Here’s a round-up of news briefs from around Southwest and Southside. Send yours for possible inclusion to

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Virginia Tech and Amazon establish machine learning research partnership

Virginia Tech and Amazon are partnering to advance research and innovation in artificial intelligence and machine learning, according to a release from Virginia Tech.

The Amazon – Virginia Tech Initiative for Efficient and Robust Machine Learning will include machine learning-focused research projects, doctoral student fellowships, community outreach, and an establishment of a shared advisory board. 

Housed in the College of Engineering and led by Sanghani Center for Artificial Intelligence and Data Analytics researchers on Virginia Tech’s campuses in Blacksburg and at the Innovation Campus in Alexandria, the partnership will support faculty and student-led development and implementation of innovative approaches to machine learning, the release says.

The new partnership will create opportunities for Virginia Tech graduate and doctoral level students who are interested in and currently pursuing educational and research experiences in artificial intelligence-focused fields. Fellowships will be awarded to Virginia Tech doctoral students that includes an Amazon internship intended to provide students a greater understanding of industry and purpose-driven research. Named Amazon Fellows in recognition of their scholarly achievements, doctoral students who are currently enrolled in their second, third, or fourth year in the College of Engineering will be eligible to apply. Each fellow will be invited to interview for a paid Amazon internship during the summer after the internship year. 

As part of the initiative, Virginia Tech faculty members will be invited to submit machine learning sponsored research projects for Amazon that work to revolutionize the way the world uses and understands this field of modern technology. Research project proposals may include support for students and staff.

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P&HCC announces first in-person graduation ceremony since 2019

Dr. Lynn Tincher-Ladner. Courtesy of P&HCC.

Patrick & Henry Community College has announced that it will be returning to an in-person graduation ceremony for the May 14 commencement.

The college also announced the 2022 graduation speaker will be Dr. Lynn Tincher-Ladner, the President and CEO of the International Honors Society for Community Colleges –Phi Theta Kappa.

As the head of Phi Theta Kappa, Dr. Tincher-Ladner oversees 1,300 society chapters in 11 nations and works to provide scholarship and leadership opportunities for approximately 250,000 students worldwide. She uses her international position to spearhead innovative research and advocate for community college students.

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Forest Service to open Hidden Valley and Blowing Springs campgrounds

The George Washington & Jefferson National Forests will open Blowing Springs and Hidden Valley campgrounds on the James River and Warm Springs Ranger Districts on March 17.

Blowing Springs and Hidden Valley campgrounds are available on a first-come, first-served basis and require cash fees.

Many of the area’s recreation sites, including hiking and biking trails, are open year-round.

Visitors should note that the Blowing Springs roadside portal sign is down, and a replacement sign is on order.

The Forest Service recently conducted prescribed burns in several fields at Hidden Valley, with more to be completed this spring, to improve habitat in this popular fishing, hiking, and hunting area. 

Check the Forests’ website for updated information:

For more information, contact the James River and Warm Springs Ranger Districts office at 540-839-2521.

You can find the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests online at, or follow on Twitter: and Facebook:

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Danville Community College to host panel on inclusion

Danville Community College’s Upsilon Phi Chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society, in partnership with the DCC Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee, invites the public to attend their “Belongingness: A Sense of Feeling Accepted” panel event on at 11 a.m. March 31.

The event, taking place in Oliver Hall in the Temple Building on the DCC campus, will feature speakers who represent diverse populations at the college and the community at large. Panelists include:

  • Ana Fodor, professor of history at DCC
  • JC Evans, professor of sociology at DCC
  • Jennifer Bryant, DCC student
  • Tommy Bennett, NAACP president, Danville Chapter

“The goal of this event is to amplify the minority student voice and the hurdles they face,” said Leilanie Nichols, president of the Upsilon Phi Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa at DCC. “The panelists were hand-selected for their ability to educate, inspire, and inform our audience about the importance of belonging.”

Panelists will answer moderated questions about belonging and its impact on families, communities, and society. They will also entertain questions from attendees.

This event is open to community attendance. For more information about this event, call 434-797-8402.