CRS Team

Dr. Katrina Powell, Director

Dr. Katrina M. Powell is Professor of English and Director of the Center for Rhetoric in Society at Virginia Tech.  She teaches courses in rhetorics of social justice, autobiography, and research methodologies and her research focuses on displacement narratives and human rights rhetorics across transnational contexts.  She is the author of The Anguish of Displacement (UVA Press 2007, funded by a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship) and Identity and Power in Narratives of Displacement (Routledge 2015), editor of ‘Answer at Once’: Letters from Mountain Families in Shenandoah National Park (UVA Press 2009) and Practicing Research in Writing Studies: Reflexive and Ethically Responsible Research (with Pam Takayoshi, Hampton 2012). She has also published in JAC: Journal of Rhetoric, Culture, and PoliticsCollege English, College Composition and Communication, Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly, and Prose Studies. Her current work focuses on the dissemination of displacement and refugee narratives and the ethical dimensions of archiving those narratives in alternative spaces.

A center staff member conducting an oral histories interview

Ren Harman, VT Stories Program Manager

Ren Harman is a Ph.D. Candidate in School of Education. An alumnus of Virginia Tech, he manages the day-to-day operations of VT Stories including: managing undergraduate and graduate interns, corresponding with interviewees and scheduling interviews, conducting interviews, coordinating VT Stories across campus, and supervising the development of stories.

Dr. Rebecca Hester, Research Associate

Dr. Hester, the co-founder of VCRMDS and faculty advisor of In-Place podcast, is an Assistant Professor of Science, Technology and Society. Her research has been sponsored by Mary Moody Norther Endowment, National Institutes of Health, and Harris and Eliza Kempner Fund. Her recent project examines contemporary accounts of “biological danger” and the social, political, and scientific implications of preempting, preventing, and eradicating such danger. Her courses at Virginia Tech include The Foundations of Social Medicine and Monsters, Zombies, and Cyborgs.

Dr. Carolyn Commer, Research Associate

Dr. Commer is a scholar of rhetorical and argumentation theory, as well as the history of U.S. higher education policy. Having previously served as a Legislative Director for the National Association of Graduate and Professional Students (NAGPS), she has experience reporting on higher education policy and lobbying on issues related to funding for higher education, student debt, international student visas, and open access to research.

Dr. Marcia Davitt, Virginia Consortium on Refugee, Migrant, and Displacement Studies (VCRMDS) Symposium Coordinator

Iris Farrou, Research Assistant

Iris is currently a second-year PhD students in the Rhetoric and Writing program, and a GRA in the CRS where she works to expand the Center’s connections with graduate students and faculty. She also teaches first-year writing at VT, and is currently starting new research on how pedagogies in the writing classroom affect the students’ embodied experience. She holds a BA in English and American Literature from the American College of Greece and an MA in Rhetoric from San Diego State University. Her research interests include queer rhetorics, queer and sexuality theory, embodied knowledges and popular cutlure representations of queer sexualities.

Cassandra Hockman, Research Assistant

Cassandra holds an M.A. in English and a B.S. in psychology, both from Virginia Tech, where she also teaches writing and research. Her research interrogates how language is a form of social action that negotiates how science and education affect public policy.

Katherine Randall, Research Assistant

Katherine Randall holds a BA in English from Southern Virginia University and an MA in English from Florida Gulf Coast University. Before joining the PhD program at Virginia Tech, she worked for five years in publishing, where she primarily focused on end-of-life care and physician-patient communication. Her research interests include rhetoric of medicine, health policy, rhetoric of science and technology, and the intersection of environmental rhetoric and global health.

Savannah Paige Murray, Research Assistant

Savannah Paige Murray is a PhD student in Rhetoric & Writing. Her research focuses on environmental rhetoric, environmentalism, and development discourses, with a geographic focus on the Appalachian region. Her work has appeared in The Journal of Appalachian Studies and Appalachian Journal, among others.

Laura Lane, Research Assistant

Laura Lane is the Producer of the In Place Podcast. She is a Graduate Student in Science and Technology in Society. Her research interests include industrialization of the home, healing as resistance, and the radical imagination. Her methods focus on creative ethnography, artistic intervetion, feminist STS and community building.

Ke Hu, Research Assistant

Ke Hu is a PhD student at STS department. She is interested in emerging food technology and incubator culture in different societies.

Kelly Scarff, Research Assistant

Kelly Scarff is a PhD candidate in the Rhetoric & Writing program at Virginia Tech where she teaches primarily in the Professional and Technical Writing program. Her research examines the role, function, and effects of public hearings, and her dissertation focuses on two public hearings that occurred in response to the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a natural gas pipeline that, if constructed, will span over 300 miles across West Virginia and Virginia.

VT Stories Interns

Shawn de Lopez, Intern

Shawn de Lopez is senior majoring in Creative Technology. As a full-time creative at Virginia Tech, Shawn is the lead photographer and videographer for VT Stories.

Amy Burke, Intern

Amy Burke is a senior majoring in English. Her research interests include women’s history and contemporary literature. She loves giving a voice to those who’ve changed the world in little and big ways.

Rose Johnson, Intern

Rose Johnson is a senior double majoring in Professional and Technical Writing and Literature and Language. Her interests include photography and the ways in which literature can impact empathy.

Nikhil Melige, Intern

Nikhil Melige is a senior at Virginia Tech majoring in Marketing Management. With over 3 years of experience in music production, event planning, video editing & graphic design, Nikhil depends on a wide range of abilities to get the job done. Creative, ambitious and unforgettable, he’s ready to make his mark on the world.

Caitlin Propheter, Intern

Caitlin Propheter is a senior majoring in Marketing. From Baltimore, Maryland she hopes to create accurate and meaningful stories.

Kathleen Walker, Intern

Kathleen Walker is a sophmore majoring in Creative Writing and History, with a minor in Language Sciences.

Jeff Flanagan, Intern

Jeff Flanagan is a Project Archivist in Special Collections in University Libraries at Virginia Tech.

In-Place Podcast

Tessa Hawley, Team Member

Tessa is a junior majoring in Applied Economic Management with a concentration in International Trade

Alejandro Aguilar, Team Member

Alejandro is a senior Political Science major here at Tech. He is looking forward to working on the In-Place podcast because she thinks that reaching out to marginalized communities is an essential action in preserving any democracy.

Christopher Gewirtz, Team Member

Chris is a PhD candidate in Engineering Education and a master student in Science and Technology in Society. He has a lot of experience with quantitative research, and he tries to leverage it for improving the relationship between technology, engineering and justice.

Maaz Siddiqui, Team Member

Maaz is a senior majoring in psychology. He treats the opportunity to join In-Place team as an opportunity to make a different in someone’s life, which is wonderful.

Bridgett Rorrer, Team Member

Bridgett majors in Sociology. Something that got her interested in this podcast is her societal health class. She will be working on the podcast development team.

Sam McChesney, Team Member

Sam is a Senior here at Virginia Tech studying Biology and Clinical Neuroscience, with a minor in Medicine and Society. She has spent a lot of time working with displaced communities in rural Latin America, and wants to learn more about how the problems are similar to Southwestern Virginia. She also helps Dr. Hester and Dr. Powell with symposium works, which aims to build a Displaced Peoples and Refugee Studies minor here at Virginia Tech.

Virginia Boulos, Team Member

Virginia is an undergraduate student in Biological Sciences with a minor in Medicine and Society. She works in the In-Place podcast as one of the lead episode developers. her research interests include Minority populations health and health narratives.

Adiah Gholston, Team Member

Adiah double majors in multimedia journalism and Political Science. She is on the podcast’s development team. Her research interests include journalism, human rights, media influence in politics.

Connor Brown, Team Member

Connor is a senior majoring in multimedia journalism and economics. He is currently working on developing podcast episodes related to displacement and how it affects us. He would like to produce audio stories to help unravel the complexities of the world around us.

CRS Research Assistant Alumni

Brian Gogan

Heidi Lawrence

Megan O’Neill

Ashley Patriarca

Tana Schiewer

Tarryn Abrahams

Alexis Priestley

Jessie Rogers


Faculty Affiliates

Marc Edwards (Engineering)

Shannon Bell (Sociology)

Rebecca Hester (STS)

Quinn Warnick (TLOS)

Katie Carmichael (LING)

Georgeta Pourchot (SPIA)

Samarth Swarup, UVA, Bioinformatics

Steve Parks, UVA, Rhetoric and Writing, Community-based research