Adjusting to hotel life as a VT freshman

Blacksburg, Va., Sep. 26 – HOTEL LIFE: Freshman, Devin Dent, plays video games in his hotel room, turned dorm room, at The Inn at Virginia Tech.

by Ally Larrick–

After the unanticipated growth of Virginia Tech’s student body this year, the university made arrangements to house a portion of the 2023 class at the Holiday Inn Express and The Inn at Virginia Tech (The Inn). Once news broke, questions arose as to who would be chosen to live at these hotels, as opposed to the on-campus dorms. For Virginia Tech freshman, Devin Dent, the decision to live at The Inn was all his. 

“We actually picked to live here. We could have picked any of the other dorms, but we were like ‘Hey, there’s air conditioning,’” Dent said. Along with securing air conditioning, Dent and one of his roommates agreed on other perks such as a bigger room, being closer to classes, and having their own bathroom. 

The rooms at the Inn, on multiple floors, transformed from hotel rooms to dorm rooms over the summer. This included twin beds, with the ability to be lofted, desks and desk chairs, as well as collapsible wardrobes to save space.

A message from Patricia Perillo, Vice President for Student Affairs, states, “We consider the hotels part of our campus residence hall system and will provide student and professional staff, social opportunities, and other valuable educational programs as we do in all of our halls.” This transformation allows Virginia Tech to accommodate the influx of students while making them feel like they are still living the dorm life.  

“It didn’t really change my freshman year. It feels like a dorm in here,” Dent said, “Sometimes I refer to it as my dorm, but usually just ‘The Inn’.” Although Dent and his roommates are pleased with the living situation for their freshman year, there are some who are unhappy. 

According to Housing and Residence Life, “Assignments for incoming first-year students and transfers are made in contract receipt order, so the earlier your contract arrives, the earlier you are assigned in the process.” Those who filled out their housing contracts really late were not placed in their first choice dorms but were placed in either The Inn or the Holiday Inn Express. Dent points out some of the biggest differences between dorm-life and hotel-life that students may struggle with. 

“The amount of people, dorms have a lot more people in them. Location, because they have the quads while we are over here kind of isolated,” Dent said. 

In addition to students, resident advisors (RA’s) had to adjust to the switch. RA’s in large staff residence halls, such as Vawter Hall or Pritchard Hall, are required to sign up for one shift at the Holiday Inn Express each semester. Meena Kannan, an RA in Vawter Hall, has yet to complete her shift, but she knows that some of the RA’s are not very happy about it.

“It’s kind of inconvenient to have to go over there. It is just another duty shift on top of the ones we already have to do for our own residence halls,” said Kannan, “but I think we all understand we have to help out because they’re pretty understaffed at the Holiday Inn.”

The adjustment has not been easy, but the understanding attitudes of the RA’s and many accommodations by Student Affairs, keep the freshman in good spirits.

There doesn’t have to be a crisis to donate blood

by Sarah Cundiff–

New River Valley Donation Center

Blacksburg, Va., Sept. 28 – The New River Valley Donation Center: The American Red Cross New River Valley donation center is open for blood donations Friday through Wednesday. Photo: Sarah Cundiff


If you receive emails from the American Red Cross, or if you have been to a sponsored blood drive recently, you may have noticed there seems to be an urgent need for blood. But why is there such a push right now? If there hasn’t been a natural disaster or catastrophe recently, then why is there such a great need? 

To put it simply, the need is always great, partly because the supply is never abundant.

According to the American Red Cross, every two seconds someone needs blood. That means that in the time it has taken you to read this article, nearly 11 people will be in need of blood. So while the Red Cross does seek blood donations after disasters, they emphasize the daily need for new donors.

Senior Leina Greenwalt, president of the Red Cross Club at Virginia Tech, understands this demand and believes college students are in the perfect position to give.

“If you have something that you are able to give and especially since students don’t have much to give moneywise, your body makes [blood] constantly so why not give what other people don’t have,” said Greenwalt.

While the Red Cross Club at Virginia Tech sponsors blood drives on campus multiple times throughout the year, students and residents of the New River Valley can give almost anytime at the New River Valley Donation Center.

“Another thing I don’t think a lot of people know about is there’s actually a donation center in downtown Blacksburg that’s open pretty much everyday,” said Greenwalt. “It’s a permanent donation spot that people can go to everyday.”

Unfortunately for those in need, the abundance of opportunities for people to donate does not guarantee action.

A statistic from the Community Blood Center website says that only 37 percent of the U.S. population is eligible to give blood, and according to the American Red Cross website, only three percent of those who are qualified actually do.

Generally, those who are at least 16 years old and 110 pounds are qualified to donate blood, according to the AABB website. Potential donors may also need to comply with a list of criteria that can be checked before a donation appointment. 

The process of donating blood may seem intimidating to some, but for others like Christiansburg resident Nick Huber, it’s the ideal way to help others.

“It doesn’t take up very much time at all, it costs nothing, and it can actually help save people’s lives,” said Huber. “So I think in terms of the cost versus the benefit, it’s super valuable and definitely necessary.”

It may be assumed that a large reason people do not donate is due to a fear of needles, but according to Huber, people have no need to fear, “It doesn’t hurt at all. If you’re squeamish about needles just don’t look at your arm and you won’t even know it’s happening,” said Huber. “It might be kinda weird, but it’s definitely worth it.” 

Image from full infographic that can be found here



Food Truck Rodeo rolls into town

The Chow Down Downtown Food Truck Rodeo returns to Christiansburg for the seventh consecutive year.

by Cory Van Dyke

CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. — Downtown Christiansburg Inc. hosted the seventh annual Chow Down Downtown Food Truck Rodeo on Friday, September 13. A total of 16 food trucks made the trip to West Main Street in downtown Christiansburg.

With thousands of locals strolling the streets, the Food Truck Rodeo offers a huge economic boost for the community. Downtown Christiansburg Inc. president Justin Sanders notes that the intense year-long planning pays off once the day of the event rolls around.

“When I see so many of my friends and neighbors smiling and laughing and having a great time, it’s all worth it,” Sanders said. “Those happy faces and the connections that we are able to facilitate by gathering the community together for a great night are the best.”

Sanders estimates that 6,000 – 7,500 people attended the Food Truck Rodeo despite the gloomy weather.
“Food Truck Rodeo was started as a way to get people in downtown Christiansburg and show off the incredible things it has to offer,” Downtown Christiansburg Inc. president Justin Sanders said.
Furry friends like Mickey take in the scents from all the different food options.
16 food trucks from all over the state find their way to Christiansburg. Thai This from Radford exemplifies the unique cuisine at the rodeo.
One of the hottest commodities is the personal pizzas from 800 Degrees Wood Fired Pizza.
The locals demand for a funnel cake vendor results in Suzie’s Funnel Cakes based out of Pulaski being invited to the rodeo.
Fresh smells like those from the smoker at Master Sergeant BBQ fill the air of downtown Christiansburg.
“Food Truck Rodeo is a major economic event for our region,” Sanders said. “Food Trucks are small businesses, and the money they make gets reinvested into our local economy.”
Smooshed ice cream sandwiches satisfies the sweet tooth at the end of the night.
The New Habit Band, a local bluegrass band, performs to keep the vibes flowing at the Food Truck Rodeo.
“I hope that we can continue to grow and expand not just our number of food trucks and size of the event, but also our participation of local businesses,” Sanders said. “If we can get another 10 or 15 people coming downtown regularly, we’ve done our job.” (Photos by Cory Van Dyke)


Rise of child food allergies

by Taylor Perdue, Tatjana Kondraschow–

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New River Valley, May 9 – Foods Not Allowed: Signs put up in daycares indicating which foods are forbidden and will not be served. Photograph: Tatjana Kondraschow


Schools, daycares, and even nurseries have had to drastically change and take major precautions in recent years due to the massive increase in severe food allergies in children — mainly ages 5 to 13.

In the New River Valley area, schools have had to do multiple PSAs, that update all the time, like the one for Radford City Schools that updates its website frequently. The website describes first how any kind of nuts are banned from the premises and then introduces a new option that will be offered for free to students — sunflower butter, which is, “a safe and tasty choice for children with peanut, tree nut, and soy allergies … it is free of peanuts, tree nuts, gluten, soy, and dairy.”

Tierney Whelan, a daycare teacher from Montgomery County schools, talks about a child at one daycare with a severe dairy allergy and the kinds of snacks they can and cannot serve. In an interview, Whelan states, “We can’t allow any dairy in the classroom when he comes in. When we serve a morning snack to the kids, we just don’t serve any dairy even to the kids who can have it just because we want to avoid the possibility of [the child] consuming any dairy even off the floor or from another child because he would have a severe allergic reaction even from just eating a little something with dairy.”

Elementary schools and even high schools have had to take precautions. For instance, just three months ago, WDBJ reported that a senior from William Byrd High School passed away due to an allergic reaction to nuts.

Not only children, but parents are having to make serious adjustments in their homes but also to their social lives. A report released in February of this year by the Food Allergy Facts and Statistics website revealed that parents with children with food allergies in the U.S. collectively spend $25 billion annually and also revealed that “more than one-quarter of parents surveyed during food allergy appointments report that their children do not participate in camp or sleepovers because of food allergy. More than 15 percent do not go to restaurants, and more than 10 percent avoid child care settings or playdates at friends’ houses.” 

Jessie Hamblen, mother of three, said at her children’s private school, kids cannot even eat any thing with nuts for breakfast or before coming to school in case they breathe or touch a student with a nut allergy. Laura Wang, mother of three and teacher, had a child in her class that, “…had super severed food allergies and had to leave by ambulance three times in one school year.”

Though there is much debate on the reason for the incline in food allergies, everyone agrees on the safety of children. Whelan says, “Our main goal is the safety of our kids. Though the precautions we take are extreme, it’s all good in the end to make sure our kids are healthy and safe from anything harmful that could be easily avoidable.”

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Image from Full Infographic at


Pulaski looking to revitalize its historic downtown


by Emily Ball, Dana Seigelstein–

The town of Pulaski is looking to bring their town a new look along with improving their population in the area.

Pulaski, Va., May 8 – Main Street: Main Street in Pulaski is where most of the renovations are coming. On this strip, there will be a cafe that will feature New Orlean style food and plans to be open in the next six to eight months. Photo: Dana Seigelstein


The town of Pulaski’s downtown has been suffering from a lack of businesses and people visiting the area. Employees of the town have been striving to gather funds and host events to try and make their community a more happening place.

Nichole Hair, Deputy Town Manager and Zoning Administrator of the town of Pulaski, said when she was hired in 2016, they got two grants for doing some downtown planning efforts right off.

“Those two grants allowed us to hold community input meetings,” said Hair. “We did about 300 hours with 40 citizens, coming up with a vision for the downtown, coming up with a mission for the downtown and looking at the plans for the future.”

After getting a master plan, the committee then was able to apply for a large grant from the state, specifically from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development. The DHCD also provided the funding for the first two grants they received in 2016.

Pulaski is currently revitalizing West Main Street where 15 buildings are involved, street improvements, way-finding signage, and just a general facelift to that area. In addition to the front section of Main Street, there will be renovations to the backside of the structures, along Pete Creek.  These additions will be railings and signage for information and educational purposes.

Earlier this month, the town held a free conference for the community. According to the Roanoke Times, this event allowed community members to come and learn more about the changes that are coming to the area. They were able to see how to open a business or help out, have walking tours of the areas under construction and have one on one time to ask questions.

After the two day conference, Pulaski was announced to be one of the 15 communities participating in Local Foods, Local Places. This organization helps cities and towns protect their environment and human health. According to the LFLP website, two of their 2019 partners reside in Virginia and are no longer accepting new applications until late summer.

As the town is taking actions to change, Mayor Dave Clark says that he sees the future of Pulaski being a place that people want to be and call their home. He says that the process of incoming businesses is interesting since they are not apart of a large change. While there is no compiled list of incoming business entering Pulaski, there is a large number of people who have expressed their interest.

“I ask for people to come and visit us,” said Mayor Clark. “We are a jewel in the New River Valley. Anywhere in the New River Valley is a great place to live, but Pulaski is home.” As Pulaski continues to evolve, Mayor Clark says that he is very proud of his town, past, present and excited to see what the future will bring.







Future for Futurehaus

Blacksburg, Va., April 24 – What the Future Holds: This is the Futurehaus, which is currently located on the Drillfield until the end of April, where it then will be moved either to Moss Art Center or near New Classroom Building. Photo: Sydney Ditmar

by Sydney Ditmar–

As an innovative campus, Virginia Tech has sponsored many new projects over the years, including the creation of the Futurehaus. This house was created in order to help discover a new and more efficient way to build homes that are both convenient and technologically advanced.

According to Futurehaus Virginia Tech Center for Design Research, the efficiency comes from the “cartridge” concept of the house which makes it easier to change out different components of the house, like cabinets, in order to fit the owner’s needs.

So what are the next steps for Futurehaus now that it has been created?

“After we take it to New York, we are going to take it down to the innovation campus in Alexandria to show it off for a few months and then after that it’s going back to Dubai for the Worlds Fair Expo in 2020,” said Will McRae, a Futurehaus team member and an architecture student at Virginia Tech.

After their win in Dubai back in 2018, which according to Builder Online included first place in two categories as well as top three in three other categories, more doors have opened up for the team in order to create concepts similar to Futurehaus, but for different purposes.

“We’ve been looking into disaster relief prototypes with FEMA, looking into developing a 300 unit housing unit in Virginia Beach with Pharrell Williams, which is pretty cool,” said Bobby Vance, the Visiting Instructor and Team Leader for the Futurehaus project.

Vance also described how the cartridge concept has really helped develop even more ideas beyond Futurehaus, including a SMART apartment complex that will be located on Virginia Tech’s Campus.

“We are now doing a new faculty apartment for a SMART dorm that is going up behind the Graduate Life Center,” said Vance.

This faculty dorm will include the cartridge concept as well, but these cartridges will be produced off campus and then brought on to campus and placed in each dorm unit depending on the faculty members needs.

Vance described these cartridge concepts as not only making renovations easier but accessibility easier as well. It allows homeowners to have more control over the space that they live in instead of having to constantly adjust to the permanent space they are stuck with.

“It is you taking ownership of that space,” said Vance.

The Futurehaus team is excited for what their future holds as more and more projects upon up for them to be a part of. They are changing the world, one house at a time.


Keto Diet: Good for you?

Blacksburg, Va., April 16–Promoting healthy living: Dietician, Kristen Chang, has been an athlete her entire life and is especially passionate about helping fellow athletes improve their performances through nutrition. (Photo: Hannah Bumgarner)

by Hannah Bumgarner — 

The fast-paced culture in America has caused people to search for immediacy in their journey to their desired body weight through thousands of different fad diets. The keto diet has gained momentum in recent years, especially on social media platforms. According to Shape Magazine, over half a million people have tagged #ketotransformation on Instagram photos.

While many are eager to share their testimonials to all who will listen, what are the experts saying about this diet?

The keto state is one where the body uses fat for energy as opposed to carbs, therefore the ketogenic diet requires a low-carb intake and high intake of fats and proteins. It is suggested that 70 percent of one’s daily calories come from fats, 25 percent from proteins, and only 5 percent from carbohydrates, according to a beginner keto guide. 

“Carbs are not the enemy,” is a phrase that dietician and current professor in the Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise department at Virginia Tech, Kristen Chang, has spent her career preaching to her clients and students.

According to Chang, she takes a nonrestrictive approach to dieting, therefore she believes diets like keto promote unhealthy relationships with food and have negative effects both mentally and physically.

“Glucose is the primary fuel for your brain and a lot of individuals I’ve worked with in the past that aren’t getting enough carbohydrates are really feeling the effects from a cognitive standpoint whether they choose to acknowledge it or not,” said Chang.

Chang spent three years running her own practice before returning to her alma mater of Virginia Tech as a professor. During her time as a personal dietician, she was asked by a client to guide them through the keto diet and she declined that client because it doesn’t align with her “dietary philosophy.”

As research published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information Journal states, the ketogenic diet was originally developed as a nutritional treatment to epilepsy in the 1920s. This study proved that this low-carb diet could be extremely beneficial for those suffering from seizures if they are closely monitored by medical professionals and dietitians.

Maddi Batts, a senior at Virginia Tech, only exercised the keto program for a month but saw significant results of losing ten pounds during that time. The results she was looking for, quick weight loss, was acquired, but she also said that she put some of the weight back on after resuming a less restricted diet.

“I think the results are a lot quicker and noticeable, but it’s not as much of a manageable lifestyle, in my opinion,” said Batts.

Promotions of various diets continue to flood the media ensuring a quick fix to any body dissatisfaction, but many nutrition experts such as Chang are standing firm in their belief that small healthy changes and learning to see food as fuel for the body are more sustainable practices.


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Non-traditional college experience

Blacksburg, Va., April 12Seeing the Light: Nicole Sutphin, senior communication studies major. After years of schooling, graduation is around the corner. Photo: Courtney Flickinger

by Courtney Flickinger–

School is a major part of everyone’s lives from the age of five. As school progresses throughout the twelve grades, there is one thing that is always an end goal for parents and teachers. Everyone wants to see students succeed and go to college. While there are a number of students who do follow this traditional path, there are many others who decide to go back to college later.

According to an article titled “Adult College Students: The Uncovered 6.6 Million,” adults make up 35% of the overall college population across the country.

Nicole Sutphin, a senior at Virginia Tech, is doing things a little differently. After attending college right out of high school, Sutphin dropped out after a year and a half because of poor academic achievement and a lack of love for her university. While living in Louisiana at the time, Sutphin says she felt pressured by her family to go to college, but at the time her heart was not in it.

Eventually, Sutphin went back and received an associates degree only four days before giving birth to her now 11-year-old son. While trying to continue her education toward a bachelors degree, Sutphin said she dropped out multiple times because she was working full-time along with being a full-time student. According to a report by the Public Agenda, “The number one reason students give up leaving school is the fact that they had to work and go to school at the same time and, despite their best efforts, the stress of trying to do both eventually took its toll.”

Despite all of this, Sutphin went back to school and began working at Virginia Tech along with her studies. She said, “going back was a daunting experience, it was frightening.” Working as a graduate programs coordinator, she works with faculty and students daily. Sutphin added, “being in the classroom with the students really helped me understand them more for my job, I felt just like one of them.” In May, Sutphin will join the class of 2019 and graduate with her bachelor’s degree.

Although it did take Sutphin an extended period of time to graduate, she is not the only one in this position. According to the New York Times, only 57 percent of students who enroll in college will graduate within the first six years.

David Sutphin, Nicole’s husband, said he worries about his wife’s mental health as she is responsible for so many things every day. Between her family, a full-time job, and full-time college demand, she rarely has time to relax. Sutphin said, “she rarely sleeps more than five hours a night and has battled several health issues over the years.” He said he is looking forward to more family time again soon. Sutphin’s son, on the other hand, is very proud of his mother. 11-year-old Clayton says he can’t wait to follow his mother’s footsteps and go to Virginia Tech in the future.

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The graphic above is a link to the full version.

Self-expression or Self-sabotage?

by Casey Molina–

Blacksburg, Va., April 8 – Piercing Queen: Jena Sturm, a senior at Virginia Tech displays four of her 17 ear piercings and a tattoo of a dove behind her ear.  Photo: Casey Molina

The common stereotype of students going off to college and getting multiple piercings and tattoos is one that, albeit truthful, lacks the whimsicality often portrayed by society. A survey conducted of 52 Virginia Tech students revealed that a combined 80% of students have, at some point in time, refrained from getting visible tattoos and/or piercings and dyeing their hair an unnatural color for fear of how they would be received by a potential employer.  

These statistics demonstrate that not only are students thinking hard about expressing themselves in certain ways, but they’re actively fearful of forgoing jobs because of it.  However, according to an article published on the Good News Network website, 40% of young adults have tattoos and, the article states that these growing numbers have been helping to improve negative stigmas of hiring people who choose to express themselves in this way.  

Jena Sturm, a senior at Virginia Tech, agrees that the negative stigma surrounding tattoos and piercings is on a decline, stating that, “I think the norm is changing to where it’s more acceptable in a lot of ways…it’s just changing over time and I think a lot of people are recognizing that.”

Research has proved the aforementioned statements. However, Sturm also mentions that she believes the type of job industry has a lot to do with levels of tattoo and piercing acceptance saying, “If you look at it, some doctors have full sleeves.  So I think it just really depends on where you’re working and what their values are.”

A paper published in the “Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion Journal” outlined research that further supports this viewpoint, referencing a study that demonstrates within management and human resources job markets 80% of personnel “would be less likely to hire someone with visible tattoos and/or piercings.”

So what’s the truth?  Researchers and website publications alike are still trying to figure it out.  The Huffington Post released an article as a follow-up to a story published by Forbes, stating that tattoos are, ‘no longer a kiss of death in the workplace’.  Huffington Post 

Self Expression
This image is a link to a full version of the graphic.

essentially found these statements untruthful when it conducted modern research taking another look at the issue.  It found that “highly visible tattoos can still have a negative impact, especially in customer-facing jobs.”  Of the students used in the Virginia Tech survey, the majority felt as though their self-expression in the workplace is limited as far as getting tattoos, piercings, and dying one’s hair. Additional remarks about how they feel as though they may be judged for how they express themselves and have even been asked to remove piercings by employers were made in the comments section of the survey.

Allison Turner, a recent Virginia Tech graduate, recently started her current job in a corporate office at Advance Auto.  She has 8 tattoos, almost all of which are visible, stretched ears, and a nose and helix piercing. She says that her appearance has never kept her from being considered for a job.  However, she does have reservations about future tattoos she would like to get. “I really want finger tattoos but I’m so afraid to get them because hand tattoos are considered ‘job stoppers’ in the tattoo community.”