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Graduate Researchers

Valentina Muraleedharan portrait

Valentina Muraleedharan

Valentina Muraleedharan is pursuing a Ph.D. in Geography. Her research focuses on the contributions that youth make to addressing social, economic, and environmental (in)justices in their neighborhoods. Valentina was born-and-raised in Botswana, southern Africa.

Alanna Higgins portrait

Alanna Higgins

Alanna Higgins is in her final year as a Ph.D. Candidate in the Geography program. Her dissertation examines changes in US federal nutrition policy, using produce prescription programs to examine how legislation ties together the concepts of food and health. An advocate for creating research in aid of social change, her research interests include political ecology of health and bodies, food justice and sovereignty, epistemologies of liberation, and pedagogies in the service of educational equity.

Grace Smith portrait

Grace Smith

Grace Smith is an administrative Graduate Assistant in the CRC for the 2021-2022 academic year as she pursues her MBA degree. Grace is from Bridgnorth, England. She completed her undergraduate studies at WVU and is a member of the WVU Women’s Soccer team.

Erica Stratton portrait

Erica Stratton

Erica Stratton recently graduated with her B.A. and now works to advance research in the Food Justice Lab.

Grace Dever portrait

Grace Dever

Received a B.S. in Environmental Soil and Water Sciences and an M.S. in Hydrology and GIS from WVU. She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Geography. Grace grew up in Lakewood, Ohio, on Lake Erie. Grace's entire life has revolved around water from a young age, spending most of her time outside, hiking, rowing on a river or lake, or running. In undergraduate, Grace competed on the WVU Women’s Varsity Rowing team. Grace’s research focuses on vulnerability and resilience and incorporating participatory GIS to enable communities to participate in the decision-making process around food access, water security, and climate change adaptation.

Aron Massey portrait

Aron Massey

Aaron Massey researches the intersection of resource economics, politics and environmental degradation. Currently, his research focuses on the controversial use of mountaintop removal coal mining in southern West Virginia. Using qualitative methods, he engages with local anti-MTR activists group to understand how they organize and mobilize in regards to issues of geographic scale, place, and political agency. Other research interests include the development of a wine tourism industry in the Yadkin Valley of North Carolina, the remembrance of the Sago Mine disaster in West Virginia, and the culture of lost coal company towns of Appalachia.

At West Liberty University, Massey is the advisor to Chi Nu Fraternity, Gamma Theta Upsilon – Geography Honorary Society, Geography Club, and the West Liberty Pioneers (student hiking and camping club). He is also the Coordinator of Social Studies Education , as well as the Social Studies Program Assessment Coordinator. Massey continues to serve on the WLU President’s Council on Sustainability Executive Committee. Additionally, he has led study abroad experiences in both Iceland and China.

When off campus, Massey is an award-winning homebrewer and home winemaker. He teaches courses on the Geography of Wine and winemaking at various colleges and wine establishments. He has also served as judge in a number of beer and wine competitions and has led tastings for dozens of breweries and wineries at local events such as the Oglebay Institute and the Mountaineer Brewfest. He is also an active member in the Wheeling Alers Homebrew Club, as well as the American Homebrewers Association.

Nissa Shamsi portrait

Nissa Shamsi

Nissa Shamsi is pursuing a Masters of Social Work. She is researching immigrant and refugee experiences of integration in rural United States.

Nkhata Mercy portrait

Nkatha Mercy

With over a decade of international, regional and community work experience, Nkatha Mercy is a VLIR-UOS Scholar, an Erasmus Lifelong Fellow and a finalist for President Obama’s flagship YALI Initiative – Civic Leadership. She holds a Master of Science in Governance and Development from the Institute of Development Policy and Management, Antwerp University Belgium, a post-graduate certificate on the Politics and Economics of Aid awarded by a consortium of six European universities, and a Bachelor of Environmental Studies from Kenyatta University, Kenya. Nkatha’s research interests lie in analyzing governance challenges, how they intersect vertically and horizontally across multiple governance levels and how these intersections impact global development in as far as it concerns human capabilities and well-being.  

Davide Zoppolato