The Virginia Tech College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences established the Academy of Transdisciplinary Studies in 2020 in response to some of the most daunting challenges facing humanity.
“By their very definition, transdisciplinary studies defy traditional curricular and programmatic boundaries,” said Laura Belmonte, dean of the college. “Our university already has a significant number of faculty, programs, and courses that are transdisciplinary in their focus and methodologies, but they’re dispersed across colleges and departments. The Academy of Transdisciplinary Studies is intended to be the catalyst that brings them together and takes advantage of their synergistic strength to address complex problems.”
Belmonte named Carlos Evia, a professor in the Virginia Tech School of Communication to direct the academy.
“Dr. Evia has long worked across disciplinary boundaries,” said Belmonte. “His ability to delve into the intersections of liberal arts and technology combined with his work in curricula and student support activities that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion make him a terrific fit for overseeing the academy’s multifaceted programs and working to promote transdisciplinary inquiry across campus.”
Carlos Evia, Director and Associate Dean of Transdisciplinary Initiatives
Carlos Evia, associate dean for transdisciplinary initiatives at the Virginia Tech College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, directs the Academy of Transdisciplinary Studies. He also serves as a professor in the School of Communication and as chief technology officer of the college.
An expert in cutting-edge technical communication, Evia holds a master’s degree in computer systems from Universidad La Salle in Mexico City and a doctorate in technical communication and rhetoric from Texas Tech University. In his doctoral program he specialized in technical documentation, content operations, and user experience, with an emphasis on misrepresented audiences.
Evia, who joined the Virginia Tech faculty in 2004, focuses his research on planning and developing technology-based solutions for workplace communication problems, particularly in situations involving multicultural audiences. He is particularly interested in Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA), which uses Extensible Markup Language, or XML, to define a set of guidelines for encoding documents in a format that can be read by both humans and machines.
He has worked with OASIS, the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards, as a voting member of the Technical Committee for DITA. He also co-chaired the organization’s subcommittee on Lightweight DITA, an authoring method he helped create that uses plain text with notations.
Evia authored the book Creating Intelligent Content with Lightweight DITA in 2018 and co-edited Outsourcing Technical Communication: Issues, Policies, and Practices a decade earlier. He serves on the editorial boards of two journals, Communication Design Quarterly and IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication. He is also a co-administrator of the Hispanics in Computing LinkedIn group.
At Virginia Tech, Evia is a faculty affiliate of the Center for Human-Computer Interaction, a faculty fellow at the Center for Communicating Science, and a member of the stakeholder committee of the Center for Humanities.
Evia is also a member of the Virginia Tech Hispanic/Latino Faculty and Staff Caucus. During the 2020-2021 academic year, he was the faculty fellow at El Centro, the Hispanic and Latinx Cultural and Community Center.
Susan Stinson, Assistant Director
Susan Stinson, affectionately known by colleagues and students as “Scout,” serves as Assistant Director of the Academy of Transdisciplinary Studies and as Instructor of Communication and Issues of Diversity in the School of Communication. With a professional background in publishing at Vintage Books, Anchor Books & Everyman’s Library—imprints part of the Knopf Group inside what is now Penguin Random House, Scout earned her Master’s of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction (CNF) from Goddard College in Vermont in 2007 and taught service, literature survey, creative nonfiction, and LGBTQ+ memoir courses at Longwood University from 2004 – 2014 when she moved to Virginia Tech. She serves as Lead CNF Editor for the national literary journal Clockhouse.
Shaila Mehra, Leader of the Identities and Intersectionalities Area
Shaila Mehra joined Virginia Tech in July 2020 as both the assistant dean for diversity, equity, and inclusion at the Virginia Tech College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences and as an associate professor of practice in the Department of Sociology.
As assistant dean, Mehra will contribute to improving critical thinking, reasoning, and awareness of inclusion and diversity through the university’s Pathways general education curriculum, and she will participate in the university’s strategic planning to attract more students from underrepresented groups.
Mehra’s own research focuses on African American women, with a specialization in black feminist theory.
Before joining Virginia Tech, Mehra had most recently served as director of the Center for Africana Studies and a teaching assistant professor of English at Oklahoma State University. She earned her doctorate in African American literature from the University of Rochester.
Anna Zeide, Leader of the Space and Place Area
Anna Zeide is an associate professor of history at Virginia Tech. She is also the founding director of the Food Studies Program in the College of Liberal Arts & Human Sciences. She studies food as a way of understanding environmental change, dynamic cultural practices, consumer behavior, technology, health, and justice.
Her first book, Canned: The Rise and Fall of Consumer Confidence in the American Food Industry (University of California Press, 2018) won a James Beard media award in 2019.
She co-edited Acquired Tastes: Stories About the Origins of Modern Foods (MIT Press, 2021), wrote the forthcoming US History in 15 Foods (Bloomsbury Press, 2023), and is working on a history of food waste and a family history project.
Rishi Jaitly, Leader of the Digital Transformation and Scientific Collaboration Area
Rooted in place and guided by service, Rishi Jaitly is a leading advocate of the humanities with uncommon entrepreneurial, international and executive experience at the intersection of technology, media and civics.
Presently, Jaitly is a Professor of Practice and Distinguished Humanities Fellow at Virginia Tech, where he also leads digital transformation and scientific collaboration in the Academy for Transdisciplinary Studies.
Jaitly is the Co-Founder, and was the Founding CEO, of Times Bridge, the U.S.’s leading venture capital firm enabling international expansion for the world’s best ideas, including Airbnb, Coursera, Headspace, Malaria No More, Stack Overflow and Uber. Prior to founding Times Bridge, he was Twitter’s Vice President, Asia Pacific, Middle East, North Africa, and the company’s first employee in mainland Asia. Earlier in his career, he was the Founding Managing Director of Twitter India, the Head of Public Policy for Google & YouTube South Asia, a speechwriter and aide to Google CEO Eric Schmidt and a Director of the Knight Foundation in Detroit and College Summit in Washington.
Jaitly is also the co-founder of Michigan Corps (an online service and storytelling platform for Michiganders everywhere), Kiva Detroit and Flint (America's first peer-to-peer microlending initiative) and the BMe Community (America's largest digital network for black males leading in their hometowns).
Jaitly is a former Trustee of Princeton University and former Commissioner of Higher Education in New Jersey; he is a current Trustee of the National Humanities Center, and Board Director of Virginia Humanities, PRX and Village Capital. In 2022, he was named one of Rest of World Magazine’s “Top 100 Global Tech Changemakers.”
An accomplished public speaker who has spoken at the UN, appeared on CNN and the BBC, and been featured in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, Jaitly earned an A.B. in History and a Certificate in American Studies from Princeton University.