Jeanette Abi-Nader & Kim Niewolny – February 22nd

Community Voices welcomes its next speakers, Jeanette Abi-Nader (Founding Member, Growing Food and Justice for All Initiative; Executive Director, City Schoolyard Garden) and Kim Niewolny (Associate Professor, Department of Agricultural Leadership and Community Education, Virginia Tech).

Event Details —

Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Roundtable Luncheon
GLC, Room B ($5 lunch or BYO; RSVP to Regina for lunch)

Evening Event – “Exploring Whole Measures in Community Food Systems
GLC, Room F

Both events aim to inspire a rich dialogue on community viability and resilience, food systems sovereignty, participatory governance, and organizing skills for positive social change. Please join us!

Speaker Bios —

jeanette-abi-naderJeanette Abi-Nader (Executive Director, City Schoolyard Garden)

Jeanette Abi-Nader worked for a dozen years with the national food justice non-profit, the Community Food Security Coalition (CFSC). CFSC co-founded the National Farm to School Network and was instrumental in the passing of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, a reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act. As CFSC’s Evaluation and Training and Capacity Building Director, Jeanette utilized multiple learning strategies to support the work of hundreds of organizations and funders. She authored publications on strategic evaluation design including Whole Measures for Community Food Systems, Community Food Project Indicators of Success, and Growing Communities Curriculum.  Jeanette is the former Board Treasurer for the American Community Gardening Association, Vice President of the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group Board of Directors, and a founding member of the Growing Food and Justice for All initiative (GFJI). GFJI is a national network focused on dismantling racism in the food system. Jeanette is an experienced farmer, having launched the first community supported agriculture project in the state of Louisiana and as Director of Farms for Frontier Natural Products Co-op. She has a Masters of Science in Sustainable Systems/Agroecology and is a certified permaculture designer and instructor.

kim-niewolnyKim Niewolny (Associate Professor, Department of Agricultural, Leadership and Community Education, Virginia Tech)

Kim Niewolny is an associate professor in the Department of Agricultural, Leadership and Community Education in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech. Her scholarship centers on the role of power and equity in community education and development praxis with a specific focus on social justice and food systems. Her work is grounded in asset-based community development, critical pedagogy, action research, and narrative inquiry. Current funded initiatives emphasize the political praxis of community food work, Appalachian community food security, new farmer sustainability, and farmworker care/dignity. Most recently, Kim launched the “Stories of Community Food Work in Appalachia” project to create and share stories that illustrate the lived experiences of activists, educators, farmers, and practitioners who are connected to the broader issues of food system change in the Appalachian region. Kim teaches several graduate courses, including Community-based Participatory Research, Community Education and Development, and Food Security and Resilient Communities. With a focus on service-learning, she also provides teaching leadership in Virginia Tech’s undergraduate minor in Civic Agriculture and Food Systems (CAFS).

Ramón Zepeda – January 25th

ramon-zepedaCommunity Voices welcomes its next speaker of the season, Ramón Zepeda from (SAF Program Director). Student Action with Farmworkers (SAF) works with farmworkers, students, and advocates in the Southeast and nationwide to create a more just agricultural system. Since 1992, SAF has engaged thousands of students, farmworker youth, and community members in the farmworker movement.

Ramón will be on campus on Wednesday, January 25th, 2017 for 2 events:

Luncheon Roundtable (interactive, open dialogue)
12:00pm in the Virginia Tech Graduate Life Center Room F
The roundtable will include a light lunch that is available for $5, or attendees may bring their own. Please RSVP to Regina Naff by noon on Tuesday, January 24, to sign up for lunch ( and/or 540-231-6775).

Evening Lecture: “Theater in the Fields”
7:00pm in the Virginia Tech Graduate Life Center Room F
To be followed by question and answer time to engage Ramón Zepeda and to learn about his work with Student Action with Farmworkers (SAF).

Speaker Bio

Ramón Zepeda joined Student Action with Farmworkers (SAF) as the Youth Organizer at the end 2011. Ramon was born in a small farming town in the state of Jalisco, Mexico. At the age of 10 he moved to Los Angeles, CA to join his family and lived there until migrating to North Carolina in 2002. Ramon participated in SAF’s Levante youth program when he was a senior at Hoke County High School and helped to start an AIM Club for migrant students. In 2005, while studying Sociology at UNC-Pembroke, he participated in SAF’s Into the Fields Internship Program, working at the Western North Carolina Workers’ Center, where he was exposed to the struggles that workers face when they try to organize for better working conditions, dignity, and respect on the job. After graduating college in 2008, Ramon joined the labor movement as a union organizer and worked on campaigns such as the Justice at Smithfield Campaign, in solidarity with workers in a North Carolina pork processing plant, and a Wage Theft Campaign, in solidarity with day laborers in Washington DC. In addition, Ramon has served on SAF’s board of directors and has participated in alumni focus groups.

Anthony Flaccavento – October 24th


Come meet, hear and talk with Community Voices guest speaker Anthony Flaccavento, sustainable community pioneer, organic farmer, and food system innovator. This is a great opportunity to engage with Anthony, on Monday, October 24 at 7 p.m. at the Alexander Black House, 204 Draper Road, Blacksburg.

Anthony Flaccavento is an organic farmer, innovator and sustainable development pioneer from Abingdon, Virginia. He will be the featured Community Voices speaker on Monday, October 24, 2016 at 7:00 p.m. at the Alexander Black House, 205 Draper Rd., Blacksburg, VA.

In his presentation, Beyond the Margins: Six Transitions to Building a Healthy Economy from the Bottom Up,” he will share his research on the bottom-up economy, and describe six essential transitions he believes our nation must establish to build a healthier, more just and sustainable economy and food system for its citizens.

A community development practitioner, Flaccavento helped found the Abingdon Farmers Market and the Appalachian Harvest Food Hub. He has worked with community leaders in more than a dozen states, in addition to Canada and Australia, to build stronger, more sustainable economies.

Following the talk, he will be selling and signing copies of his recently-released book, Building a Healthy Economy From the Bottom Up (University of Kentucky Press, 2016).

Anthony Flaccavento will participate in an informal luncheon roundtable discussion on October 24 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Room C of the Virginia Tech Graduate Life Center, 155 Otey Street. The roundtable will include a light lunch that is available for $5, or attendees may bring their own. Please RSVP to Regina Naff by Friday, October 21 at noon to sign up for lunch ( and/or 540-231-6775).

For more information, interview requests, or if you need accommodations for the public presentation, please contact Andy Morikawa at the Virginia Tech Institute for Policy and Governance: or (540) 230-1492 mobile.

The Community Voices fall 2016 series is sponsored by School of Performing Arts; Department of Landscape Architecture; Virginia Tech Graduate School; School of Public and International Affairs; Department of Agricultural, Leadership, and Community Education; Office of Associate Vice President of Engagement; College of Architecture and Urban Studies; Department of Political Science; and the Institute of Policy and Governance.

Rick Cavey – September 21st

Rick Cavey, former US Navy Diver, who owns and operates an organic vegetable farm with his wife Jen, in Southwest Virginia will speak Wednesday, September 21 for the Community Voices program. He will speak on lessons learned in a career  leading agricultural initiatives, exploring the Blue Ridge with children, negotiating peaceful partnerships with foreign nations, playing conductor to cross-sectoral underwater archeology, and executing military missions.

In his talk, entitled “Adventures in Community Engagement – Building Consensus by Tapping Individual Motivation,” Rick will speak about learning from his rich experiences that leveraging individuals’ motivations is often the key to successful team engagement.

Rick Cavey’s motto, “Let folks own it like they made it”, sums up how he approaches community engagement and promotes social enterprises. Rick will share adventurous stories of leading engagements over a broad and diverse range of projects including regional agricultural renewal, raising the USS Monitor  from it’s watery grave off the coast of Cape Hatteras, alternative outdoor education in the Blue Ridge, and building foreign relations in both war and peace –  highlighting insightful and often humorous situations that display the human spirit in its most cooperative mode.

Rick got his start by enlisting in the Navy and graduating from Navy Diving School. Retiring as an Officer (Mustang) after 24 years of service, some of his proudest achievements include: leading Partnership for Peace exercises with former Soviet Bloc nations; the recovery of the cannons, turret and heroic human remains from the Civil Warship, USS Monitor; Katrina recovery and rescue operations; and returning with all his men from his tour in Iraq. Following his service, he joined a leading consulting firm, Booz Allen Hamilton and continued serving the Navy as a business consultant guiding formation and submission of congressional budgets.


Rick Cavey will be the featured Community Voices speaker on Wednesday, September 21, 2016.  The community is invited to the event sponsored by the Virginia Tech Institute for Policy and Governance; [other sponsors].  Cavey’s talk will be Adventures in Community Engagement – Building Consensus by Tapping Individual Motivation


Cavey will also be featured Wednesday, September 21 at an informal luncheon roundtable discussion from noon to 1:00 p.m. at [venue], [venue address], [proximate location].  The roundtable includes a light lunch that is available for $5. Please, RSVP to Regina Naff by [date] by noon to sign up for lunch ( and/or 540-231-6775).


For information and requests for interviews, contact Andy Morikawa at the Virginia Tech Institute for Policy and Governance:; 540-230-1492 mobile


Dust in the Bottomland – March 21st

dust-in-the-bottomlandComposer Nate May and bass vocalist Andrew Robert Munn combine contemporary opera and passions for environmental and economic justice in Appalachia in a live performance of Dust in the Bottomland by Nate May at P Buckley Moss Blacksburg Gallery, 223 Gilbert Street, Blacksburg, VA on Monday, March 21, 2016.  There will be a reception at 6 PM with the performance at 7 PM.  They will also be featured at a roundtable discussion from 12-1 on Tuesday March 22, 2016 at the Alexander Black House, 204 Draper Road, across from the Kent Square parking garage. Their residency is sponsored by Department of Religion & Culture (Appalachian Studies), the Grad School, The School of Performing Arts, and the English Department (CRC) and Institute for Policy and Governance.

Dust in the Bottomland grapples with issues of prescription drug addiction, mountaintop removal mining, and the changing fabric of rural Appalachian communities in a forty-five minute chamber opera written for bass (Munn), piano, and electronic soundscapes. May, a native West Virginian, composed the work for Munn in 2013. They toured the work throughout the Appalachian region, including a performance at the 2014 Appalachian Studies Association Conference, and gave a New York, NY performance presented by Tenth Intervention. The complete recording of the piece was broadcast on Appalshop’s WMMT radio and featured on West Virginia Public Radio. Nate and Andrew presented at the 2014 Ecomusics and Ecomusicologies Conference and are co-authors of “Music and Coal Activism: Perspectives from the Field,” an essay for the upcoming issue of Ecomusicology Review. The duo met while undergraduates at the University of Michigan in 2007.

May maintains a close connection with Appalachia as he pursues his master’s degree at Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. His work-in-progress, State, for singer Kate Wakefield and Cincinnati’s Women’s choir, MUSE, is based on oral histories of Appalachians in Cincinnati and supported by a 2015 Appalachian Sound Fellowship from Berea College. His collaborations include the world-touring work Spiral by choreographer/dancer Wanjiru Kamuyu and Kalahari Waits, the debut album of indigenous poetry and music trio Khoi Khonnexion, produced during a year in South Africa funded by a Reece Miller Scholarship from the Telluride Association.

From 2009 to 2014 Munn worked as a community organizer for environmental and economic justice in the coalfields of West Virginia. During this time, he worked with communities to oppose mountaintop removal coal mining and to place local environmental issues in the context of climate change and globalized capitalism. His work on land reform, economic transition in coal-dependent areas, and civil disobedience was published and analyzed in The Journal of Appalachian Studies and Applied Anthropology; books published by Punctum, AK, and Atlantic Monthly Presses; and was featured in documentaries The Last Mountain and Battle for Blair Mountain on CNN. Andrew returned to the stage in the 2014-2015 season and maintains an active performing schedule as he pursues his master’s degree in the Bard Conservatory Graduate Vocal Arts Program under the direction of soprano and MacArthur Fellow Dawn Upshaw.


Patricia Parera – February 11th

patricia-pareraCommunity Voices will have the opportunity to have dialogue on World Bank, Gender and Development with Patricia Parera (Economic and Social Development Consultant for The World Bank) during a roundtable luncheon on February 11, from 12:00pm-1:00pm in GLC Room G.

Patricia is a versatile, energetic and motivated social scientist able to deliver strategic technical and policy advice and practical operational performance on sustainable, economic and social development projects and activities. Drawing on her professional career, Patricia focuses on goals, outcomes and impacts by encouraging benefits that make a difference in people’s lives. In 2008, Patricia returned to the DC area after 15 years of working with the United Nations (FAO, IFAD) and the World Bank in Latin America and The Caribbean as a sustainable development policy and operations officer. She is currently a consultant with the World Bank’s Agriculture and Education Global Practices.

Event Details
Thursday, February 11th 12:00pm-1:00pm
Round Table Luncheon
Graduate Life Center (GLC) Room G

Additional Info
For additional information concerning this event or Community Voices in general, please contact Andy Morikawa or call the Virginia Tech Institute for Policy & Governance at 540.231.6775

Elizabeth Streb – September 30th

elizabeth-strebIn conjunction with the Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech, Community Voices will be holding a dialogue after the Film, Born to Fly: Elizabeth Streb vs.Gravity, with artistic director Elizabeth Streb, on Wednesday, September 30, 2015, at 7 PM at the Lyric Theatre, 135 College Ave., Blacksburg. Please join us for a lively film and conversation. The film and dialogue session are both free!

Elizabeth Streb, the “Evel Knievel of Dance,” nimbly weaves dance, aesthetics, rodeo, the circus, and Hollywood-style stunt work into one amazing live performance. STREB began in 1985 with a stubborn investigation of action, ranging from every day movements to the extreme action of sports, the circus, and thrill rides; the impulse to action that is in our souls. The company is a world-class entertainment phenomenon that stays true to its scientific and populist roots. STREB, whose cutting-edge, dangerous talent was featured at the 2012 London Olympics, invents action ideas that are daring, yet understandable, that soar past our critical senses and land in our hearts. Forces is the story of that action, it is the journey to harness invisible forces, it is the quest to mount a machine and learn its tricks. And it is sure to take your breath away.

Event Details
Wednesday, September 30, 2015, 7 PM
Film Screening and Dialogue with the Artist
BORN TO FLY: Elizabeth Streb vs. Gravity
Elizabeth Streb, Artistic Director, STREB Extreme Action Company
Lyric Theatre, 135 College Ave., Blacksburg

Additional Info
This screening and dialogue is an accompanying event. The main event will be a live performance, FORCES, and is sponsored by the Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech.
When: Friday, October 2, 2015, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Moss Arts Center, Anne and Ellen Fife Theatre, Street and Davis Performance Hall
Admission: $25-$55, $10 students with ID and children 18 and under

Tracy Kunkler – April 27th

tracy-kunkler“Governing Complex Systems- Stories from the Front Lines,”

Community Voices and Appalachian Foodshed Project is presenting Tracy Kunkler on Monday April 27. In her talk, “Governing Complex Systems- Stories from the Front Lines,” Tracy will discuss her consulting work with people and organizations that want to create fundamental changes in complex systems, such as local food production and distribution networks. Free parking is available around Fralin at Litton Reeves, Hillcrest,or Engel parking lots after 6 PM. We look forward to seeing you there!

Tracy Kunkler, MSW, is principal at Social Profit Strategies, a social enterprise and consulting firm that works with forward-thinking leaders who are engaged in their communities and who value collaborative leadership. Whether they lead businesses, organizations, or cross-sector networks, their clients have social missions that contribute to a vision of resiliency, creativity and prosperity for all. Tracy co-founded the Dynamic Governance Institute, which has evolved into Circle Forward, a new system of consent-based governance.

Event Details
Monday April 27, 2015, 7:00pm
Fralin Auditorium

Virginia Tech Institute for Policy and Governance

Lisa Jo Epstein – March 24th

lisa-jo-epstein“Art Making as Activism in Public Life: The Vision and Experience of Gas and Electric Arts”

Faculty, students, and community members joined Lisa Jo Epstein for an exploration of theatre as a forum for social change.

Lisa Jo Epstein is the Artistic Director and Co-Founder of Gas & Electric Arts. She is a theatre director, educator and teaching artist whose engaged, theatrical vision has been influenced by her training at Theatre de la Jeune Lune (Minneapolis), the world-renowned Théâtre du Soleil (Paris, France), and with Nobel Peace Prize Nominee Augusto Boal at the Center for the Theatre of the Oppressed (Paris, France). For decades, Lisa Jo has facilitated experiential theatre workshops with a variety of populations in many community locations around issues of identity, empowerment and social justice. For this work, she was recognized as a Northwest Fund Neighborhood Change Agent, was awarded a Leeway Art & Change grant, and has thrice been a Leeway Transformation Award finalist. For the past twenty years, Epstein has seen herself as Theatre of the Oppressed multiplier, teaching others this approach to making personal and community change. In addition to facilitating numerous Theatre of the Oppressed trainings and residencies in communities, she created Power gRRRls, a unique summer theatre, conflict resolution and leadership program for teen girls. Most recently, Epstein began working with an intergenerational group of residents in Chester PA around issues of domestic violence and its impact on the community.

Lisa Jo has been invited to travel to universities and colleges to teach a range of theatre classes, from T.O. to performance composition, as well as to direct theatre productions. In 2013, for example, she was in residence at the Université of Bordeaux in France where she taught master classes in choreographic theatre, led a Theatre of the Oppressed multi-day workshop, and presented her work with Gas & Electric Arts to the community. Each summer, Lisa Jo leads a Forum Theater intensive workshop which brings educators, social workers, community organizers, artists and active citizens from across the country to study with her. She has directed all of the mainstage plays for Gas & Electric Arts which has been dubbed “an indie theatre force,” and is considered one of Philadelphia’s most fearless, innovative small theater companies, committed to forging compelling imagistic, emotionally and intellectually relevant theatrical experiences. Her directorial work is noted for its signature, multi-sensory approach that bridges the gap between ensemble-devised physical theatre & text-based work, resulting in a unique hybrid performance style.

Event Details
Tuesday, March 24th, 4:00pm
Theater 101, on the Virginia Tech Campus

Women’s Center at Virginia Tech
Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech Institute for Policy and Governance

Liz Lerman – March 17th

liz-lerman“At the Crossroads: Art, Science, Research”

During an artist residency at Virginia Tech in 2012, Healing Wars creator and director Liz Lerman engaged with faculty, students, and community members, including researchers at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute.

Liz Lerman and Dr. Michael J. Friedlander (Executive Director, Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute) joined together this time to hold a conversation, “At the Crossroads: Art, Science, Research”

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015, 7:30pm
Moss Arts Center, Cube, on the Virginia Tech Campus

Virginia Tech Institute for Policy and Governance
Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech