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

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Appalachian Council for Innovation to hold sessions for businesses on hiring

The Appalachian Council for Innovation, in partnership with Genedge and local workforce development boards, is organizing a “Second Chance Employer” informational session for businesses in the region. The goal will be to provide businesses with knowledge of the various benefits and incentives that are available to them, should they choose to hire previously incarcerated individuals. The group also hopes to compile a list of employers who would like to be considered “Second Chance Employers” in anticipation of launching the Appalachian Council for Innovation Workforce Recovery Program.

The dates, locations and times for the event are:

1. Lebanon, at the Russell County Government Center on April 12, 8 a.m.

2. Abingdon, at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center on April 21, 8 a.m.

3. Big Stone Gap, at the Goodloe Center at Mountain Empire Community College on April 28, (awaiting confirmation on this date), 8 a.m.

Register here: tickets-303966310417

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Virginia Tech board approves next steps for new business building

The Virginia Tech Board of Visors has approved an $8 million planning authorization to complete designs through working drawings for a new Pamplin College of Business building. The Campus Master Plan and the Six-Year Capital Outlay Plan include a new building for the Pamplin College of Business as part of the university’s Global Business and Analytics Complex.

The new Pamplin building is envisioned as an approximately 104,000-gross-square-foot, four-story structure that will connect with the Data and Decision Sciences Building (currently under construction near Prices Fork Road and West Campus Drive) through a common area and provide expanded, modern educational space sufficient to meet demand for the business programs. The total project budget is approximately $80 million, and the funding plan calls for entirely non-general fund support.

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The Timesland News Guild pickets across the street from the former newspaper building. Courtesy of the guild.

Roanoke Times staffers picket to protest status of contract negotiations

Members of the Timesland News Guild picketed outside the former Roanoke Times building in Roanoke on Monday to protest the contract proposed by the paper’s corporate owner, the Iowa-based Lee Enterprises.

“We are fighting not only for ourselves, but for the future journalists who want to work at The Roanoke Times,” said Alison Graham, vice chair of the union and member of the bargaining committee, in a statement released by the guild. “Journalists are leaving the profession in droves, and low wages make it difficult to recruit and retain talented journalists.” 

The union said it would return to contract negotiations on Tuesday. Earlier, the guild purchased an ad in the paper’s March 27 edition to lay out its position.

The former newspaper office building was sold last year to the Roanoke school system for offices; the former press building was recently sold to a developer who will turn it into apartments. The newspaper now operates out of rented space in downtown Roanoke.

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Ferrum College raising money for softball stadium improvements

Ferrum College recently launched the “Batting 1.000” campaign to fund capital improvements to its softball stadium including a press box, team locker room, club-level seating and other amenities, which are planned to be ready for softball opening day in 2023.

With the successful completion of this campaign, the new softball facilities will be named in honor of Hall of Fame Coach Vickie Van Kleeck. Van Kleeck was Ferrum’s softball coach for 24 seasons, as well as the college’s Senior Woman Administrator, before retiring in 2015.

The “Batting 1.000 Campaign” seeks to raise a minimum of $100,000 by inspiring 100 donors to pledge at least $1,000 each to be used for the construction of new, state-of-the-art softball facilities. Enhancements will include new club-level seating, a press box, locker rooms, restrooms and concessions, among other additions.

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W&L to host Tom Wolfe Weekend April 8-9

Washington and Lee University will host its 17th annual Tom Wolfe Weekend on April 8-9. The weekend’s seminar will feature Rebecca Makkai ’99, author of the critically acclaimed novel “The Great Believers.”

Makkai will present the keynote address on April 8 at 4:15 p.m. in University Chapel. Her talk is free and open to the public, and it will be livestreamed online for free at

The full seminar is open to the public, but registration is required. Register for the whole weekend at go.wlu.ed/tww.

“The Great Believers” was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. Spanning three decades, the novel is a dual-plot story about a group of friends and their stirring emotional journey through the 1980s AIDS crisis in Chicago and its effects on the contemporary lives of survivors in Paris.

Joining Makkai in delivering talks during the weekend are W&L’s Lesley Wheeler, Henry S. Fox Professor of English, and Edward Adams, professor of English. Each will discuss “The Great Believers” from a variety of perspectives. All three will gather for a panel discussion about the book on Saturday afternoon.

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Virginia Tech homecoming will be Oct. 10-15

Virginia Tech will celebrate Homecoming Oct. 10-15, the school says in a release. The football game that weekend will be against Miami.

For more information on Homecoming and how to participate, visit and for information about fall sports, visit

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W&L student from Roanoke awarded a Fulbright

Elyssa McMaster. Courtesy of W&L.

Washington and Lee University’s Elyssa McMaster ’22 has been awarded a Fulbright research grant to Italy to complete a hybrid art history and computer science project titled “Computational approaches to Florentine manuscript paintings.” At W&L, McMaster is majoring in computer science and art history and is minoring in Medieval and Renaissance Studies. McMaster is a native of Roanoke and graduated from Cave Spring High School.

The grant will allow McMaster to continue work on her undergraduate thesis project, where she used a deep learning model to assign attributions to medieval paintings from unknown workshops. In Italy, she will work at the National Research Council of Italy in the Florence Research Area, where she will collect chemical data about Florentine liturgical manuscript illuminations and use them to improve her current model’s predictions.

McMaster credits George Bent, Sidney Gause Childress Professor of the Arts at W&L, as one of her many mentors.

Bent says the work McMaster will complete is a matter of national importance for Italy.

“Elyssa’s academic interests bridge what is often perceived to be massive gulfs between science and art, technology and the humanities, computational machinery and human ingenuity,” Bent said in a statement. “Her expertise in approaches to the uses of artificial intelligence and sophisticated equipment to conduct a non-invasive examination of objects of extraordinarily high cultural sensitivity have distinguished her from the scores of other worthy applicants who applied for the Fulbright to Italy this year. The work she will do in the lab of Dr. Marcello Picollo at the National Research Council of Italy will help that team as it assists Italian museum collections and heritage sites in the restoration of their patrimony, which is a matter of the utmost importance for that nation today.”

On the W&L campus, McMaster is a computer science teaching assistant and a Writing Center peer consultant. She is a member of Pi Beta Phi sorority, where she served as director of diversity and inclusion as part of a pilot program in 2020. McMaster was a W&L cheerleader, has volunteered as a WLUR disc jockey, is active in Hillel and serves in the university’s Sexual Health Awareness Group.

McMaster will study in Italy for nine months. After completing the Fulbright grant, she plans to pursue her doctorate in a program that will allow her to continue using computational approaches to art history.

The Fulbright Program was established over 75 years ago to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. Fulbright is the world’s largest and most diverse international educational exchange program. The primary source of funding for the Fulbright Program is an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

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Patel joins Virginia Western foundation board

Kirtesh Patel. Courtesy of Virginia Western.

Kirtesh Patel has joined the board of directors of the Virginia Western Community College Educational Foundation. 

Patel is president and chief operating officer of Omma Management LLC.

The volunteer board of directors guides the foundation’s mission of supporting student scholarships, faculty development and endowment initiatives at Virginia Western. Board members have been the driving force behind Virginia Western’s Community College Access Program (CCAP), a public-private partnership that provides up to three years of tuition to eligible students