Eight Virginia Tech graduate students received Citizen Scholar awards for their efforts to combine scholarship with community engagement. 

Associate Dean and Alumni Distinguished Professor Rosemary Blieszner, who teaches the Graduate School’s citizen scholar seminar, and Vice President and Dean for Graduate Education Karen P. DePauw presented the awards and noted that each winning project focused on involvement with community, whether in the Blacksburg region or across the globe.

Citizen Scholar winners

  • Kenneth Black, of Blacksburg, a doctoral student in architecture and design research in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies, worked with students to help them understand and analyze concepts and projects through the tactile process of sketching. He earned his bachelor’s degree and master’s degree at Virginia Tech.
  • Anna Erwin, of Topsail Beach, North Carolina, a doctoral student in planning, governance and globalization in the School of Public and International Affairs, has been working in the Roanoke Valley with several organizations focused on community based research and eliminating food deserts. She earned her bachelor’s degree and master’s degree from Appalachian State University.
  • Holly Grant, of Oradell, New Jersey, a doctoral student in mathematics, received her award for “Time for Slime,” an interactive exhibit for children she developed for the Virginia Science Festival. Grant earned a bachelor’s degree from Smith College and a master’s degree from Montclair State University.
  • Sarah Halvorson-Fried, of Bangor, Maine, a master's student in urban and regional planning in the School of Public and International Affairs, has focused her work on the community's Dialogue on Race project. She has been researching the employment income gap and also working on various policies and actions to reduce the income gap between African-Americans and the rest of society. Part of her community work included participation in efforts to “Ban the Box,” referring to a box on employment applications asking about criminal history. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Macalester College,
  • Andrea Hamre, of Roseville, Minnesota, a doctoral student in planning, governance and globalization in the School of Public and International Affairs, focused on supporting data-driven and evidence-based decision making related to transportation. A student in the National Capital Region, she worked on the Metropolitan Washington Councils of Governments Transportation Planning Board’s Citizen Advisory Committee and with the City of Alexandria. She earned her bachelor’s degree in environmental studies at Middlebury College and her master’s degree in agriculture and applied economics at Virginia Tech.
  • Rachael Kennedy, of Blacksburg, a doctoral candidate in agriculture, leadership and community education in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, worked with the Roanoke Local Food Stakeholder Group on a grassroots effort to develop a regional food system plan to promote local food systems and access to same. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia and a master’s degree from the University of North Carolina.
  • Siddhartha Roy, of Palanpur, India, a civil and environmental engineering doctoral student, shared what he called “a team effort” project involving undergraduates and the Virginia Tech chapter of Engineers without Borders. The group worked with a boarding school in Guatemala, developing a waste water system to help solve potable water problems. Roy earned a bachelor’s degree from Nirma University in India and a master’s degree from Virginia Tech.
  • Berk Uslu, of Blacksburg, a civil and environmental engineering doctoral student, shared his work with the Sustainable Water Infrastructure Management project, creating a platform across which people can share information and improve efficiency when developing, implementing and managing water infrastructure projects. Uslu holds bachelor’s degrees from Istanbul Technical University and the University at Buffalo, and a master’s degree from Virginia Tech.

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.