Nina Mukerjee Furstenau, author of "Biting Through the Skin: An Indian Kitchen in America's Heartland," will speak at Virginia Tech this month. Photo courtesy of Furstenau.

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

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Author Nina Mukerjee Furstenau will talk about food, gender and identity at Virginia Tech

Author Nina Mukerjee Furstenau will top off a discussion series at Virginia Tech this month with a look at food, gender and identity.

Furstenau’s books include “Biting Through the Skin: An Indian Kitchen in America’s Heartland,” which won the M.F.K. Fisher Grand Prize for Excellence in Culinary Writing.

The pinnacle of her visit to Virginia Tech will be a presentation and panel discussion during the Women and Gender in International Development Discussion Series. This discussion, “Food, Gender, and Identity in a Global Context,” will take place from 12:30 to 2 p.m. April 13 in the Newman Library Multipurpose Room. Furstenau will provide an overview of her involvement in the Feed the Future Project through which she wrote “Tasty! Mozambique.” Then, a panel will discuss connections between Furstenau’s work and the work Virginia Tech researchers have accomplished regarding food and gender.

Furstenau also will participate in a panel discussion about The Common Ingredient on April 11. TCI is a cross-country, collaborative community dedicated to supporting local food pantries while sharing recipes, food stories and information about community education programs or activities aimed at reducing and eliminating food insecurity. This discussion will take place at 7 p.m. at the Blacksburg branch of the Montgomery-Floyd Regional Library.

On April 24, Furstenau will participate in a learning circle conversation from 3 to 4:30 p.m. in Graduate Life Center Meeting Room B. The conversation will explore food through themes of history, culture and community.

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P&HCC, Southside CC receive GO Virginia grants for dual-enrollment programs

Patrick & Henry Community College and Southside Community College will use state grant money to expand their dual-enrollment programs for students exploring high-demand industries.

The awards were among 17 recipients of a total $8.1 million GO Virginia grants announced in March.

Patrick & Henry Community College in Martinsville will use its $118,000 grant to expand its dual-enrollment welding program. It plans to train 27 students from Henry County Public Schools and Martinsville City Public Schools, it said in a news release this week. Once they graduate high school, those students can choose to obtain further certification in the trade. 

“This initiative will serve to expand the pool of qualified workers in our area and continue these students on a pathway to careers that provide family-sustaining wages in this high-demand field,” said Rhonda Hodges, vice president of workforce, economic and community development at P&HCC, said in a statement.

At Southside Virginia Community College in Alberta, a grant of nearly $140,000 will go toward increasing dual enrollment in mechatronics, a skillset for careers in advanced and automated manufacturing. SVCC plans to train 45 students from Buckingham, Cumberland and Prince Edward counties in three years.

The dual-enrollment programs at both colleges are part of GO TEC, an collaborative program that works with students in middle and high school to foster interest in STEM careers. 

P&HCC and SVCC are within GO Virginia Region 3, which covers Danville and Martinsville along with 13 counties, including Pittsylvania, Halifax and Mecklenburg. The statewide economic initiative seeks to create employment opportunities in high-demand fields. 

Advanced manufacturing, health care and information technology are among Region 3’s priority industries.

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Averett University receives grant

Averett University recently secured a three-year enrichment grant from The Corella & Bertram F. Bonner Foundation in Princeton, New Jersey, that will provide the Averett Bonner Leader Program $40,000 annually.

Averett’s four-year intensive leadership program places students in the community to serve in a capacity building role for their designated organization. Currently, 36 Averett students in the program are placed across 19 nonprofits and government agencies throughout the Dan River Region.

Bonner Leaders work 200 hours per academic year and receive financial compensation for their service, as well as professional development opportunities throughout the year. At the end of their service term, they complete a capstone project for which they design a research project that produces materials to help sustain their respective agency after they leave.

“This new grant funding will allow us to come closer to our goal of expanding the program to 60+ Bonners and doubling the impact we have on our region,” said Dr. Billy Wooten, dean of engaged learning and executive director of the Center for Community Engagement and Career Competitiveness, where the Averett Bonner Leader Program is housed.

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Virginia Tech’s Schultz receives NSF award

Michael Schulz, an assistant professor of chemistry within the Virginia Tech College of Science, has received a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development award.

The award, which begins in May, comes on the heels of Schulz receiving a U.S. Department of Energy 2022 Early Career Research Program Award.

According to a news release from the university, Schulz received the foundation’s five-year $725,000 award for a project titled “CAREER: Novel Approaches to Hyperbranched Polymers” to develop ruthenium-catalyzed self-condensing Ring-Opening Metathesis Polymerization to prepare hyperbranched polymers.

In this research, small molecules called inimers will first be synthesized. Structural modifications will also be made to optimize polymerization activity. The inimers will then be used in self-condensing polymerization to prepare several hyperbranched polymers with interesting structural and mechanical properties.

“This research has the potential to lay the foundation for the synthesis of a new class of polymers with controlled macromolecular structures,” Schultz said in the release.

As a part of the National Science Foundation’s support for educational outreach, Schulz will sponsor polymer-themed demonstrations to be held at the Science Museum of West Virginia. This program will focus on polymers in the modern world and how their properties depend on chemical structure. A traveling kit will also be developed for future visits to rural communities that are under-resourced in science education.