design trends, remains active in his design practice, and he is very comfortable with both design principles and technical skills (such as coding).
  • He handles complex situations and people with great ease, which is no surprise since he is an all-around considerate and kind individual.
  • As one student stated, “Patrick has contributed significantly to my development as a designer. Not only is he an excellent professor in design and in web design, but he is always supportive, helpful, and patient with his students.”

CAUS Certificate for Excellence in Teaching

James Jewitt
Visual Arts Minor
School of Visual Arts

From James’s nominators:

  • James has shown an admirable commitment to innovative pedagogical approaches, such as the outreach and service-learning experiences for art history majors he has organized. These involved student research trips to Virginia and Washington DC museums and corresponding public symposia where students presented original research on artworks.
  • James’ pedagogically innovative curriculum for the Visual Arts Minor, has been incredibly successful as it attracts students cross a multitude of academic disciplines. The Minor includes a wide variety of courses, including introductory visual arts classes, special topics tied to his own research, and capstone seminars. The Minor has become a valuable asset to SOVA and CAUS with a current enrollment of over 50 students.

CAUS Certificate for Excellence in Outreach

Stephanie Davis
Public Administration and Policy
School of Public and International Affairs

From Stephanie’s nominators:

  • Stephanie maintains a robust practice providing technical assistance and consulting services on government finance, capital planning, budgeting, and strategic planning for a number of local jurisdictions across the Commonwealth.
  • She collaborates with a network of Virginia Government Finance Officers Association members and local government officials creating workshops offering participants opportunities for reflection and learning. In the description of the upcoming November workshop, Stephanie and her colleagues aim to, “empower local government officials to energize networks, foster innovation, augment outcomes and achieve strategic goals.”
  • Government Finance Officers Association CEO Chris Morrill begins his letter in support of Stephanie’s nomination for the CAUS Certificate in Outreach Excellence by noting simply that Dr. Stephanie Davis embodies the Virginia Tech motto “Ut Prosim.”

CAUS Certificate for Excellence in Outreach

Todd Schenk
Planning and Urban Affairs
School of Public and International Affairs

From Todd’s nominators:

  • Recognizing the importance of civil discourse, President Sands asked Todd, along with the Division of Student Affairs and Office for Inclusion and Diversity, to organize and facilitate the #CivilityVT series. His Frenemies Project and Frenemies Day activities included events here on campus, but were also promoted nation-wide. Evidence of this impact is the 20+ online, print, radio and television stories that featured his work on Frenemies and civil discourse in general.
  • Todd has numerous engagement activities with the VT Renewable Energy Facilities Siting Project, including public meetings and guest presentations.
  • He has led two MURP studios with significant community engagement – one on making retirement communities more sustainable and the other on making space for creativity and innovation.

CAUS Certificate for Excellence in Scholarship

Elizabeth Grant
School of Architecture + Design

From Elizabeth’s nominators:

  • Elizabeth’s scholarship focuses on two main areas – the performance of building enclosures, particularly on roofing, and the integration of building science concepts in architectural practice and education. She has published in Architectural Science Review, Journal of Green Building and Journal of Architectural Engineering.
  • Her 2017 book “Integrating Building Performance with Design: An Architecture Student’s Guidebook” published by Routledge received Virginia Tech’s Albert L. Sturm Award for Excellence in Faculty Research in 2019.
  • Elizabeth is part of a team that has two United States patents – Rooftop Vent for Reducing Pressure Under a Membrane Roof, granted in 2006 and 2009.

CAUS Certificate for Excellence in Scholarship

Steve Hankey
Urban Affairs and Planning
School of Public and International Affairs

From Steve’s nominators:

  • Steve was awarded the 2019 National Science Foundation CAREER Award, one of the most prestigious award bestowed to him pre-tenure, which recognizes both the importance of his research to society and his productive capacity.
  • A feature of his work especially admirable is his commitment to research that has clear practice and policy implications. His work is empirically sophisticated, methodologically rigorous, and has clear policy relevance that addresses compelling public health questions regarding active travel and air pollution.
  • He has so far published 19 peer-reviewed articles in top tier journals like Environmental Health Perspectives, Environment International, and Environmental Science and Technology.

CAUS Certificate for Creative Achievement

Patrick Finley
Graphic Design
School of Visual Arts

From Patrick’s nominators:

  • Since arriving at Virginia Tech in 2016, Patrick has received six international awards, seven national awards and ten regional awards. He designed 100% of the work for ten of the awards that includes two of the international awards.
  • One collaboration with Meaghan Dee – the 2018 New Interfaces in Musical Expressions conference, received the highly reputable Gold Graphis international award for a Brand Identity Campaign.
  • Over the past few years, Patrick has served as Art Director on Local Colors (a nonprofit in Roanoke Valley that strives to bring people of different cultures together in peace through educational services), which won numerous awards at the 2020 American Advertising Federation Awards Show.

CAUS Diversity Recognition Award

Josh Iorio
Construction Engineering and Management
Myers-Lawson School of Construction

From Josh’s nominators:

  • Josh has translated his expertise in linguistics to the construction discipline integrating into courses he teaches and publishing (most recently in the Journal of Construction Engineering and Management) as well as co-curating an exhibition titled, “Micro-aggressions at Virginia Tech.”
  • As a member of the National Association of Minority Contractors, Josh developed diversity modules for core construction courses and program review/guidance for HBCU construction programs.
  • For the National Society of Black Engineers, he developed and leads a 2-hour pre-college sessions each summer for participating high school students, which is intended to create pipelines for African-American students to enroll at Virginia Tech.

CAUS Certificate for Career Achievement

Kevin Concannon
School of Visual Arts

From Kevin’s nominators:

  • Kevin’s research is what drives him, and as an administrator, he fosters research productivity in his faculty by leading by example. It’s not possible to walk into Kevin’s office without seeing evidence of his latest research project; a half-read article with highlighted text or an open book with a hastily scrawled post-it note stuck to the pages. Every meeting in his office begins with Kevin pushing aside whatever scholarly article he is reading between sending emails and heading off to meetings to make a space at the table.
  • Kevin’s scholarly publications are widely cited by peers. Kevin’s seminal article “Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece (1964): From text to performance and back again,” in PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art (2008, vol. 30, no. 3) has been cited over thirty times, and stands as the critical source on the work of Yoko Ono. But beyond that, his museum experience has led to the successful curation of over twenty exhibits.
  • He has authored everything from museum brochures to museum catalogues, press releases as well as peer reviewed publications. As a scholar of contemporary art, Kevin’s career achievements are exceptional.
  • When Kevin arrived at Virginia Tech in 2011 to take the helm of the School of Visual Arts, he brought with him eight years’ experience from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and ten years’ experience teaching at the University of Akron. Kevin took the reins of SOVA, a school that was surviving, but not thriving; a school that was in a good place, but burdened with defining itself in a new era of digital arts. From the beginning, Kevin’s leadership approach blended his strong values and ideals for the arts, trusting the knowledge and experience of faculty, and a well-connected and outgoing personality.
  • Under Kevin’s leadership, SOVA has met many milestones: the Creative Technologies program and the Graphic Design Program are both nationally ranked; the BFA concentrations (studio, graphic design and creative technologies) have been successfully rewritten as separate majors; the Visual Arts and Society Pathways Minor was established to expand the access to visual arts classes across campus. Furthermore, SOVA is situated to take a leading role in Studio 72, the Arts and Creativity Living-Learning Community. He founded the School’s first advancement council, and has worked with its members to raise critical funds for SOVA’s initiatives. Kevin has built a strong relationships between SOVA and ICAT, SOPA and the Moss Arts Center.
  • One additional point speaks to Kevin’s personal commitment to arts and community at Virginia Tech and in Blacksburg. When Kevin and his wife Margo moved to town, they intentionally bought a house close to campus so that they could host parties, and the semi-annual dance parties have become legendary, a place where students, faculty, administrators, mayors (past and present), local business owners, baristas and neighbors (the list goes on and on) can dance to Kevin’s playlist of funk and disco music. These events are inclusive, lively and energetic. In a single event, they represent Kevin’s contribution and style to the rich and enthusiastic visual arts culture he has brought to SOVA and to Blacksburg.

CAUS Outstanding Administrative & Professional Faculty/Staff Award

Leigh Bower
Program Assistant/Graduate Coordinator
School of Public and International Affairs

From Leigh’s nominators:

  • From a faculty perspective, Leigh’s professionalism and proactive approach to problem solving has significantly relieved the administrative burden on faculty across the school.
  • To the majority of students in SPIA, she is the administrative face of their program. She is the go-to person who always greets them with a smile and provides them with the time and attention they need to solve a course registration problem, obtain advice on how to navigate a bureaucratic process (i.e., locate the right form), or simply listen to any concerns they might have. In the words of VT’s Principles of Community, Leigh undertakes this role in a way that creates a “climate of civility, sensitivity, and mutual respect.”

CAUS Outstanding Administrative & Professional Faculty/Staff Award

Lisa Cash
Business Manager
Myers-Lawson School of Construction

From Lisa’s nominators:

  • Lisa is currently titled “Business Manager”, but like the metaphorical person in a small town who is the sheriff, post office general, gas station operator, grocery store operator, etc., Lisa has performed, and continues to perform virtually, a vast array of services. The more unbelievable characteristic perhaps, is that Lisa never complains.
  • She is one of the key promoters of our family culture, and drives our fiscal and administrative systems. Her sense of humor, upbeat attitude, coupled with her technical prowess, makes her the cornerstone of our operations.

Elizabeth Roberson Staff Excellence Award

Leslie Day
Business Manager
School of Public and International Affairs

From Leslie’s nominators:

  • Leslie is the type of staff member who takes initiatives. Here are a few examples. She took on a larger role in budgetary decisions by developing the budget for the school, analyzing needs, and approving expenditures. She created and now manages a school-level graduate assistantship budget program to ensure stipend and tuition resources are used efficiently but within budget.
  • She is a very conscientious and gregarious person who is the ultimate team player.
  • Leslie is a problem solver – whenever a new issue arose (and these would come at a daily rate) her response was – well how do find a solution to this – rather than – it cannot be done.

University Awards

The following awards have been given to CAUS faculty and students from other units across the university. Join us in congratulating these individuals!

University Certificate for Excellence in Teaching

Thomas Skuzinski
Planning and Urban Affairs
School of Public and International Affairs

This award is given by Virginia Tech’s Academy of Teaching Excellence.

From Thomas’s nominators:

  • Thomas teaches courses in the core of the Public and Urban Affairs (PUA) degree, in the core of the Environmental Policy and Planning (EPP) major, and in the core of the Masters of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) degree. Few faculty in SPIA play such an important role in delivering courses in the core of multiple programs.
  • Thomas’s expertise is captured by his courses on the Legal Foundations of Planning, the Law of Critical Environmental Areas, Land Use Law and Planning, and Building Better Infrastructure Systems. The first two undergraduate courses, Thomas carefully restructured the content of these courses so students obtained critical legal knowledge via modules that built on one another.

University Award for Outreach Excellence

Paul Kelsch
Landscape Architecture
School of Architecture + Design

This award is given by Virginia Tech’s Office of Outreach and International Affairs.

From Paul’s nominators:

  • Over the last ten years Paul’s outreach to the USA’s Park Service has given our country a roadmap toward restoring and updating the parkways of Washington DC, a national historic landscape.
  • His innovative methods uncovered and revealed the original intent and design of the various parkways and provided guidance to the park service for coming decades.
  • His expertise comes from this sustained body of research that leads to practice, guidelines for the park service as they modernize, restore and preserve the parkway system while protecting those who use the parkway everyday: tourists, commuters, bicyclists, hikers for years ahead.

CAUS Outstanding Recent Alumni Award

Nicole Benincasa
School of Public and International Affairs

This award is given by Virginia Tech’s Alumni Association.

From Nicole’s nominators:

  • Since completing her degree in 2009, Nicole progressed through graduate study into a career as global in-house counsel for Uber, where she advised on law and policy related to safety matters for domestic and international operations across rideshare, food and package delivery, and electric bikes and scooters. In May 2020, she became General Counsel of Kickstarter, a Public Benefit Corporation whose mission is to help bring creative projects to life.
  • Her work has national and international impact across hundreds of communities on a daily basis.
  • She is described as “a model corporate citizen … [who] devote[s] time and energy to organizations that are dedicated to reducing and preventing gun violence, such as the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Sandy Hook Promise, Brady Campaign, Everytown for Gun Safety, and March for our Lives [and to] all of the company’s efforts to provide pro bono legal support to gun violence prevention organizations.”

CAUS Outstanding Senior

Sydney Miller
Interior Design
School of Architecture + Design

This award is given by Virginia Tech’s Division of Student Affairs.

From Sydney’s nominators:

  • Sidney is working on a collaboration with NASA for her senior thesis project, including mentoring other seniors.
  • She is always willing to help the interior design program in any way she can. She makes it all seem easy and never gets overwhelmed or ruffled.
  • Sidney was a semi-finalist for the American Society of Interior Designer’s National Portfolio Competition in 2019 and again in 2020. The winner has yet to be decided.
  • She serves as president of IDEAS Student Group, which hosts professional firms every Friday throughout both semesters for lunchtime presentations and each firm’s mentorship of students.

CAUS Outstanding Master's Student

Mahsa Hedayati
Architecture, Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center
School of Architecture + Design

This award is given by Virginia Tech’s Graduate School.

From Masha’s nominators:

  • Mahsa has exhibited her talents and abilities in her design for a new VT Energy Campus in Alexandria. Her campus master plan was developed with faculty and staff from VT’s Center for Power Electronics (CPES), and city officials.
  • In her project, Mahsa chose to reuse an existing coal-fired power plant, the Potomac River Generating Station which not only reduces the material expenditures for the project, and thereby its carbon-footprint, but also serves as a living reminder of the power of research and innovation to improve our collective quality of life.

CAUS Outstanding Doctoral Student

Johnson Olayiwola
Environmental Design and Planning
Myers-Lawson School of Construction

This award is given by Virginia Tech’s Graduate School.

From Johnson’s nominators:

  • Johnson actively participates in research and outreach initiatives of the Smart Systems Lab.
  • One of his papers presented at the 2019 International Council for Research and Innovation in Building and Construction conference in Newcastle, UK was one of the few papers accepted for publication in the Elsevier Journal of Automation in Construction.
  • Johnson has been engaged in some MLSoC outreach exercises. developed a virtual construction site (based on Virtual Reality) for educating high school students.

CAUS Outstanding Mentor

Marcia Feuerstein
Architecture, Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center
School of Architecture + Design

This award is given by Virginia Tech’s Graduate School.

From Marcia’s nominators:

  • Marcia is generous with her deep knowledge of architecture ranging across theory and practice. She has a knack for suggesting just the right reference – whether a book or a building – to help a student with their research. Marcia engages students in active learning by posing carefully constructed questions so they have their own discoveries,
  • She is an especially strong mentor for women in architecture. This may in part be related to her long involvement with the International Archive of Women in Architecture. Currently, she is engaging a number of female students in researching and co-authoring in her upcoming book on outstanding buildings by women architects around the world.