Five graduate students in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences recently participated in a Diversity Spotlight event, in which the Virginia Tech Graduate School’s 2017 Diversity Scholars gave five-minute presentations about their work in lightning-round format.

The scholars from the college have organized everything from the university’s first powwow to an Appalachian student support group to a popular-culture film series.

Melissa Faircloth, of Goldsboro, North Carolina, is a Ph.D. student in sociology. She earned her bachelor’s and her master’s degrees from East Carolina University. She serves as co-advisor for Native at Virginia Tech, a native and indigenous student organization.

She organized the first powwow on Virginia Tech’s campus to create visibility for underrepresented groups on campus, increase cultural education and competencies throughout campus and the greater Blacksburg community, and to provide a point of interest that might assist with indigenous student recruitment.

Jameson Jones, of Tazewell, Virginia, is a middle-school Spanish teacher and a Ph.D. student in education curriculum and instruction. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Roanoke College and his master’s degree from Appalachian State University. He is committed to community advocacy and development, as well as engaging in dialogue that bridges cross-cultural differences.

His project seeks to provide members of the Virginia Tech community a forum to share and learn from experiences related to Appalachian culture on campus and in our community. Natives and non-natives of the region are invited to participate to provide a holistic glimpse into life on a campus located in Appalachia.

Elizabeth Leigh McKagen, of Riner, Virginia, is a second year Ph.D. student in ASPECT, the Alliance for Social, Political, Ethical, and Cultural Thought. She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Virginia Tech.

Her research interests include cultural studies, media studies, critical theory, popular culture, and science fiction studies. She plans to develop an event series that screens examples of popular science fiction television shows and create a space for discussion on diversity in popular culture and our academic environment.

Thomas Murray, of Chicago, Illinois, is a second-year M.F.A. candidate in directing and public dialogue in the School of Performing Arts. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Ball State University. He is writing a docudrama about the conflict between motorists and bicyclists on shared city streets.

For his Diversity Scholars project, he will partner with Alpha Psi Omega, the undergraduate theater honorary society, to lead a forum on queer and gender-based theater.

Emma Stamm, of Hudson Valley, New York, is a writer and Ph.D. student in the ASPECT program. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Bard College and a master’s degree from The New School.

Her research deploys continental philosophy and media theory to critique emerging Internet technologies. Her project ─ an art exhibit and panel discussion ─ brings attention to female and nonbinary digital and electronic artists at Virginia Tech.

The Diversity Scholars program was established in 2012 to help students develop and implement projects to improve inclusion and diversity through dialogue, advocacy, and change in programs and colleges across the university’s campuses.

Written by Cathy Grimes