Past Projects

Refugee, Migrant, and Displaced Populations
Refugee, Migrant, and Displaced Populations. Faculty and students are involved in several research projects and outreach activities with recently resettled families in the Blacksburg and New River Valley areas. Collaborating with faculty, staff, and students from across the University including History, Science and Technology in Society, the School of Public and International Affairs, the Moss Arts Center, the School of Architecture and Urban Studies, the School of Visual Arts, the Global Forum on Urban and Regional Resilience, and the Office of International Research, Education, & Development, the Center also works with several service agencies and volunteers from the Blacksburg Refugee Partnership, the Roanoke Refugee Partnership, the regional Office of Refugee Resettlement, Blue Ridge Literacy, and others to engage in community activities and reciprocal research. This research has received seed funding from ISCE and from the Voice of Witness Foundation. In Fall 2020, the initiative resulted in establishing a new research center, the Center for Refugee, Migrant, and Displacement Studies, directed by Professor Katrina Powell.


Viral Networks: Connecting Digital Humanities and Medical History (2018)
Under funding from an NEH Digital Grant, Katherine Randall (PhD candidate in Rhetoric and Writing) assisted Dr. Tom Ewing in planning “Viral Networks: An Advanced Workshop in Digital Humanities and Medical History,” hosted at the National Library of Medicine in January 2018. Out of this workshop came Viral Networks: Connecting Digital Humanities and Medical History, a collection edited by Randall and Ewing that features chapters from workshop participants about integrating digital methods into traditional humanistic research.
Importantly, the collection also captures research in process. Because one of the editors’ aims was to make the collection accessible to humanist scholars who may be unfamiliar with digital network analysis, some of the included chapters focused on “failed” attempts to use network tools, step-by-step analytic processes, and the early stages of research projects that changed substantially after what network analysis revealed (or did not reveal). While there is robust historical work done in each chapter, the collection also serves as a methodological exploration and guide.

The book is available on Amazon ( and as a free, open-access digital version through VT Libraries (


The Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP)
The Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). The MVP is a natural gas pipeline that is slated for 2019 completion and will span over 300 miles from northwestern West Virginia to southern Virginia to transport natural gas extracted from Marcellus and Utica shale plays. The CRS has paired up with sociologist Dr. Shannon Bell and her team on a project that seeks to not only understand whether there are mental health impacts associated with natural gas pipelines but also identify the mechanisms by which mental health and quality of life may be affected. This work seeks to identify specific policy recommendations for protecting the mental health and quality of life of
residents living in the path of proposed natural gas pipelines and other development projects that have the potential to impact land-use rights through eminent domain or that pose risks to residents’ feelings of safety.


VT Stories

 VT Stories is an interdisciplinary born-digital oral histories project that explores the rhetorical affordances of multimodality and the internet. Focusing on the mentoring experiences of Virginia Tech alumni, VT Stories is a collaborative project across campus including English, History, VT Libraries, the Alumni Association, and TLOS. VT Stories transcends disciplinary boundaries and therefore is an example of Virginia Tech’s Beyond Boundaries visioning initiative. Our inter- and transdisciplinary project intersects with several Destination Areas, cultivating a VT-shaped learner by providing students with experiential learning across disciplines through internship opportunities.


Vaccination Research Group

The Vaccination Research Group is an interdisciplinary team of faculty, graduate, and undergraduate researchers studying vaccination controversy. Aiming to reframe existing stalemates about the perceived public health problem of vaccine refusal, we explore the multidimensional viewpoints of all parties through a neutral research standpoint. In so doing, we are able to provide novel interpretations of the social and cultural contexts that give rise to vaccine skepticism, challenging current dogma about both the problem and solutions to it.



The Virginia Training Centers Project

The Virginia Training Centers, residential facilities housing persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities, were ruled by the Department of Justice to be in noncompliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Because of the DOJ complaint, and citing the unreasonable cost of funding both an expanded Medicaid program and the live-in facilities, the state of Virginia decided to close four of the five Training Centers and move residents into group homes or equivalent community housing. People with disabilities who live on their own, with their families, or in smaller group homes are eligible to receive Medicaid vouchers funded by the state to cover medical care. Although relocating Training Center residents to alternative housing is a positive outcome in many cases, there are also residents who have lived in a facility for most of their lives, or who have disabilities severe enough to need 24/7 care that cannot be easily provided in a group home setting. Funded by the Institute for Society, Culture, and Environment, our interdisciplinary team of researchers conducted a study by interviewing residents and family members about their displacement experiences. By conducting interviews with the families and caregivers of the residents being displaced, we present a perspective on this issue that has been largely overlooked.


Visitors viewing a museum exhibit


In a rhetorical biography of civil rights activist Barbara Rose Johns,  we focused on the leadership of Barbara Jones, a student at R.R. Moton High School in Farmville, VA, who organized a student strike to protest the unequal and inadequate conditions at her school. Approaching her story from a rhetorical perspective, our project included

– A rhetorical biography that studies the factors influencing Barbara to become a powerful and influential speaker

– A digital educational module that will serve to expand lessons about Brown v. Board and Massive Resistance in Virginia with information and exercises about the Moton High School strike and the role of students in the Civil Rights Movement

– Achildren’s book that explores how the actions of one young person can spark larger social change, serving as exemplar for others


New York license plate reading "Title IX"


Thirty-five years ago, a life-changing piece of legislation called Title IX was enacted into law in an effort to prohibit sex discrimination in federally funded education, including athletics. By mandating equal opportunity, Title IX provided a tool for people to set in motion far-reaching changes that would not only revolutionize America’s playing fields, but its political, social and cultural landscape as well.

In this research area, we consider how and why change takes place in a democracy by exploring the role of professional and activist communication in providing educational opportunities through college athletics. Among the projects that will come from this research is a print and digital book series on Title IX rhetoric and higher education athletics. The project reconstructs events in the movement for women’s athletics from 1972 to the present by using original oral history interviews, archival research, observations from visits to locations where the events unfolded, news articles, and legal documents.

Funding and support has been provided by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), Kartemquin Films, the Illinois Council for the Humanities, the Illinois Arts Council, the Virginia Tech Institute for Society, Culture, and the Environment, and the Virginia Tech Department of English. For information, please click here.



Community members participate in a focus group

Community and Corporate Writing Project

The Community and Corporate Writing Project explored what kinds of writing, research, and outreach services would be beneficial for local nonprofits and businesses. The focus group session, moderated by former CRS research assistant, Tana Schiewer, identified four primary target areas for research and program development: managing email communication, creating a compelling mission statement. optimizing a social media presence and developing productive collaboration.




 Veterans in Society 

Veterans in Society is an initiative of former CRS Director, Dr. Jim Dubinsky. Funded through the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Veterans in Society Summer Institute was held in 2016. The Veterans in Society Conference is an annual event. Dr. Dubinsky also serves as the Veterans Caucus chair as part of InclusiveVT.


Ambiguities and Representation (2016 NEH Summer Institute for College and University Teachers)

Conference: Race and/or Reconciliation (2015)

Conference: Humanizing the Discourse (2014)

Conference: Changing the Discourse (2013)