Dr. Tay Keong Tan – November 17th

tayOn Monday, November 17, Community Voices presents Dr. Tay Keong Tan on “Promoting Integrity in Bhutan and Lessons for Governance in Nonprofits in the New River Valley.” His talk will take place at 7:00pm in Fralin Auditorium. Admission is free!Tay Keong Tan is a Fellow at the Institute for Policy and Governance at Virginia Tech and a volunteer with local community organizations. He also teaches international studies and political science at Radford University. For more than a decade, Tay Keong worked an independent consultant specializing in governance, anti-corruption, ethics, risk assessment, and public management. In 2012 and 2013, he led teams for World Bank, Asian Development Bank, and Partnership for Transparency Fund in various field assignments in Bhutan, Cambodia, Indonesia, Mongolia, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, and the Philippines. While working on an Asian Development Bank Project to fight corruption in the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan in 2012/2013, Tay Keong Tan helped the small, reclusive nation put in place systems to strengthen integrity and governance.

For additional information concerning this event or Community Voices, please contact Andy Morikawa with the Virginia Tech Institute for Policy and Governance at 540-231-6775.


Sponsor of the Community Voices Series is the Virginia Tech Institute for Policy and Governance.

Francesco Manca – October 15th & 16th

francesco-mancaFrancesco Manca, Deputy Director (ret.) for the Political and Civil Affairs office of UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) will visit Virginia Tech from October 13 to October 20.  In a span of more than a quarter of a century at the UN, Francesco Manca assumed many roles at both United Nations Headquarters and in the field addressing economic development, electoral assistance, human rights, peacemaking and peacekeeping.  He held political and managerial posts in a number of UN peacekeeping missions in Central America, the Balkans, Tajikistan, East Timor, Sierra Leone and in the Middle East. During his long career he has often been invited to deliver lectures and speeches to numerous academic and professional forums in Europe, North and Latin America, Africa and the Middle East.  While at Virginia Tech, Mr. Manca will give a series of lectures, take part in classes, and meet with interested faculty, students, and administrators.  His plenary lectures, open to the Virginia Tech and broader Blacksburg area communities will include speeches on:

  “The role of the United Nations in the Middle East” (October 15 6:45-8:15 PM – Brush Mountain Room –Squires Student Center) and

            “United Nations Peacekeeping and Electoral Missions” (October 16, 6:00-7:30 PM Pamplin 30). 

In addition, while at Virginia Tech Mr. Manca will meet with graduate students and faculty at a brownbag lunch and discuss career options with interested students. His visit has been made possible by the support of numerous sponsors including the Department of Political Science, the Virginia Tech Women In Leadership and Philanthropy Endowed Lecture Fund, the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences Dean’s Advisory Committee for International Initiatives, the Virginia Tech Institute for Policy and Governance, the Center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention, the International Relations Organization at Virginia Tech and the Cranwell International Center.

For further information please contact Laura  Zanotti, Associate Professor, Department of Political Sciences, lzanotti@vt.edu.

John Ferguson – April 24th

john-fergusonOn Thursday, April 24, Community Voices presents John Ferguson, Executive Director of American Voices.  John Ferguson’s talk is titled, American Voices: Cultural Diplomacy and Engagement in Difficult Places, Sudan, Iraq, Pakistan and Beyond.  Ferguson will present the work of the 20-year old not-for-profit organization, American Voices, whose ground breaking cultural diplomacy and engagement work in nations emerging from conflict or isolation has won several national and international awards. Discussion will center around the need for ‘engagement’ (repeated, long-term projects) as well as ‘diplomacy’ (one-off concerts and high profile events). His talk will be at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 24th at the Lyric Theatre in Blacksburg. Admission is free.

Ferguson will present and discuss models of best practices in cultural engagement as well as video from recent American Voices hip hop, Broadway, jazz, Rap, break dance, youth orchestra and children’s theater programs in Sudan, Pakistan and Iraq. If you are curious about Hip Hop in Iraq and Sudan or Broadway in Pakistan and have never seen aspiring Pakistani Broadway triple threats dance ‘Footloose’, this is your chance.  An excerpt of the documentary, ‘Camp Unity’ about the 2008 YES Academy in Iraq will be shown.

John Ferguson currently resides in Bangkok, Thailand where he carries out his dual roles as pianist and Executive Director of American Voices. His performing activities include over one hundred concerts, broadcasts and master classes per year throughout Europe, North and South America, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

In October 2011, American Voices was the chosen by the U.S. Department of State to administer the American Music Abroad program. The American Music Abroad program has evolved out of an illustrious line of cultural diplomacy programming conducted by the U.S. government, including the renowned Jazz Ambassadors and The Rhythm Road programs.

Community Voices speakers are engaged in fostering work that strengthens community.  Their leadership includes the capacity to speak cogently and concisely about their experiences, to tell stories, sometimes using multi- media tools to perform in ways that are revealing of their work; and, to present ideas for change, ideas that matter.


Sponsors of this Community Voices event include the Virginia Tech Institute for Policy and Governance, the College of Architecture and Urban Studies, and, the Office of Outreach and International Affairs.


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


Healthy NRV Youth Ambassadors and Conversation NRV Conveners – March 27th

On Thursday, March 27th, join community leaders young and old to learn about how storytelling and convening have shaped movements in our community to tackle tough issues.  These movements have connected different and separate parts of the community around problems we must face if we are to become stronger more resilient communities.  Healthy NRV Youth Ambassadors will join Conversation NRV Conveners to share in presenting “Creating Space for Communities of Change.” Their talk will be at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, March 27th at the Lyric Theatre in Blacksburg. Admission is free.

In today’s complex world, community members deal with massive amounts of data and information coming from a multitude of media sources.  The torrent of data, the numbers and statistics about healthcare, the economy, social and political issues, as important to everyone’s well-being as they are, simply become so much noise, distant, abstract and avoided.  How to make sense of the information so that communities can respond and take corrective action?

Healthy NRV students at Virginia Tech where they learned the art and technology of digital storytelling. The Institute for Policy and Governance secured grant support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to organize the intensive workshops for New River Valley high school students. The workshops enabled each student to produce a personal, digital story. Several of the students will speak at Community Voices and share their digital stories.

The Healthy NRV Ambassadors and the Conversation NRV Conveners have found a way, a step in the direction of informed action.  That step is about individual community members telling their stories about an issue of community importance in personal terms.  Instead of simply citing data about drug use, for example, a Youth Ambassador tells her personal story of a friend she loses to meth addiction. Her story told in her own voice moves us.  Connecting data to a story is the key to social movement within our community. By creating an opportunity for personal sharing and storytelling, we can make it possible for people to truly claim their voice around issues that matter to them.  Programs and initiatives that promote storytelling help us understand and share who we are as community.

An example of this is The Healthy NRV program that supported the development of stories about community health issues told by by young people in our community.  The teens were empowered to build and share their own story and to create a digital video to share within their community and to promote their ideas for change. They became community health ambassadors with not only the ability to grasp the complexities of what impacts health in their community, but also the compassion and hopefulness to ask important questions and offer promising insights for action.

Conversation NRV team plans the March 22 event that brings together a broad cross section of the community, conservatives and liberals. The gathering will develop ways of opening mutually respectful conversation between community members who hold very different points of view. Team members will share their experiences with the Community Voices audience.

Another example is Conversation NRV that is hosting a conversation and story sharing event on March 22nd for community members representing very different social and political perspectives.  Conversation NRV seeks to promote and facilitate listening and understanding among people of differing views and values around the complexities of issues like poverty.  Where do personal and governmental responsibility begin and end?  The agenda is mutual understanding, not an attempt to change minds.

Both groups find that stories are the shortest distance between two people. Stories are ubiquitous forms of communication and when the teller and listener are truly engaged, they are an important, effective unit of social change.  This rings true in the New River Valley and in the world – for people of all walks of life, political perspective and age.

Community Voices speakers are engaged in fostering work that strengthens community.  Their leadership includes the capacity to speak cogently and concisely about their experiences, to tell stories, sometimes using multi- media tools to perform in ways that are revealing of their work; and, to present ideas for change, ideas that matter.  The Healthy NRV Ambassadors will share some of their digital stories with the audience.

For additional information concerning this event or Community Voices, please contact Andy Morikawa with the Virginia Tech Institute for Policy and Governance at 540-231-6775.

Sponsor of the Community Voices Series is the Virginia Tech Institute for Policy and Governance.


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

Ben Knapp – February 27th

Benjamin Knapp, Director, ICAT, Center for the Arts at VTOn Thursday, February 27, Community Voices presents Ben Knapp, Director of the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology (ICAT) and Professor of Computer Science at Virginia Tech. Knapp will be the kickoff speaker for the Community Voices Spring 2014 program.  His talk is titled, “An Artist, a Designer, an Engineer, and a Scientist Walk Into a Bar: Stories of ICAT” and will take place at 7:00 p.m. at the Lyric Theatre in Blacksburg.

Knapp, an engineer, will be joined on stage by colleagues: an artist, a designer, and a scientist.  They will tell stories of their creative process with the help of the Orb, a digital sphere of integral relationships projected on the Lyric Theatre’s big screen. Not to be missed. They will share stories of creativity, discovery and humor in their projects on the frontline of Virginia Tech’s initiative to foster creativity.

They are developing a creative process to create new possibilities for exploration and expression through learning, discovery, and engagement.  ICAT seeks to promote research and education at the boundaries between art, design, engineering, and science.

Community Voices speakers are engaged in fostering work that strengthens community.  Their leadership includes the capacity to speak cogently and concisely about their experiences, to tell stories, sometimes using multi- media tools to perform in ways that are revealing of their work; and, to present ideas for change, ideas that matter.

Ben Knapp leads ICAT, a collection of collaborative studios composed of faculty, students, industrial partners, and community volunteers working together toward creating a one-of-a-kind collaborative environment for enacting change. ICAT includes five studios: IDEA, IMAGE, IMPACT, IMPLEMENT, and INTERACT. The INTERACT Studio is developing a technology of community engagement that includes working collaboratively with the Community Voices team comprised of graduate students, community members, and faculty.

For more than 20 years, Dr. Knapp has been working to create meaningful links between human-computer interaction, universal design, and various forms of creativity. His work at ICAT now includes innovative forms of creativity, such as digital storytelling, to create connections and engagement with community.
For additional information concerning this event or Community Voices, please contact Andy Morikawa with the Virginia Tech Institute for Policy and Governance at 540-231-6775.


Penny Franklin – December 4th

penny-franklinOn Wednesday, December 4, Community Voices presents Penny Franklin, local and national union leader and civil rights activist from Christiansburg.  Franklin will address the New River Valley community at 7:00 p.m. at the Lyric Theatre in Blacksburg.  In her talk, “Stepping Up,” Ms. Franklin will share her life journey that has taken her from being uninvolved in community life to becoming the first African American elected to public office in Montgomery County.

An outspoken truth teller, Franklin will speak of being called to step up as a young mother to protect her children from being treated unfairly in school. Taking a stand made a difference.  She also found that speaking up meant she would feel the spiritual call to take another step, to take on more responsibility.  As she says, “God is calling me to serve. My life has never been the same. There’s no turning back.”

While her story is very much about being an African-American in Virginia today, Franklin also will address “what it means to be a citizen in a time of great danger.” As she says, “I am speaking to everyone in our community.”

Penny Franklin will tell her story, will tell the truth, to the audience who gather to hear and be with her at The Lyric Theatre in downtown Blacksburg.  Max Stephenson, the Director of Virginia Tech’s Institute for Policy and Governance, says, “Community Voices is both proud and grateful that it can present Penny Franklin as the nineteenth in a line of distinguished community leaders who have appeared on the Lyric stage.”

The speakers, the Community Voices, speak to engage, to challenge and to inspire the hundreds of students, community leaders, colleagues and others with interest in community who attend the talks.  The audience of all ages gathers for an intense one-hour of thoughtful engagement.  Franklin’s recorded talk will be available as a podcast on the web site of the Institute for Policy and Governance (www.ipg.vt.edu) which sponsors the Community Voices series.

Ms. Franklin will speak about the Montgomery County-focused Dialogue on Race that is now gaining national interest.  She spent four years laying the groundwork for this emergent action to change policy and governance at the local level.  It is in local community that Penny Franklin says she has learned and developed what some call a leadership of relationships.

Franklin, a lift truck operator in Shipping Utility at Hubbell Lighting, serves on and is former chair of the Montgomery County Board of Education; member of the Virginia School Board Association Board of Directors; president of Local 82160 of the IUE/CWA; former board chair, now Area Chair of the Montgomery Count-Radford City-Floyd County NAACP; and member of the national Executive Council of the IUE.  She is co-founder of the Community Group, an African American civil society organization in Montgomery County; founding member of the New Mountain Climbers, the first giving circle in southwest Virginia, the first African American philanthropy in southwest Virginia.

For additional information concerning this event or Community Voices, please contact Andy Morikawa with the Virginia Tech Institute for Policy and Governance at 540-231-6775.

Bond Street Theatre – October 24th


On Thursday, October 24, Community Voices presents Bond Street Theatre leaders who will address the New River Valley community at the Lyric Theatre in Blacksburg.  In their talk, Theatre in Conflict Zones, Joanna Sherman, Artistic Director and Michael McGuigan, Managing Director, will present a video-lecture exploring the impact and value of the expressive arts in areas of conflict. The lecture will show how theatre-based practices are applied in different communities, with specific focus on their work in Afghanistan. Their presentation introduces the idea of theatre as a useful tool for social improvement and bringing peace, and emphasizing why cross-cultural artistic conversations are crucial for mutual understanding.

Bond Street believes that theatre inspires, informs, entertains, and empowers.

Bond Street Theatre’s mission is to promote peace and mutual understanding through the arts.  Founded in 1976, Bond Street Theatre initiates creative programming that inspires and educates youth, addresses human rights issues, heals communities affected by poverty and conflict, and promotes the value of the arts in shaping a peaceful future.

The company responds to humanitarian crises through the uplifting powers of the arts.  The company has initiated innovative theatre and theatre-based programs in over 40 countries worldwide, and reached populations in refugee camps, schools, shelters, prisons, rural villages and urban centers.

Theatre inspires, informs, entertains, and empowers!

Bond Street Theatre initiates theatre-based approaches to conflict resolution, education, and empowerment in areas of conflict and poverty, through programs for adults and youth, training for teachers, and creative collaboration with local artists and community organizations.  The company works directly with disadvantaged communities to inspire and uplift them through the transformative world of theatre.

In addition, Bond Street Theatre creates innovative theatre work that addresses social and environmental issues, and performs in theatres and major festivals around the world. The company draws on the musical and gestural arts of many traditions and the performance styles from many cultures in creating its original theatre productions.

The company uses theatre as a means to communicate across cultural borders, promote peace and mutual understanding, and stimulate others toward these ends through artistic exchange and creative partnerships.

The company has worked in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Turkey, Myanmar, Indonesia, China, Kosovo, Bosnia, Serbia, Albania, Romania, Bulgaria, Colombia, Venezuela, Guatemala, Brazil, Mexico, Israel, Palestinian territories, and elsewhere.

For additional information concerning this event or Community Voices, please contact Andy Morikawa with the Virginia Tech Institute for Policy and Governance at 540-231-6775.

Sponsors of the Community Voices Series include the Virginia Tech Institute for Policy and Governance, School of Performing Arts, the Center for the Arts, College of Architecture, Division of Student Affairs, the School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA); and, ASPECT (the Alliance for Social, Political, Ethical and Cultural Thought).

Frank Dukes – September 25th

Frank Dukes

The Clinch River Valley Initiative: How Talk Can Shape Community Action

How do we build relationships across the table?  To address that question, Community Voices will welcome Dr. Frank Dukes, Director of the Institute for Environmental Negotiation (IEN) at the University of Virginia on Wednesday, September 25, 2013. Frank Dukes will deliver a public talk, free and open to all, at the historic Lyric Theatre in downtown Blacksburg from 7- 8 PM.

Frank Dukes’ talk kicks off the Fall 2013 Community Voices series. During Fall 2013, Community Voices will advance its mission through a series of activities focused on the issue of poverty in the New River Valley region. Community Voices seeks to develop community capacity for civic dialogue that generates ideas for positive change, ideas that matter.

In his talk, Dukes will share his experiences working with deeply divided communities seeking to address problems involving economic and social justice, income inequality, contaminated water, toxic communities, and the looming impacts of global warming.

Dr. Dukes’ talk will feature one such success story, an effort to integrate economy and environment, the “Clinch River Valley Initiative,” where residents of all affiliations are finding ways to create meaningful impacts for themselves and their communities.

Frank Dukes has worked as a mediator at local, state, and federal levels on projects involving community development, education, and health, environment and land use, with a particular emphasis on the Appalachian coalfields and Chesapeake Bay watershed regions.  Dr. Dukes designs dispute resolution and public participation processes, mediates and facilitates, teaches and trains, and conducts research.  He is the winner of the 2012 Sharon M. Pickett Award for Environmental Conflict Resolution, presented by the Association for Conflict Resolution.

Sponsors of this Community Voices Series include the Virginia Tech Institute for Policy & Governance and the Virginia Tech Institute for Creativity, Arts and Technology.

Thenmozhi Soundararajan – February 28th

Story: A Unit of Changethenmozhi_soundararajan_justine


On Thursday, February 28, Community Voices will present Thenmozhi Soundararajan, writer, director and singer.  Her Community Voices talk will be from 7-8 p.m. in the Historic Lyric Theatre in downtown Blacksburg, Virginia.  Admission is free and all are welcome.

Transmedia Artist Thenmozhi Soundararajan will share an evening of digital stories from her work with communities and digital storytelling around the world. She will lead an interactive dialogue with song, digital stories, and audience participation about the purpose of story in community building and explore the links between identity, narrative, and community change. Of special focus will be her work with co-collaborator and research faculty at Virginia Tech’s Institute for Policy and Governance, Holly Larson Lesko and their emerging New River Valley Narrative Praxis Collaboration funded in part by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Thenmozhi has been engaged in digital storytelling creation and training for nearly 15 years and has worked with local youth and adult groups to build personal stories of health and community in the New River Valley over the past two years.

Thenmozhi Soundararajan is a singer and Transmedia artist who in 2003 was featured in Utne Reader as One of the Top Visionaries Under 30, and the same year was profiled in The Source as One of the Top Ten Political Forces in Hip Hop. Growing up as an Indian Untouchable, she was driven to tell the stories of marginalized communities, which led her, upon graduating from UC Berkeley, to found the international media training organization, Third World Majority, for which she taught in the U.S., France, Tunisia, Venezuela, Brazil, South Africa, and India. She also spent time in residence at the MIT Center for Reflective Community Practice, writing about storytelling, diversity, and future technology, and that research inspired her transition to narrative filmmaking, and enrollment in USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. Since then, Soundararajan’s work has been recognized by the Producers Guild of America Diversity Program, The Museum of Contemporary Art, The Annenberg Innovation Center, Slamdance, MIT Center for New Media Studies, The Sorbonne, The National Center for the Humanities, International Children’s Festival, The Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles and The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Currently, she’s directing her documentary, Touchable: The Journey from Untouchable to Dalit and its related album Broken People.

Pam McMichael – November 29th

Did Horton Hear a Who?
An Exploration of the Small and Mighty Voices of the Highlander Center Making Change for 80 Years

On Thursday, November 29, Community Voices will present Pam McMichael, Director of the Highlander Research and Education Center. Her Community Voices talk will be from 7-8 p.m. in the Historic Lyric Theatre in downtown Blacksburg, Virginia. Admission is free and all are welcome.

Through stories spanning eight decades, McMichael’s presentation explores the power to make change through the extraordinary acts of everyday people connected to the Highlander Center. She reflects on the deep listening necessary to find, hear and amplify those community voices, and the challenges and opportunities for deep listening in our fast paced technology-filled world.

Pam McMichael first became associated with Highlander as a long-time activist and organizer in Louisville, Kentucky. For decades, McMichael’s organizing and cultural work have focused on connecting people and issues across difficult divides, with particular emphasis on helping to build a strong and racially just movement. She has co-founded local, state and regional organizations with this core strategy, including Southerners on New Ground, where she served as co-director for 8 years. She was a national fellow with a Rockefeller Foundation leadership project to address the growing crisis in U.S. democracy. Her extensive nonprofit management experience includes social change and social service organizations.