A surge in external research investments in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences has catalyzed a wave of exploration into vital issues shaping society.

The college’s annual externally sponsored expenditures totaled $12.4 million in the 2022-23 academic year – a near 40 percent increase over the previous year.

“The increase in external funding was recorded across departments, schools, centers, and programs, thus confirming the quality of scholarly activity, the determination of faculty to secure funding, and the support provided to achieve these outcomes,” said E. Thomas Ewing, professor and associate dean for research and graduate studies in the college.

Faculty researchers in the college pursued solutions to a variety of challenges facing society, such as the effects of climate change on vulnerable populations and technology’s influence on food and agriculture systems.

From the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to the National Endowment for the Humanities, support from major philanthropic, research, and government organizations has helped fuel the work of faculty.

The rise in the college’s research expenditures has contributed to a recent Virginia Tech-wide increase, with the university boosting research expenditures by 28 percent in the past two years.

Many of these grants were awarded to early career faculty, demonstrating their success in securing external recognition for their excellence in research and public engagement.

Tenure-track assistant professors securing major external grants in the past year include the following:

Chase Catalano, School of Education: Spencer Foundation, $50,000

Catalano received support for a research conference focused on the role LGBTQ+ centers can play to address racial equity on college campuses.

Maaz Gardezi, Department of Sociology: U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture, $649,396

Gardezi earned the grant to work with farmers and “smart farming” technology in his project “Testing a Responsible Innovation Approach for Integrating Precision Agriculture Technologies with Future Farm Workers and Work.”

Brittany Howell, Department of Human Development and Family Science and Fralin Biomedical Research Institute, with Martha Ann Bell and Kathy Hosig: National Institutes of Health, $5.7 million

Howell is researching how early exposure to opioids and other factors influence babies’ brain, physical, and behavioral development.

Fernanda Rosa: Social Science Research Council Just Tech Fellowship, $200,000, and National Endowment for the Humanities Danger and Opportunities of Technology research grant, $75,000

Rosa received the Social Science Research Council fellowship for her project “Digital Inequalities in Latin America” and the National Endowment for the Humanities grant for another project, “Interconnecting Indigenous Peoples.”

Jessica Taylor: National Endowment for the Humanities Humanities Collections and Reference Resources, $49,999

Taylor earned the grant for her project focused on 17th century escapes and escape attempts by unfree laborers

Theodore Lim, School of Public and International Affairs: National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award, $500,000

Lim earned the grant to conduct in-depth analysis of computer modeling as a social-political process

Dedication to research leads to prolific results

These grants support research that results in substantial contributions to scholarly knowledge and public understanding. Many of the projects directly address Virginia Tech priorities in recognizing the diversity of human communities, advancing equity and social justice, and exploring the human dimensions of technology.
Measurable outcomes will result from the grants in the form of books, articles, essays, presentations, and resources. Many of the early career faculty securing these grants have been supported by faculty research grants offered by the College, which provides the seed funding necessary to build the scholarly record to secure this highly competitive funding.

What’s next for research in the college

The College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences (CLAHS) anticipates faculty members will continue earning support from prestigious organizations to further advance research endeavors and help enhance Virginia Tech’s reputation for academic excellence.
“Social scientists and humanists are making vital contributions to the research aims of Virginia Tech and I couldn’t be more proud of these brilliant, innovative CLAHS faculty,” said Laura Belmonte, dean of the college.

Written by Andrew G Adkins