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Katrina Powell

Center Director
Professor of Rhetoric and Writing

Brett Shadle

Associate Director of Outreach
Professor of History

Rebecca Hester

Associate Director of Education
Associate Professor in Science, Technology, and Society

Georgeta Pourchot

Center Co-Founder and Liason
Associate Director of the Center for European Union, Transatlantic, and Trans-European Space Studies


Olha Nimko
Visiting Research Scholar

Olha Nimko holds a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Law and serves as a research assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at Virginia Tech. She is affiliated with the Center for Refugee, Migrant, and Displacement Studies as the visiting research scholar from Ukraine.

During the academic year 2022-2023, Dr. Nimko held the position of Professor for Environmental Policy at ETH Zürich in Switzerland, within the Institute for Environmental Decisions and Environmental Policy Lab. From 2015 to 2022, she served as an Assistant Professor, and from 2010 to 2015, she was the Head of the Department of Law at Polissya National University, Ukraine. Dr. Nimko has supervised scientific research on topics such as "Legal Liability for Violation of Natural Resources Law of Ukraine" and "Problematic Aspects and Improvement of Legal Regulations of Biotechnologies, Biosafety, Prevention of Terrorism, and Counter-Terrorism." Her contributions to these fields include a monograph, several books, and numerous scientific papers published in well-known international journals, providing valuable recommendations on law and politics.

Olha has won many grants and fellowship including: The Project Scholars at Risk, The Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), Environmental Policy Lab, Department of Environmental Systems Science, ETH Zurich, Switzerland; CEU/HESP Research Excellence Fellowship program at the Central European University, Budapest, Hungary. The Center for Ethics and Law in Biomedicine (CELAB); Project: FEED-UKRAINE: The politics of food security in Ukraine from the Russian invasion;


Deirdre Hand
Community Engagement Specialist

Deirdre Hand is the Community Engagement Specialist for the Center for Refugee, Migrant, and Displacement Studies and the Center for Rural Education. She is a two-time graduate from Virginia Tech and is an educator with a Master’s in Education, Curriculum, and Instruction, with a concentration in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages).  Deirdre has more than 14 years of experience teaching English to speakers of other languages around the world, with highlights including serving as an English Language Fellow through the U.S. State Department in Indonesia, an ESL teacher in Washington D.C. Public Schools, a teaching and research instructor at Virginia Tech, an EFL teacher in the Czech Republic and Ireland, serving as Lead Teacher of a Scholarship Program in Rwanda, working as the English Department Coordinator of a non-profit school in Guatemala, and most recently co-founding Elimisha Kakuma, a university-access program in Kakuma Refugee Camp, in Kenya.  Her passion is promoting educational access to all, especially immigrants, refugees, and other forcibly displaced people.


Zuleka Woods
Graduate Research Assistant

Zuleka Randell Woods serves as a Graduate Research Assistant for the Center for Refugee, Migrant, and Displacement Studies (CRMDS).  She is a Ph.D. candidate in Planning, Governance, and Globalization at Virginia Tech. She has a Master’s in Public Health with a concentration on Black maternal health and culturally responsive evaluation and a Master in Education with concentration in diversity, equity and inclusion.  Her current research centers on centers on race, power structures and representations in international programs. Before CRMDS, Zuleka worked for the VT Graduate school diversity equity and inclusion office creating programs for graduate students and served as the President of the African Graduate Student Org (AGSO). In her free time, she’s a storyteller countering the too often voiced narrative of a “helpless” Africa. She was the co-editor of the Center’s digital series, Roots & Resettlement, a collection of art and other composition about place and belonging at Virginia Tech. Zuleka is the author of  Ba-Ya (Play Cook), an anthology of short stories highlighting gender-based violence in her home country Liberia.


Marianne Hawthorne
Office Administrator

Marianne Hawthorne is the Office Administrator for the Center for Rural Education and the Center for Refugee, Migrant, and Displacement Studies. She has worked at Virginia Tech in Fiscal Operations since 2001. She spent 17 years with the Center for Power Electronic Systems as Fiscal Tech and Administrative Assistant to the Center Director and five years at the National Security Institute and Hume Center as a Senior Fiscal Tech. She received her BS in Business from Radford University. Marianne came to the New River Valley for college and has stayed in the area ever since. 



Academic Interns

  • Aida Shakeri, Lead intern for Elimisha Kakuma
  • Maha Shoaib, Intern for Elimisha Kakuma
  • Anastasia El-Bogdadi
  • Alden Koupal
  • Bethany Hansel
  • Riker Wilson
  • Alayna Williams
  • Caroline Umphlet
  • Ethan Andres
  • Avery Perkins
  • Prenya Harikrishnan


  • Rabihah Waheed
  • Isabelle Kidd


College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences Faculty

  • Ariel Ahram, School of Public and International Affairs
  • Andrea Baldwin, Sociology
  • Sweta Baniya, English
  • Shannon Bell, Sociology
  • Mehrzad Bouroujerdi, School of Public and International Affairs
  • Daniel Breslau, Science, Technology, and Society (Advisory Board Emeritus)
  • Katie Carmichael, Linguistics/English
  • Sam Cook, American Indian Studies/Sociology
  • Nick Copeland, History
  • Amanda Demmer, History
  • Carmen Gitre, History
  • Ellington Graves, Africana Studies and Strategic Affairs
  • Saul Halfon, Science, Technology, and Society (Advisory Board)
  • Anthony Kwame Harrision, Sociology and Africana Studies
  • James Hawdon, Center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention/Sociology
  • Mae Hey, American Indian Studies/Strategic Affairs
  • Cana Itchuaqiyak, English
  • Sylvester Johnson, Center for Humanities, Religion and Culture
  • Shaila Mehra, Assistant Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
  • Deborah Milly, Political Science
  • Wornie Reed, Center for Race and Social Policy
  • Audrey Reeves, Political Science
  • Emily Satterwhite, Religion and Culture
  • Nadine Sinno, Arabic, Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures
  • Yannis Stivachtis, Political Science/International Relations
  • Jessica Taylor, History
  • Pamela Teaster, Center for Gerontology
  • Gerard Toal, School of Public and International Affairs
  • Cana Uluak Itchuaqiyaq, English
  • Edward Weisband, Political Science
  • LaDale Winling, History
  • Laura Zanotti, Political Science
  • Bonnie Zare, Women’s and Gender Studies

College of Architecture and Urban Studies Faculty

  • Terry Clements, Landscape Architecture
  • Jake Keyel, Institute for Policy and Governance
  • Susan Piedmont-Palladino, Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center
  • Max Stephenson, Institute for Policy and Governance (Advisory Board)
  • Sharone Tomer, Architecture
  • Rachel Weaver, School of Visual Arts
  • Raymond Zuniga, CPAP

College of Engineering Faculty

  • Mel Jones, Center for Housing Research
  • Theadore Koebel, Center for Housing Research
  • Freddy Paige, Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Marie Paretti, Engineering Education

College of Natural Resources and Environment Faculty

  • Anamaria Bukvic, Geography
  • Lynn Resler, Geography

Pamplin College of Business Faculty

  • Eli Jamieson, Management

Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine Faculty

  • David Trinkle, MD, Associate Dean for Community and Culture


The Advisory Board of the Center for Refugee, Migrant, and Displacement Studies provides the center with essential support and guidance.

Laura Belmonte

Laura Belmonte, a professor of history, is also dean of the Virginia Tech College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.

Guru Ghosh

Guru Ghosh is vice president for outreach and international affairs at Virginia Tech.

Karen Roberto

Karen Roberto is a University Distinguished Professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Science and the director of the Institute for Society, Culture, and Environment at Virginia Tech.

Michele Deramo

Michele Deramo is the assistant provost for diversity education at Virginia Tech.

Saul Halfon is an associate professor and chair of the Department of Science, Technology, and Society at Virginia Tech.

Farida Jalalzai

Farida Jalalzai, a professor of political science, is also the associate dean for global initiatives and engagement in the Virginia Tech College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.

Max Stephenson

Max Stephenson is a professor of urban affairs and planning and the director of the Virginia Tech Institute for Policy and Governance.

Rebecca Weaver-Hightower

Rebecca Weaver-Hightower is a professor of English and chair of the Department of English at Virginia Tech.


Daniel Breslau

Daniel Breslau is an associate professor in the Department of Science, Technology, and Society at Virginia Tech.