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Magrath Community Engagement Award Spotlight: Virginia Tech

In recognition of their extraordinary community outreach initiatives, four APLU member institutions have been selected as regional recipients of the 2018 W.K. Kellogg Foundation Community Engagement Scholarship Award. As regional winners, Ball State University, University of Florida, Texas Tech, and Virginia Tech will represent and compete for the national C. Peter Magrath Community Engagement Scholarship Award – which will be announced Sunday, November 11 during the APLU Annual Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana. In this final of a four-part series, APLU spotlights Virginia Tech for its Water Study Research Team.

For nearly a decade, Virginia Tech faculty, students, and community partners worked together to analyze drinking water to ensure it meets safety standards. The Virginia Tech Water Study Research Team has discovered and disclosed harmful levels of lead in drinking water in several communities across the country – including Durham and Greenville, North Carolina; Flint, Michigan; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Washington, DC. After identifying regions with contaminated drinking water, the 45-member team collaborates with community stakeholders to solve problems that are leading to contaminated drinking water.

In 2015, Flint faced an increased incidence of childhood poisoning and one of the worst outbreaks of Legionnaire’s disease in U.S. history. Helping oversee a citizen-science effort of Flint community members, the effort tested 800 water samples at 277 homes across the city. Virginia Tech researchers also sampled water in hospitals and businesses for heavy metals, dangerous chemicals, and pathogens and published their findings.

The coalition of Flint organizations and Virginia Tech researchers ultimately led to the exposure of lead contamination and misconduct by the State of Michigan and the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Building on these efforts, the research team coordinated extensive outreach – including phone calls, letters, and press conferences – to educate the population about the imminent health threat posed by Flint drinking water. The revelation of contaminated drinking water led to corrective action by the state of Michigan and hundreds of millions in emergency federal support.

Learn more about the other 2018 C. Peter Magrath Award Winner finalists.

  • Commission on Economic & Community Engagement
  • Council on Engagement & Outreach

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