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CRC Newsletter: Summer 2023

The WVU Center for Resilient Communities  (CRC) advances community engaged research and education programs to generate knowledge and raise up human resources for more just, equitable and vibrant communities in West Virginia, the greater Appalachian region, and the world. Our aim is to foster a positive spirit, support collective inquiry, elevate new grassroots leadership, and to encourage people to look to themselves, rather than outside experts to promote community well-being in our region. 
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We are accepting applications from undergraduate students at WVU for our fifth annual Sustainable Development Internship. The internship is made possible through a generous partnership with The One Foundation. The Sustainable Development Internship is designed for undergraduate students who wish to cultivate their leadership and community-based research capacities to contribute to transformative social change in Appalachia. The Sustainable Development Internship provides undergraduate students a space to build confidence and capacity in their search for creative solutions to local and global problems. Deadline September 20, 2023
Learn More Here
Nominate a Student Here
Students Apply Here
Table of Contents


CRC launches Online Community GIS Hub - ResilienceLink

Telling their Story: Mapping Internship Projects Spring 2023 

Taking Stock: Sustainable Development Internship Program 2020-2023 

Advancing the Right to Food in West Virginia and beyond 

Growing Hope: CRC collaborates in Action Research for Food System Change in Colombia 

Summer Institutes 

5th Annual Appalachian Food Justice Institute 

Global Summer Institute for Community Economies Research 

Summer Undergraduate Research Experience 


Nkatha Mercy chosen for inaugural AAG Climate Change & Society Program 

New Employee Spotlight: Community GIS Coordinator - Grace Dever 

New Grad Student Cohort Join the CRC 


CRC Homecoming October 20th: Alumni Gathering and Friends Reception

SDI Information Session / Recruitment - September 8th 

Application Open - Deadline Sept 20 - 2024 Sustainable Development Interns 
CRC launches Online Community GIS Hub - ResilienceLink

Building on a decade of community-engaged geospatial research the CRC is pleased to announce the launch of ResilienceLink, our new integrative online hub for maps, data, published research, and other tools to support our community partners in West Virginia and beyond. ResilienceLink will host all of the CRC’s databases, mapping applications and project outputs going forward so anyone with a web browser can easily access what they need. Community partners who are concerned with food insecurity, healthcare deserts, water quality and more will have access to our map portals. Moreover, you can learn more about ongoing projects of the CRC led by students and community partners. Check out ResilienceLink here.

“ResilienceLink not only showcases the potential of community GIS but serves as a HUB for advocacy work, classrooms, or community conversations. The data, mapping portals and projects in ResilienceLink are rooted in years of community-engaged research that we are trying to make available in one place. While building the website we spent considerable time thinking about the pathways in which people in Appalachia access information to support their work. We hope ResilienceLink will grow with our partners as we build a learning portal and a tool for change.” - Grace Dever, Community GIS Coordinator

Telling their Story: Mapping Internship Projects
Spring 2023

The CRC’s fourth cohort of Sustainable Development Interns (SDIs) wrapped up another exciting Spring semester working on action research projects with our community partners. Twenty students completed the program in Spring 2023. Learn more about the SDI teams by exploring the StoryMaps of their projects on regional food systems , flood preparedness , cooperative economies , and the right to food !

Taking Stock: Sustainable Development Internship Program 2020-2023 
" This internship experience provided me with an opportunity to grow my capabilities in a professional setting with real-world experiences. I was able to develop skills like collaborating with diverse teams, incorporating different perspectives in a project, taking lead of a project, and applying previous knowledge to real-world issues to make change. All of these capabilities that I have developed and the ideas about leadership, collaboration, and research that I have learned will directly help me in my future endeavors. " - SDI 2023

This Summer, the CRC completed a four year evaluation of the SDI program led by Geography Ph.D. Candidate and Community Engaged Research Assistant, Valentina Muraleedharan. While the CRC regularly self-evaluates its efforts each year, this comprehensive review sheds light on the effectiveness of our pedagogy, community impacts, and has enabled us to reflect on what we have learned to further refine our approach. 

By the Numbers 2020-2023

  • Trained 69 undergraduate interns 
  • Trained 17 graduate research mentors
  • 51% Acceptance Rate
  • 72% of interns were from West Virginia
  • 30% of interns were 1st Generation College Students
  • 30% of interns identified as Students of Color (black, indigenous, latinx, other).
  • 63% of interns identified as Women
  • 29% of interns identified as Men
  • 8% of interns identified as Non-binary or Trans
  • Supported 38 projects
  • Supported 25 organizations

“I first applied to the SDI program as a way to get involved with local community groups and social action efforts. In addition to finding a way to give back to my community and state, I’ve also found an incredible group of mentors, colleagues, and friends. The CRC has opened doors for me and given me a place to call home at WVU where I feel welcomed, accepted, and wholly supported.” - SDI 2020

Advancing the Right to Food in WV and Beyond
WV Delegation in Miami, FL listens as representative Antonio Tovar from the National Family Farm Coalition shares perspectives on the right to food.

The Center for Resilient Communities is supporting an emergent movement for the Right to Food in West Virginia.  In close collaboration with the Appalachian Center for Equality , Rattle the Windows and grassroots organizers engaged in the WV Voices of Hunger initiative the initiative grew out of legislative efforts to introduce a state constitutional amendment for the Right to Food in 2021. Local efforts to organize municipalities and county commissions around the concept have also taken root, in places like Calhoun County and Morgantown . Over the past year, West Virginia advocates have supported the formation of a National Right to Food Community of Practice , a shared space to cross-pollinate ideas, build a common sense of purpose among various Right to Food efforts underway across the United States and learn from international Right to Food allies in other places. West Virginia’s leadership in this national movement was evidenced during the Food, Housing and Racial Justice Symposium co-organized by the University of Miami Human Rights Law Clinic, Why Hunger and the CRC in April 2023. Former delegate Danielle Walker offered the keynote address, while 2020 CRC fellow Shanequa Smith served as one of the judges at the People’s Tribunal hosted by the Miami Center for Racial Equality. Joshua Lohnes, co-authored the declaration that came out of the summit, which advocates can sign onto here

Growing Hope: CRC collaborates in Action Research for Food System Change in Colombia
Bradley Wilson with Dayani Zapata, Cristina Mosquera, Juan Fernando, Ever Rivera, and Haleh Arbab at the Centro Universitario para Bienestar Rural (University Center for Rural Wellbeing).

In May 2023, CRC Director Bradley Wilson returned to Cali, Colombia for the second year to continue learning from and collaborating with FUNDAEC on their new community food system change pilot project called Growing Hope. For almost 50 years, FUNDAEC (Fundación para la Aplicación y Enseñanza de las Ciencias), a non-profit educational and research institution based in Cali, Colombia, has worked with rural communities around the world to increase the capacity of local populations to promote the well-being of their own communities, particularly through agroecological practices. Internationally recognized for its innovative approach to development education, FUNDAEC has dedicated itself to generating and systematizing knowledge through action research and the application of new learning in educational programs that promote regenerative agriculture, local economic development, environmental conservation and rural education projects in association with community groups and partner organizations in Latin America, Africa and Asia. Growing Hope builds from these many years of endeavor and deep ties in the region to focus on Norte de Cauca, the birthplace of FUNDAEC. Learn more about FUNDAEC here.

In 2022, the UN FAO identified Colombia as one of the twenty hot spots experiencing acute hunger in the world. According to official statistics, 64% of households in the Department of Cauca,, experiences food insecurity, one of the highest rates in Colombia and the world. During the last five decades, agriculture in Norte de Cauca, Colombia, has been transformed by the extensive development of sugarcane monocultures that have displaced ancestral indigenous, Afro-Colombian, and agroecological production methods. Sugar has not only transformed the social and environmental landscape of Norte de Cauca, its consumption is one of the main causes of diet-related diseases and its production is a key contributor to ongoing carbon emissions and anthropogenic climate change. 

At the center of FUNDAECs vision of regenerative agriculture in Norte de Cauca is the role of small farmers and home gardeners with whom they have carried out action research and educational outreach on alternative production systems since the early 1970s. One of these alternative systems is a model of highly diversified but efficient crop plots: plots between 500 and 1,000 square meters of short-cycle associated crops, in which organic fertilizers are used, live covers, staggered planting, autochthonous seeds, and separated by live fences. Another of the more recently developed systems focuses on agroforestry, where fruit and timber trees are interspersed in larger areas with transitory crops. All this knowledge (derived through decades of participatory research) has been systematized in a sequence of texts with which tens of thousands of young people around the world are involved.

Dr. Wilson is collaborating with a team of action researchers led by the Center for Research in Education for Development and FUNDAEC to document and systematize the learning unfolding on small farms, schools, community organization and experimental plots throughout the project. 

Wilson with action research colleagues Laura Naranjo and Dayani Zapata.

Summer Institutes
5th Annual Appalachian Food Justice Institute
Dr. Joshua Lohnes leads institute participants in an exploration of food policy dynamics in the United States and its implications for West Virginia.

The Appalachian Food Justice Institute (AFJI) and associated Farm and Food Hub internship is a collaborative educational program hosted by the WVU Center for Resilient Communities, and its community partners in West Virginia. Now in its fifth year, AFJI prepares student leaders to meaningfully engage in local and regional food system development bringing lessons from social movements advancing food sovereignty and the right to food across the world to the small farm networks and community food security work currently underway in the Appalachian context. This summer AFJI offered a ten-week internship experience, along with the weeklong educational program, for students engaged with food system work. This internship provided hands-on experience with food and farm organizations concerned with advancing equitable food networks in Appalachia. Interns were placed with Mountain Harvest Farm, Garrett Growers, and the WVU Urban Farm and worked with various other farms and organizations through direct work days, field trips, and discussions. This year Dylan Upperman (AFJI alum 2022) served as the program coordinator. Dr. Joshua Lohnes led the intensive training seminar and Fritz Boettner led both internship placements and organized a range of exciting field school experiences. 

“AFJI and the Food and Farm Internship offered passionate students the ability to directly work with and learn from community partners engaged in the food system in West Virginia and beyond. Over the course of ten weeks of direct work and a weeklong learning program, the experience gained, knowledge and skills developed, and relationships built with community members through this internship have proven to be invaluable for both me and the interns with whom I worked closely this summer.” - Dylan Upperman

Learn more about AFJI 2023 through our interactive Story Map!

Global Community Economies Institute
Dr. Kevin St. Martin, Professor of Geography at Rutgers University and founding member of the Community Economies Institute leads a discussion of diverse economies research practices with doctoral student participants.

In late June 2023, the CRC hosted a two week in-person summer school at WVU while connecting others around the world in nodes based in Norway (Norwegian University of Science and Technology), Aotearoa New Zealand (Massey University), European Union online (University of Munich), Australia online (Uni. of Newcastle, AUS). Dr. Bradley Wilson co-facilitated the seminar with one of his research mentors Dr. Kevin St. Martin (Rutgers University) who also joined us at WVU. Doctoral students Cameron Rishworth and Valentina Muraleedharan also attended as a means of gaining additional training and advancing their doctoral research.

The CEI summer school was an accessible and dynamic means to explore the discourse of community and solidarity economies with a diverse group of scholars from various fields and backgrounds. The concepts and conversations  raised questions and added dimension to my on-going dissertation research. It was an incredibly valuable experience as I gained knowledge and skill in my capacity to think differently and contribute meaningfully to this discourse. - Valentina Muraleedharan, Ph.D. Candidate, Geography

It was a great opportunity to be a part of the CEI summer school, particularly being able to learn alongside people like Jenny Cameron and Katherine Gibson who have been at the forefront of creatively examining economic practices beyond capitalism for decades. The institute is a great resource and network of support as I continue to learn about cooperatives and solidarity economies as a part of my PhD dissertation and possible future endeavors. - Cameron Rishworth, Ph.D. Student, Geography

In total some 50 scholars participated in the program, now in its second year. The Community Economies Institute summer school offers PhD students, early career researchers and others the opportunity to explore these questions with advanced scholars who have been thinking outside or beyond capitalist relations since the publication of J.K. Gibson-Graham’s The End of Capitalism (As We Knew It): A Feminist Critique of Political Economy in 1996. The summer school engages with the foundational concepts and tools that community economies scholars use to envision and enact diverse, alternative economies. It explores connections with longer traditions that also value collectivity and interdependence. Some of the questions that guided conversation included: What role can scholarship play in making other worlds possible? What capacities do we have as scholars to shape the world? What ethical responsibilities and earthly cares come with this work? How are we navigating these questions in our own research? 

Doctoral students Vanessa Raditz (University of Georgia), Caitlin Joseph (Temple University), Douglas "DJ" Belton (Western Sydney University), Valentina Muraleedharan, and Cameron Rishworth with Bradley Wilson (WVU) participate in the U.S. node of the global summer school.
Summer Undergraduate Research Experience
SURE students sponsored by the Undergraduate Research Office present their work at the Summer research symposium. (Clockwise from top) Lily Grace (Environmental Geoscience), Kimia Izadinia (Psychology), Gabrielle Frazier (Geography), Heriberto Perez (Civil Engineering). 
Nkatha Mercy chosen for inaugural AAG Climate Change & Society Program 

Nkatha Mercy, a PhD candidate in the Department of Geology and Geography and Community Engaged Research Assistant in CRC has been selected by the American Association of Geographers to participate in its Elevate the Discipline program. Elevate the Discipline will train an inaugural cohort of geographers over the next several months in leadership, media skills and policy strategies. The cohort will use the training to discuss their research in the media, as voices for public policies and in advocating for change around the theme of climate and society. Learn more here. Nkatha writes: "I am grateful for the opportunity to be part of CRC’s research and learning that engenders community resilience. Linking community, research, policy and media is useful for showcasing higher education's contribution to sustainable development. This, especially so, in this day of anthropogenic climate change."

Grace Dever joins CRC Staff as Community GIS Coordinator

Grace Dever joins the staff as our new Community GIS coordinator for the CRC. Grace has transitioned into a full-time position from her previous graduate research role. This summer Grace has played a central part in the development of ResilienceLink and advancing the Community GIS program. Grace writes: "I am so thrilled to continue to work at the CRC as the Community GIS Coordinator. I started at the CRC as a GIS undergraduate research assistant in 2019 and have had the opportunity to engage in varying research projects such as food access, water insecurity, and flood risk. As a full-time staff member, I look forward to building a community GIS program and providing similar pathways for students and community members to participate in our collaborative research planning. I love being a part of this community. I am eager to continue learning and working with others to promote mapping as a means of advancing policy and social change."

New Cohort - Community Engaged Research Assistants

Alex Ehlers: "I was first drawn to the CRC my third year of undergrad when I saw the posters for the Sustainable Development Internship. I participated in that, and thoroughly enjoyed the community and work that I was a part of. This close community is what empowered me to continue my education at WVU. I knew I wanted to be involved with food system development and food security during my graduate studies, so I knew that the CRC would continue to be the perfect fit for me. While pursuing my Master’s in Geography, I will be working on adjusting the reporting structures for SNAP-Ed programming and conducting outreach programs to encourage food security throughout the region. I want to utilize GIS to develop new food systems in WV. I am super excited for the opportunity to be back working for the CRC, and can’t wait to see where the year goes!"

Kennedy Lawson: "What initially attracted me to the CRC was the Sustainable Development Internship program. After completing the program in the 2023 Spring semester, I felt deeply inspired by the experience of participating in community-engaged research; so much so that after I earned my B.S. in Energy and Environmental Resources Management, I was motivated to continue my education. I seek a high-level understanding of the social, economic, and political forces that hinder local communities’ capacities to transform into more resilient, sustainable spaces and places. Specifically, I am interested in learning and addressing environmental injustices. I will be a member of the team working on the “Preparing Agents of Change for Tomorrow (PACT): Building Youth Confidence and Capacity for Climate Resilient Futures in Appalachia” project. Central to this project is the notion that the participation of youth in these communities will lead to more educated and prepared agents of change for the uncertainties of the future. Continuing to be involved in community-based action research and projects rooted in community collaboration is a pillar of my aspirations as a graduate researcher in the CRC."


Dylan Upperman: "I initially began working with the CRC in the Sustainable Development Internship (SDI) in the Spring of 2022 and Appalachian Food Justice Institute (AFJI) the following summer to engage directly with those within the agricultural field in West Virginia. Through these experiences, I learned of the many ways the center engages with communities throughout the state via participatory action research and fell in love with the idea of food system transformation, particularly with farmers and community members at the forefront of this movement. In my graduate studies here at WVU through the CRC, I am broadly interested in research into our region’s food system, specifically aiming at developing a food system that benefits both the producers and consumers with the goal of eliminating food insecurity while promoting sustainable agriculture. Through the CRC, I am currently working on conducting a review of Turnrow, an Appalachian farm collective operating as a food hub, with the hopes of developing a better understanding of the ways in which food hubs operate here in West Virginia. Furthering this effort, in the near future I plan on working with a team conducting a food security and resilience assessment with the Eastern Food Hub Collaborative (EFC) to understand how they are working to improve food security and community resilience from Maine to Mississippi."

CRC Homecoming - October 20th - Alumni Gathering and Friends Reception

Calling all former students and alumni of WVU, the CRC, Food Justice Lab, Firsthand, Fair Trade 2.0 and more. We are very excited to host our first annual homecoming gathering on Friday, October 20, 2023. We are planning an open house for all of our friends starting at 9:00am-11:30 pm with music, coffee and refreshments. At 2:00 pm the CRC will tell a story from our 10+ years of learning in honor of all the students, staff and friends who contributed to this collective work. At this event we will also announce and introduce our newest cohort of Sustainable Development interns and share our plans for 2024 and beyond.  Register for our CRC Homecoming Event here.

SDI Application Open for Spring 2024
Deadline Sept 20
The WVU Center for Resilient Communities is accepting applications for its fifth annual Sustainable Development Internship. The internship is made possible through a generous partnership with The One Foundation. The Sustainable Development Internship is designed for undergraduate students who wish to cultivate their leadership and community-based research capacities to contribute to transformative social change in Appalachia. Undergraduate students build confidence and capacity in their search for creative solutions to local and global problems. 

Find more about SDI at our website or visit us in Brooks 309. Here is the link to the internship application form.

Refer a student here!  Faculty and Staff Referral/Nomination Form

SDI Information Session - September 8 - 10am - 309 Brooks Hall
The CRC invites you to join us for an open house dedicated to students, faculty, and friends interested in learning more about the Sustainable Development Internship program and the Center for Resilient Communities more broadly. The event will include a panel reflection with previous interns, graduate student research mentors, and community members as well as a Q&A. There will also be time for informal conversations and getting to know the students and staff of the CRC. It will take place on Friday, September 8th at 10:00AM in the Center for Resilient Communities (Brooks 309). Coffee will be served.