Here’s a round-up of education briefs from around Southwest and Southside. Want more education news? There’s no full-time education reporter west of Richmond. We’d like to change that. You can help fund us.

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Averett, Hargrave agree on partnership for flight classes

Averett University and Hargrave Military Academy have signed a partnership that will allow Hargrave cadets to take flight training classes through Averett as part of a dual enrollment program.

Students participating in the Hargrave-Averett Aeronautics Partnership will have the opportunity to complete Private Pilot Ground School and Flight 1, earning dual enrollment credits for each course.

Students participating in the Hargrave-Averett flight program are required to have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or greater and a PSAT10, SAT or ACT score of the 50th percentile or higher, consistent with the requirements for admission at Averett.

Hargrave Academic Dean Jim Tung said in a statement: “The desired outcome of this inaugural year of the Hargrave-Averett partnership is for cadets to successfully complete ground school and flight lab and progress through ‘solo flight’ by the end of the Fall semester. In the future, we may look to expand the program’s scope to include private pilot certification.”

The Hargrave-Averett partnership gives students direct access to a career in aviation, and allows Harvgrave cadets to learn alongside Averett Aeronautics students. Averett’s program offers classes for the following certifications: Private Pilot Certificate, Commercial Pilot Certificate, Flight Instructor Certificate, Flight Instructor Instrument Certificate, and Instrument Rating Certificate. Additional Aircraft Category or Class Rating Certificates and opportunities to earn an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) Certificate with Reduced Aeronautical Experience are possible through Averett’s collegiate and adult learning programs.

One year ago, Averett opened AU Aviation Services, the fixed-based operator of the Danville Regional Airport, but the University has had a presence at the airport for 40 years. Averett operates its Aeronautics degree program out of the George J. Falk Flight Operations Center next door to the FBO area. More than 100 Averett Aeronautics majors are learning the business of aviation or receiving in-flight training at Averett’s FAA-approved 141-certified flight school. 

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Roanoke College president names special advisor

Roanoke College President Frank Shushok announced today that Dr. Richard Grant will serve in a special role as Senior Advisor to the President for Strategic Initiatives, effective immediately.  

Grant will report to President Shushok, work closely with Dr. Kathy Wolfe, Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of the College, and serve as a member of the College’s leadership team.  

Grant’s priorities will be to lead and support a highly collaborative college-wide task force to improve Roanoke College student success, focused on retention and graduation rates, according to a release from the school.  These efforts will focus on all aspects of the student experience including academic engagement, sense of belonging, and overall well-being. In his new role, Grant will be responsible for managing high-level projects that enhance and improve student outcomes. 

Grant will also work closely with Dean Wolfe and other stakeholders to advance the PLACE, the center for Purpose, Life and Career Exploration. He will work to ensure that every student has opportunities that best align with their personal interests and career aspirations. 

Grant served as Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs & Dean of the College for the past year. Prior to this role, he was Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Student Engagement for six years and Director of Experiential Learning for the three previous years.  

During his 26 years on the faculty, Grant has taught the full spectrum of physics courses, contributed several courses to the general education curriculum, supervised many student researchers and interns, and served as advisor for major and non-major students.

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College of Architecture, Arts, and Design takes shape at Tech

 In a change that was recently approved by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, the Virginia Tech  College of Architecture and Urban Studies (CAUS) has been renamed as the College of Architecture, Arts, and Design (AAD). The change took effect on July 1.

The realignment will transfer the School of Performing Arts, with its programs in theatre arts, cinema, and music, from its current home in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences to the reshaped college, joining the School of Architecture, the School of Visual Arts, and the School of Design.

In addition, the reorganization relocates the Myers-Lawson School of Construction to the College of Engineering and the School of Public and International Affairs to College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.

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Six Tech faculty members win grants

Six Virginia Tech faculty members have won grants through the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science, one of the school’s four research investment institutes.

These six projects won funding through the program this year:

  • Green Energetic Materials. Greg Young, an associate professor in the Kevin T. Crofton Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering, with Greg Liu, an associate professor of chemistry. Materials like propellants and explosives, which store large amounts of energy, have valuable applications but often rely on component materials that can be detrimental to the environment. Young and Liu will explore the use of ammonium nitrate as a greener alternative to ammonium perchlorate for the development of energetic materials with a smaller environmental footprint. 
  • Global Change and Wildlife Pathogen Spillover. Luis Escobar, an assistant professor of fish and wildlife conservation, with Ed Fox, a professor of computer science; Roger Ramirez-Barrios, a professor of parasitology at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine; and Andres Velasco-Villa of the Centers for Disease Control. To begin to tackle pressing questions about how global change will affect the transmission of zoonotic diseases, the team will study how rabies moves from vampire bats to other animals, investigating the role of climatic, landscape, and biodiversity gradients in geographic patterns of disease transmission. 
  • Physics-Based and Data-Driven Thermo-Mechanical Modeling of Additively Manufactured Metallic Alloys. Pinar Acar, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering, with Rakesh Kapania, a professor in the Kevin T. Crofton Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering. To improve the mechanical properties of useful aerospace-grade titanium-aluminum alloys, Acar and Kapania will use machine learning to explore how the microstructure of these materials and the parameters used to 3D-print them affect their performance. 
  • Accelerating Late-Stage Drug Functionalization for RNA Viruses. Anne Brown, an assistant professor in University Libraries and of biochemistry, with Sanket Deshmukh, an assistant professor of chemical engineering; Andrew Lowell, an assistant professor of chemistry; and James Weger, an assistant professor of biomedical sciences and pathobiology. RNA viruses — including SARS-CoV-2, dengue virus, and chikungunya virus — rank among the top threats to global health, and there are few effective antivirals to treat them. The team will use computational methods to identify molecules that could potentially be modified and repurposed to combat these diseases, and then synthesize and test them in the lab to determine which could lead to effective treatments.
  • Tactile Deficits in Individuals with Stroke. Netta Gurari, who will join the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics in August, with Sharon Ramey, a research professor and distinguished research scholar at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC; Stephen LaConte, an associate professor at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC; and Colin Franz, a physician-scientist at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab and assistant professor at Northwestern University. The interdisciplinary team will investigate the critical but relatively unexplored role of inaccurate tactile perception on disability following stroke, specifically by studying how stroke affects the transmission of tactile sensory signals in the central and peripheral nervous systems.
  • DNA-scaffolded synthetic enzymes for tunable high performance catalysis: an integrated computational and experimental approach. Valerie Welborn, an assistant professor of chemistry, with Kylie Allen, an assistant professor of biochemistry. Welborn and Allen are tackling longstanding issues with the performance of synthetic enzymes by introducing DNA to act as a secondary scaffold. They propose that DNA in the enzyme environment will induce electrostatic interactions that can be tuned to stabilize the transition state, dramatically speeding up the reaction.