The University of Virginia's College at Wise. Courtesy of UVa Wise.

Here’s a roundup of education briefs from around Southwest and Southside. Send yours for possible inclusion to

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UVA Wise awarded grant to expand internships in Southwest Virginia

The University of Virginia’s College at Wise has been awarded a grant to expand internships for high school and college students in Southwest Virginia. 

The $250,000, two-year grant is a part of the Virginia Talent and Opportunity Partnership, a state-funded program to increase work-based learning opportunities.

The money will be used to foster relationships between students and area employers, particularly in key fields such as information technology, agricultural manufacturing, health care and hospitality. Apprenticeships for trades will be supported, along with undergraduate research and work experience. 

On top of the grant, the Virginia State Council of Higher Education is providing additional funds to help area employers set up or expand internship programs.

VTOP already has a presence in four other regions across the state. Virginia Tech is the leader for the region that includes Roanoke, Lynchburg and the New River Valley. Programming this spring includes upcoming events in Lynchburg and Christiansburg where college students can speak with local employers and young professionals. 

UVA Wise will oversee the grant for the region that includes Bristol, Galax and Norton along with the counties of Bland, Buchanan, Carroll, Dickenson, Grayson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Smyth, Tazewell, Washington, Wise and Wythe.

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Roanoke College Board of Trustees adds new member

The Roanoke College Board of Trustees appointed a new member, Christopher “Topher” Merrill ’93, during its winter meeting Feb. 9-11.

Merrill, who lives outside Chicago, is the founder, chairman and CEO of Harrison Street, a real assets investment management firm established in 2005. He earned a degree in economics from Roanoke, where he played on the golf team and was a member of Pi Lambda Phi fraternity. Following graduation from Roanoke, Merrill earned an MBA at Cass Business School in London.

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Ratliff, former MECC vice president, receives Kanto Memorial Award

Vickie Ratliff, a retired Mountain Empire Community College vice president of academic affairs and workforce solutions, received the William P. Kanto Memorial Award at the 39th annual Forum on Education held at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise.

Ratliff is the 31st recipient of the award, which recognizes a local citizen leader who has advanced the cause of education in Wise County. It’s named after William P. Kanto Sr., who played a vital role in education in the region.

Ratliff, an MECC alumna, served both as a professor and administrator before she retired in 2021, according to a news release about the award. While at MECC, she held numerous leadership roles, including vice president of academic affairs and workforce solutions and student services and dean of business and information technology.

With her husband, she established the Donald and Victoria Ratliff Scholarship in 2010 to assist MECC students enrolled in business and information technology curricula.

She holds a doctorate in education from Liberty University, an MBA from Morehead State University, a bachelor’s in business administration from Tusculum University and an associate degree from MECC.

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Virginia Tech’s Childs receives Cornell mathematics fellowship

Lauren Childs, an associate professor in the Department of Mathematics, part of the Virginia Tech College of Science, has been awarded the 2023–24 Ruth I. Michler Memorial Prize by the Association for Women in Mathematics and Cornell University.

The award grants a mid-career mathematician a residential fellowship in Cornell University’s Department of Mathematics without teaching obligations. Childs will “pursue a research project advancing mathematical theory and methods for trait-based models of infectious disease, including integral projection models,” according to the association. “Such models will also be used to study the spread of infectious disease, in particular malaria, and associated population dynamics.”

In addition, Childs will interact with faculty from Cornell’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. She plans to arrive at Cornell this fall.

Childs earned dual bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and chemistry from Duke University and master’s and doctoral degrees in applied mathematics from Cornell. She completed postdoctoral work at the Georgia Institute of Technology and at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. She joined Virginia Tech in 2016. The Cliff and Agnes Lilly Faculty Fellow in the College of Science, Childs was promoted to associate professor in 2022.

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W&L’s Laubscher to receive sports communicators lifetime achievement award

Brian Laubscher, director of internal communications at Washington and Lee University, will receive the College Sports Communicators Lifetime Achievement Award at the organization’s annual convention in Orlando this June.

The national award is presented to members who have served at least 25 years in the profession and who are retiring, have retired or have left the athletic communications profession. Recipients are voted on by the Special Awards Committee, and this year the CSC will honor 19 members with the award.

Laubscher has served W&L since 1998, first as the sports information director, then as director of athletic communications. He was promoted to director of internal communications in May 2022.

During his career, Laubscher has served in a number of roles at the conference and national level, including chair of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference Sports Information Directors and chair of the College Sports Information Directors Association Scholarship Committee. He received the ODAC Sports Information Office of the Year Award three times.

Prior to his arrival at W&L, Laubscher was an athletics communications assistant at Lafayette College, and he’s also worked in the athletic communications offices at James Madison University and California University of Pennsylvania. He holds a bachelor’s degree in sports management from Slippery Rock University.

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Glencoe Mansion hosts Radford public schools art show

Glencoe Mansion this week launches a new exhibit, “For the Love of Art,” featuring the artwork of students from Radford City Public Schools.

The show will be on display March 18 through April 30, with an opening reception from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. March 18.

The free show features the works of students from third through 12th grades from three Radford schools.

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