Alexander Blankenship, a UVa-Wise senior and Richmond native, is spending his summer working as an intern with the District 18 probation office in the city of Norton.
The Administration of Justice major has always been interested in law enforcement. He enrolled at Richard Bland College after high school and enjoyed the rural setting, which was a refreshing change from the urban atmosphere of Virginia’s capitol. The picturesque UVa-Wise campus in rural Southwest Virginia seemed a natural fit when it came time to transfer to a four-year institution.
At UVa-Wise, Blankenship began his studies at Wise and soon found it was time to pursue an internship as part of the requirement for his degree. He asked Professor Ashley Dickinson for help finding the appropriate internship and she gave him three possibilities. The 22-year-old selected the probation office. He has no regrets.
“I had always thought about being a probation officer,” he said. “Doing this internship has showed me what the field is like, and I found that it is really appealing to me. It’s what I want to do after college.”
Blankenship works closely with Nathan Brooks in the District 18 office. As part of the internship, Blankenship observes how paperwork is done in the program that monitors sex offenders. He also accompanies Brooks on mandatory home visits to monitor the clients.
“We have to go out and meet them in their homes,” Blankenship explained. “I had always thought they would just come to the office. I guess that was the main thing that surprised me.”
While in the homes, Blankenship and Brooks make sure the person is living where they are supposed to reside and that they are following all the probation rules.
His work this summer has convinced him that a career in probation is the right choice. He believes firmly that all students should explore internships in their fields of study in order to see if their career choice will be a good fit.
“I actually completed the academic part of my internship, but I liked it so much that I continue to go in a couple days a week to get more experience,” Blankenship said.
Brooks said working with Blankenship has been a great experience as well. Brooks graduated from UVa-Wise in 2007 with a degree in Administration of Justice.
“It’s been a wonderful experiene from the start,” Brooks said of Blankenship’s time in the department. “He’s dedicated, engaging and interested. He is such a positive young man.”
Brooks said Blankenship is always on time and is committed to his work. He agrees that internships are an important part of a student’s college career. He worked as an intern with the Norton Police Department when he was a student.
After Blankenship receives his diploma, he hopes to land a job in the probation field in the Richmond or Chesapeake areas. In the meantime, he is excited to start the fall semester after a successful internship.
Twelve people of various ages and backgrounds were intently staring at computer screens Tuesday in a Darden Hall classroom at UVa-Wise as part of the Summer Technology and Creativity program.
The students—ranging in age from late teens to early 60s—were using computer programs to modify model rockets using laser cutters, scanners and 3D printers. They had learned to solder in an earlier session, and all were excited to put their personalized touches on the rockets
Daniel Ray, associate professor of computer science, explained that the students begin the STAC class with varied experience with computers and technology. Some grew up using technology, but others may have only recently or reluctantly mastered the basics of computer use. The level of experience does not matter when enrolling in the three-week summer program.
“We begin at scratch,” Ray said. “They learn how electronics work and also the basics of coding. They learn to solder, use the 3-D printer and learn about laser cutting.”
The students were also learning to make a lighted sign, and will also learn to make wearable electronics such as a bag that recharged mobile phones and clothing that lights up.
“When they leave, that will have a better understanding of the technology that is out there to make new things,” Ray said of the free course that comes with three hours of college credit. “They will learn that technology is something they can take control of and use. Basically, they will learn that they can make what is in their imagination.”
The tools used to create items in the class are daunting to the average person, but Ray explained that they are easy to use.
“Most people don’t know these tools exist, or they often think using those tools is outside of their understanding,” Ray said. “In reality, a lot of simple things are stacked on each other. When the students break it down, they see it is easy to build up to more complicated tasks.”
Frances Sturdavant of Wise completed her college education before some of the younger members of the class were born. She read about the STAC class and thought it would be of interest to her husband, a retired engineer. However, in the process of describing the course to her husband, she realized that her interest was growing.
“I’m a nerd, but I’m not a computer nerd,” she said. “Other members of my family are very much into computers. I figured if I can learn some of these things, I can look at them with an interested glint in my eyes.”
Sturdavant enjoys art, and she volunteers with the College’s art department. She thought that learning new skills, especially using tools to make items, could be helpful as she helps with projects such as the annual Christmas bazaar.
She said she often feels she is learning a new language that will open up new pathways.
“It’s not easy,” she said. “I have had to have a brain shift. I go home at night completely exhausted, but it’s a good tired.
Rebekah Shupe, incoming freshmen from Pulaski, Virginia, received an email that outlined the STAC class. She decided to come to campus this summer to take the course and get a feel for campus life.
“I knew it was a good opportunity to get started on college,” she said. “I’m interested in technology, especially 3-D printers and laser cutting.”
Shupe, who plans to major in biochemistry, has learned how to run wires, build and operate a toy motor, and how to solder. She looks forward to the bigger projects that will come toward the end of the class.
Chris Mullins, who works the IT Helpdesk on campus, decided to take the course because he gets more and more questions for assistance with a variety of technology gadgets and tools.
“I’m very interested in the maker movement. I’ve done woodwork and some blacksmithing, but this takes things to a whole new level.”
Mullins enjoys the possibility of using the 3-D printer to make his own trinkets and to explore the many uses of the technology. He hopes to convince his parents to take the class next summer.
Ray is also looking forward to future classes with a new crop of students.
“The College is interested in reaching out to the community and to people of all backgrounds so they can learn more about this technology,” he explained. “They can then take that knowledge and make their communities a better place.”
Camp will be on June 15th- 19th. For more information please see the attached camp brochure by clicking the link below. Fill out the attached brochure and mail it in or bring it with you for registration at 8:30 am the 15th of June.
The University of Virginia’s College at Wise Staff Council has awarded its ninth scholarship to an employee of the College.
The UVa-Wise Staff Scholarship Fund, established by the Staff Council, provides support for tuition, fees and books at the College. The council is working toward establishing an endowment of $10,000.
This year’s recipient is Kimberly Lawson. Lawson is an administration assistant for the UVa-Wise Department of Nursing.
The council relies on contributions by faculty, staff and administration for support. Gifts may be made to the Staff Scholarship fund through the Development Office or online at ww.giving.virginia.edu/wise.
For more information, contact Jessica Necessary at 276-393-0256.
The Alumni Association’s Board of Directors will host their annual retreat on the campus of UVa-Wise
The University of Virginia’s College at Wise received a Green Award from the Southwestern Virginia Technology Council for a student-led project designed to highlight how biodiversity conservation and economic development can work in tandem to benefit the region.
The award was presented to the UVa-Wise Citizen Science Institute during the 16th annual Southwest Virginia Technology Council Awards Banquet and Gala held in Abingdon. UVa-Wise was one of several organizations to receive prestigious SWVTC awards at the event, which was held at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center.
In addition to the Green award presented to the Citizen Science Institute, a project led by biology professor Wally Smith, Micronics Technologies, a water treatment technology company located in Wise County, received the Innovation award. The technology company has partnered with UVa-Wise and its faculty on its water treatment technology project. Tim and Angel Cox, who provide photography services for UVa-Wise, received the council’s President’s award for their service in helping promote the region.
“I was pleased that UVa-Wise was recognized at the gala and awards ceremony,” UVa-Wise Chancellor Donna P. Henry said. “It is encouraging to see that the work our students, faculty and staff are doing in the region has such an impact on Southwest Virginia. I was thrilled that Wally Smith and his students were recognized for their Southwest Virginia Citizen Science Initiative project. I was equally pleased that Karen Sorber and Micronics were recognized. Our faculty has been working closely with Micronics on the company’s water treatment projects.”
The Citizen Science Initiative has been in place since 2012. Smith explained that its focus, funded through a Dominion Higher Education Partnership, is to develop ways to better reach residents of rural Appalachian communities with informal science education. CSI projects include downloadable smartphone apps and student-produced ecological information, which are free to use for individuals, educators and groups across the region. Future components of the initiative will involve on-the-ground research projects and educational programs centered around an existing site in the Clinch River watershed.
“Our region has been historically underserved by the scientific community in terms of education and outreach,” Smith said. “We designed the project around the goal of being able to better reach residents of our region that might not otherwise set foot in a college classroom or interact with professional scientists.”
Smith said students have worked on the project since its inception. He credits them with developing the focus around ecotourism efforts in the Clinch River Valley.
“Through a partnership with the Clinch River Valley Initiative, we were able to craft a number of digital guides to local public lands that simultaneously act as travel guides and tools for science education,” Smith said. “For example, if someone is using our guide to the Pinnacle Natural Area Preserve, they not only get information on where major trail junctions and scenic features are, but also how some of the Pinnacle’s waterfalls, forests and unique wildlife relate to bigger topics in science such as economy and evolutionary biology. Users can upload their own pictures of wildlife from the trail to the iNaturalist app, a global citizen science platform, where they can interact with scientists and contribute their observations as real scientific data for local biodiversity.”
In the three years of its development, CSI has had more than 100,000 downloads of the project’s interpretive guides. Users have contributed observations of nearly 1,000 different species to iNaturalist.
“Some of these have actually led to the discovery of new populations of rare species that we’ve been able to publish in the scientific literature,” Smith said. “The Virginia Tourism Corporation and Heart of Appalachia Regional Tourism Authority have incorporated the students’ work into tourism brochures for the Clinch River. We’ve also partnered with Clinch River Adventures in St. Paul, Virginia to produce an audio guide for paddlers that feature biodiversity information about the Clinch. The audio guide is narrated by a professional storyteller and is set to traditional Appalachian music.”
Smith said the students have shown that biodiversity conservation and economic development can work together in unique ways to benefit the region.
“I’m thankful to the Appalachian Prosperity Project and the Dominion Foundation for funding various aspects of the initiative,” Smith added.
The CSI projects can be found at http://southwestvirginiacsi.wix.com/clinch.
Photo by Tim Cox
Tim and Angel Cox, photographers for The University of Virginia’s College at Wise, were honored Thursday with the President’s award by the Southwestern Virginia Technology Council at its 16th annual Gala and Awards ceremony.
SWVTC presented the award because the couple has promoted the region through various photojournalism works such as photographing the 2012 International Space Station downlink at UVa-Wise’s David J. Prior Convocation Center, where astronauts appeared both in person and virtually from the space station before hundreds of the region’s students who gathered on the UVa-Wise campus.
They also photographed the 2014 Aerospace Days and the 2015 Drone Jamboree, and they shared the photos with the region’s newspapers.
“Together Tim and Angel humanized modern technology through a lens as seen by our children using multiple media outlets and new social media with more know-how than most,” SWVTC officials said in making the announcements.
“We are thrilled that Tim and Angel Cox received the SWVTC President’s award,” UVa-Wise Chancellor Donna P. Henry said. “Their professionalism and ability to capture and preserve the College’s many significant milestones are so vital to the growth and development of our campus. Their tireless work to promote the region through their art has far-reaching impact on Southwest Virginia and its economic development efforts.”
“Angel and I are humbled that the Southwestern Virginia Technology Council gave us such an honor,” Tim Cox said. “Southwest Virginia is our home. It is filled with wonderful people and natural beauty and is a photographer’s dream. We are proud to do anything we can to introduce our region to those who are unfamiliar with Southwest Virginia.”
Cox expressed his appreciation to the region’s news outlets, both print and broadcast, for their willingness to use the photographs.
“It wouldn’t do us any good if we didn’t have an outlet for the photographs,” Cox said.
The awards ceremony was held at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center in Abingdon.
About the SWVTC
Organized in 1999, the SWVTC has a mission to lead southwestern Virginians in addressing technology issues for business, education and government with the purpose of enhancing the vitality and social well-being of southwestern Virginia.
Photo contributed by SWVTC