The humans behind “Humans”

by Haley Williams, Harvey Creasey–

Blacksburg, Va., Dec. 13, 2017: Humans of Virginia Tech — Posts like these are featured regularly on the organization’s Facebook page. Photos courtesy of Humans of Virginia Tech.


To many, Virginia Tech’s student population of 30,000 feels overwhelmingly big — not to mention the thousands of faculty and community members in Blacksburg. One Facebook page is using its platform to showcase the different people in the area.

“Humans of Virginia Tech,” based on the popular “Humans of New York” page, aims to remind Hokies that there’s more to each of us than meets the eye. “Humans of Virginia Tech” regularly displays Blacksburg community members with a portrait and a story, sharing different personalities and personas to perfect strangers on the Internet.

From students with unique hobbies — like unicycling — to eccentric professors — like VT’s John Boyer — to some more serious posts, the editors of Humans of Virginia Tech try to make campus feel a little smaller.

Editor and incoming Vice President of “Humans of Virginia Tech,” Maddie Ide, said her most impactful posts came last year, when the page did a full week focusing on victims of sexual assault.

“[The community] will see a story that’s kind of hard and personal to share and they just flood [the subject] with love and support, it’s really nice,” Ide said.

With over 50 photojournalists, subjects aren’t too hard to find. Using their networks and friends of friends, the photojournalist and editor team has posted over 700 portraits of Blacksburg community members.

The page has a strong following of over 17,000 “likes,” but organization president Ricky Lam hopes that will soon reach 30,000.

“I hope we can reach up to the amount of the student population,” Lam said about the page’s number of likes. “We’re about halfway there.”

Lam also detailed his most powerful post, which featured a graduate student impacted by President Trump’s travel ban earlier this year.

Some other post subjects include a street poet, a student with a popular Golden Retriever, and a musician who has played on College Avenue for decades. The only thing any of them have in common is their pure originality.

According to the “Humans of Virginia Tech” website, community members can request that they or someone they know be featured on the page.

Lam said that the University recognizes the “Humans of Virginia Tech” page, and that President Tim Sands has referenced it more than once. If the page were to be an official university institution, however, the name would have to change to “Humans at Virginia Tech” — something Lam and Ide agree could kill their brand.

Gobblers (laid to) Rest

by Harvey Creasey–

BLACKSBURG, Va., Nov. 30 — A New Home: Gobbler’s Rest, the home to the official pardoned turkeys, sits adjacent to Route 460, across the street from the Alphin Stuart Livestock Arena. Photo by Harvey Creasey.

Blacksburg, Va. — Virginia Tech recently found itself back in the spotlight in our nation’s capital on Thanksgiving morning. President Trump participated in the annual turkey pardoning ceremony, and officially sent Drumstick and Wishbone to Gobbler’s Rest — a secluded spot of Virginia Tech’s campus.

This marks the second consecutive year that the White House turkeys have moved to Blacksburg. In 2016, President Barack Obama granted clemency for Tater and Tot, the inaugural residents of Gobbler’s Rest.

As Wishbone and Drumstick become the new centers of attention, Tater and Tot have taken a back seat — so much so that Tot, according to sources familiar with the matter, has passed away.

Wildlife conservation major and member of the National Wildlife Society Tristan Jilson said he saw Tater and Tot at Gobbler’s Rest just days before the new turkeys were set to arrive.

“When I last saw Tot he was slumped over against the wall barely moving,” said Jilson. “He looked miserable.”

Two weeks later, Tater alone occupies the space previously inhabited by the duo. Tot’s nameplate had been removed.

According to National Turkey Federation President Joel Brandenberger, the turkeys reside at Virginia Tech because of its respected Animal and Poultry Sciences department.

Turkeys have an average lifespan of 10 years, according to PETA. So what happened to Tot just 18 months after his birth?

At Gobbler’s Rest, a farmhand who wished to remain unnamed said he thought Tot “passed away due to natural causes.”

Jilson remains skeptical.

“Virginia Tech has portrayed Gobbler’s Rest as this safe haven for the pardoned turkeys but now it’s starting to look less like a refuge and more like a graveyard,” he said.

This news has been kept relatively quiet; as of Dec. 3 no university statement had been issued. Perhaps a poultry fatality at one of the nation’s best Animal and Poultry Sciences schools would tarnish its reputation.

At this Thanksgiving’s ceremony, in the White House Rose Garden, President Trump joked about reversing the pardons of Tater and Tot, as he has reversed many Obama-era policies.

Tater and Tot drew many visitors to Gobbler’s Rest over the course of the last year.

According to President Obama’s speech, Tater was technically the “vice turkey,” and would step in if Tot could not fulfill his duties.

Wishbone and Drumstick declined to comment on the matter.



Hokies versus Hurricanes

by Harvey Creasey–

Richmond, Va., Oct. 12 — Accepting Awards     Undergraduate researchers Hisyam Mohsin and Sophia Lee accept an award on behalf of the Flint Water Study Team. Photo courtesy of Sophia Lee.


Virginia Tech’s commitment to research and aid throughout the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, brought national attention to the university and its research team. With civil engineering professor Dr. Marc Edwards at the helm, the Flint study team is expanding its reach to areas affected by recent natural disasters.

In the last two months, the United States has seen Hurricane Harvey rip through Texas, Hurricane Irma ravage Florida, and Hurricane Maria topple much of Puerto Rico. In fact, according to CNN, Puerto Ricans have resorted to knowingly consuming potentially dangerous water in the storm’s aftermath.

But the Hokie team, which helped to blow the whistle on hazardous levels of lead in Flint’s tap water, is now taking samples from wells in Houston and parts of Florida. Already, samples from Houston wells have tested positive for E. coli, as well as fecal indicator bacteria.

“The immediate reaction is to send tons of bottled water so people don’t have to deal with this,” said Sophia Lee, one of the undergraduates on the research team. “At the end of the day, we need a solution.”

The E. coli and other bacteria infiltrating Texas drinking water is a direct result of flooding and runoff, and likely damage and breaking of pipes and wells. According to Texas A&M University, Virginia Tech’s partner in the Hurricane Harvey research, more than one million Texas cattle have died as a result of affected water. While humans have not been affected to the same degree, the chemical change in the water is significant.

In addition to working with Texas A&M, the research team has also partnered with the University of Florida to gather and analyze water samples. Members also still make frequent trips to Flint, which, according to Dr. Edwards, is improving.

“It is difficult to be working on so many places at one time,” said Hisyam Mohsin, another of the undergraduate researchers. Mohsin and Lee received the Community Engagement Award at the University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA) conference this month.

As was true for residents of Flint, residents of the hurricane-affected areas in Texas and Florida have received national support and resources. Tech’s research team will require another grant to work on Puerto Rico, however. According to Lee and Mohsin, the desire to help is no weaker for the US territory.


UPDATE: As of Tuesday, October 24, the Research Team will start testing samples from Puerto Rico. More details to come.


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