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.

Life in the fast lane

BLACKSBURG, Va., Sept. 29 – Students that choose to bike around and to campus have numerous bike lanes to use which helps create a safer commute around town. Photo: Nathan Loprete

by Nathan Loprete–

Virginia Tech has grown continuously over the years. With an increased student population comes increased revenue. However, that also meant increased traffic and a need for additional transportation methods. Luckily for Virginia Tech, Deborah Freed, who works for the school, recognized this problem in 2000 when she created the Alternative Transportation program.

One of the programs associated with the Alternative Transportation program is the Hokie Bike Hub which is located on Perry Street.

Alternative Transportation Assistant Chitti Raju has seen the biking community increase over the past few years at Virginia Tech.

“I think with more students, the number of bicycles will continue to increase,” he said.  “People are realizing it’s an easier way to get around and to campus.”

Now in 2017, the Bike Hub has helped Virginia Tech become of the better biking campuses in the country. In 2013, Virginia Tech was named as a “Bronze Bicycle Friendly University,” by the League of American Bicyclists which accounts for bike lanes, bike routes and fix-it stations.

Raju contributes the growth in cyclists to the size of the campus and the traffic which makes it safer to bike than in a heavily populated metro area.

The Hokie Bike Hub is one of the contributing factors to Virginia Tech being named a bicycle-friendly campus. Raju says The Bike Hub helps students repair problems with their bikes and according to student intern Mary Frazier it all starts with the willingness to learn.

“Having these tools for free is amazing because these are some very specific tools,” she said. “It empowers you to fix your own bike and learn more. The biggest part is learning how to fix your bike.”

The Bike Hub maintains a consistent flow of customers, especially while the weather is suitable but there are still those that brave the elements.

“Whenever it gets colder there’s less people that come in…but people that come in have more stuff going on,” said Frazier.

Raju talked about the idea of creating a “self-sustaining bicycle culture,” and the mission for the Bike Hub.

“Our goal is to get people and keep people on bicycles,” he said. “The idea of the alternative transportation department is to support and grow the community that takes any form of transportation that isn’t one person in a car.”

“What makes this place so awesome to bike, is the area itself because it’s so beautiful,” said Frazier.

There are other programs in the New River Valley that help promote cycling. The NRV Bike Kitchen is a non-profit organization in Christiansburg, “that distributes bicycles to those that can’t afford other means of transportation,” according to Raju.

With programs such as these and a campus that is focusing on alternative transportation, it’s no wonder why Virginia Tech’s cycling community is continuing to pick up speed.

Goat Yoga! Blacksburg’s new fitness trend

By Virginia Pellington 


Blacksburg, Va., Sept. 28— Goat Yoga: The new fitness trend Goat Yoga is taking on Blacksburg. Hoof Hearted Farm has over 25 goats ready to interact with their yoga guests. Photo: Virginia Pellington

by Virginia Pellington–

The art form of yoga has been around for centuries, but recently, it’s taken a new twist. Goat Yoga is the new craze in the fitness community, and residents of Blacksburg are jumping on board.

After a Facebook video went viral, Goat Yoga events began popping up in yoga studios around the country. In April 2017, the Blacksburg Yoga Collective (BYC) decided to give it a try; what they thought was going to be a one-time event, has turned into a weekly occurrence.

Kacy McAllister, a BYC yoga instructor, mentioned that they started Goat Yoga after someone posted the viral video to their Facebook page.

“We did it once and the turn out was so huge that we knew we had to make it a regular thing,” McAllister explained.

Goat Yoga is essentially a regular yoga class with goats roaming around the studio and interacting with the guests. The inspiration comes from Lainey Morse, who started the trend on her farm in Oregon. Currently, her classes are so popular that there’s a waiting list of 1,200 people that grows every day.  According to Morse, Goat Yoga is no different than taking your dog on a walk; the combination of exercise and interacting with animals is apparently very therapeutic.

CiCi Sobin, a regular BYC yoga attendee, said her favorite part about Goat Yoga is that it gets people who aren’t normally into yoga outside and active.

“Yoga is so great for the mind and body, and I really enjoy seeing people get into it—even if they are just here for the goats,” Sobin said.

What Sobin says about its health benefits is true according to research. One study conducted by Harvard Health found that participants who spent three months doing yoga experienced a 30 percent decrease in anxiety and depression. In addition,, Morse’s website, explains that Goat Yoga is not actually curing any diseases, but offering a necessary distraction from day-to-day stress.

Morse and  the Blacksburg Yoga Collective are taking advantage of this fitness trend while it’s still relevant. Morse quit her job in marketing and photography to devote her full attention to this new idea; she currently works full-time developing her new Goat Yoga business. McAllister from the BYC says she is just excited to see more people get into yoga.

“My goal is to see at least one new face at every event,” McAllister said.



Bounce over to Xtreme Springz

Christiansburg Va. Sept. 18 -Ninja Obstacle Course: The featured course is a high intensity obstacle course that requires physical and mental stamina. Height and age requirements may apply.


by Alexis Johnson–

In early September Xtreme Springz Trampoline Park opened its doors to the New River Valley becoming the first park of its kind in the area. According to the owner, Terry Stike, the project had been underway for, “a little under two years.”

According to the owner, Terry Stike, the project had been underway for, “a little under two years.”

Stike also owns the NRV Superbowl in Christiansburg, Va. “The trampoline park was just the next step for family entertainment in the New River Valley because trampoline parks are the number one entertainment right now in the country,” stated Stike.

Not only does the park serve as entertainment for the community, but it has also created a total of 45 new jobs to date with 15 more positions still open. At the center of two major universities, the NRV it is a prime location for a growing workforce. “Most of our employees are teenagers,” Stike commented, “young and energetic is what we’re looking for.”

“Most of our employees are teenagers,” Stike commented, “young and energetic is what we’re looking for.”

As for JJ Devaughn, a sophomore at Radford University, the new job openings were right on time. “When I first heard of the park coming to the New River Valley area I was pretty excited seeing as though the closest trampoline park is in Roanoke.” When asked why he applied for the job he said, “I knew it would be a fun job to have, and it worked out great for me because I told a lot of my friends to come up here and apply. We ended up all getting hired together.”

“When I first heard of the park coming to the New River Valley area I was pretty excited seeing as though the closest trampoline park is in Roanoke,” Devaughn said.

Devaughn said he was anxious to apply for the job. “I knew it would be a fun job to have, and it worked out great for me because I told a lot of my friends to come up here and apply. We ended up all getting hired together.”

Currently, the remaining open positions include overseeing the courses, working the registers, waiver administrators, kitchen, DJ openings, and more. Stike said that they already have plans for expansion including batting cages and putt-putt golf.



Keeping businesses open in a college town


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Blacksburg, Va., May 1– Items in the window for sale at t.r. collection, a downtown shop that specializes in Blacksburg tourism gifts. Photo: Carson Bartlett

by Carson Bartlett, Katt Carter–

BLACKSBURG, Va. — Downtown Blacksburg businesses all face the unique challenge of being in close proximity to a large university. There are multiple benefits to being so close, such as heavy foot traffic and an active night scene, but there are also some drawbacks, such as a dead summer season and the competitiveness of such a small area.

Over the course of this academic year for Virginia Tech, several businesses have closed while others have just opened. Mad Dog, a downtown boutique, recently closed, while Bottom of the Stairs, or BOTS, had its grand opening in April.  BOTS is the downstairs sister-store of Top of the Stairs, or TOTS, which is a popular Blacksburg bar. The heavy amount of student traffic is what encouraged the owners of TOTS to open their downstairs space as a more family friendly venue, as a way to get more business.

t.r. collection is a downtown business that features home goods and gifts for student families and New River Valley locals.  The store opened 19 months ago and owners say that due to their positive experience in the community, they are looking to open another store within the area.

Michelle Raub, co-owner of t.r. collection, says that there is a sweet spot with price points that work well with the nearby student customers as well as Blacksburg locals.  “We did a lot of research on college towns before opening the business. It really is a different mindset than opening in other towns,” Raud said.

According to the official website for the Town of Blacksburg, the area has a daily population of 50,000 people, with a good portion of that being the students at Virginia Tech.

“With downtown shops, they have to change out their stock often. Some people go out every week, and if you always have the same stuff for sale than those people won’t come back in,” said Nicole LaFlamme, a junior political science major at the university.

Downtown stores also hold events throughout the year to engage the community and not just the college students. Many of these, such as the Downtown Trick or Treat event, and the Winter Lights Festival are used as a means to bring out locals of the New River Valley in order to help vendors reach past the collegiate population.



To Our House: Making a difference in the NRV


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Christiansburg, Va., May 3 – HOME TO A HOME: To Our House is located alongside a number of community organizations on Roanoke Street in Christiansburg.


by McKenzie Pavacich, Bria Cook–

CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. –   Homelessness is something that is often overlooked but extremely prevalent in the New River Valley. How do those in need of assistance survive the harsh winters faced by the valleys of Appalachia? Where do homeless people go when they are in need of food, clean drinking water, or clothes in an area that seems to be prospering in seemingly all areas of life?

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Christiansburg, Va., May 3 – SEEING AND DOING: New River community action serves the community in a number of different ways.

To Our House is a non-profit organization, tackling the obstacle of assisting the homeless
in the New River Valley.  With the help of local faith communities and local business in the NRV, To Our House is able to provide homeless men with shelter through the winter months, as well as food, support, and help with employment search.

Carol Johnson, Executive Director of the New River Family Shelter and Program Coordinator for To Our House, believes that if it were not for the generosity and genuine care found in the Blacksburg and

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Christiansburg, Va., May 3 – HUMBLED AND GRATEFUL: Carol Johnson, warmed by the generosity of the local communities, is optimistic about the organization’s future.

Christiansburg communities,  “To Our House wouldn’t exist.” Churches throughout Blacksburg and Christiansburg open their doors to the guests of To Our House with hopes of truly making a difference, while organizations within Virginia Tech often donate time, food, or supplies to keep the donations-based program running.

“We have over 50 churches that participate, whether that be housing the guests, which is a host church, or a church can participate as a support church. They provide the food and some evening activities,” Johnson said.

Donations and volunteers are utilized during the winter months in the NRV. To Our House runs a sheltering program from November through March to assist the homeless during some of the most dangerous months to be without shelter.

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Blacksburg, Va., May 3 – EATING OUT FOR A CAUSE : Percentage days were held on April 25, 2017 to benefit To Our House and the New River Community Action

Participation by local businesses adds to the generosity of the Blacksburg and Christiansburg communities. Businesses peppered throughout the NRV hold percentage days, where a percentage of the profit is automatically donated. The ultimate goal To Our House hopes to achieve is creating a larger sense of awareness of homelessness in the NRV community, so that shelters and assistance programs can grow and evolve from a seasonal functioning program to an organization that can provide assistance all year round.

“It’s not that visible. Sporadically you may see someone standing on the street holding up a sign. But typically, it’s almost like camping for some people. It’s not like in the Richmond area or a city where you’ll see someone on every street corner who is in need of assistance. Most of the men we service stay in secluded spots camping until we open up in November,” Johnson said.

With 19.1 percent of individuals living below the poverty level in Southwest Virginia, according to, there is plenty of room for improvement. With the help of local businesses and influential organizations within the Blacksburg and Christiansburg communities, To Our House hopes to grow and continue to combat homelessness in the New River Valley and beyond.


Happy Humans help students stay positive

Blacksburg, Va., May 3 – VT Happy Humans at the Finals Extravaganza: Students stop at the booth for free pizza, candy, and to write what their happy place is on a white board for the VT Happy Humans to share on social media. Photo: Ashley Cimino

by Ashley Cimino, David Jones —

The Happy Humans at Virginia Tech are known for hosting a variety of events around campus to put smiles on the faces of students and faculty on campus. Co-leaders Jayne Ross, Jojo Kidane, and Lauren Ritchie participated in the Finals Extravaganza on the Drillfield to ease the stress of students passing by.

According to the New York Times, there is a “record-level of stress” found in college students, but specifically in college freshman, many of who face stress, anxiety, and depression before even coming into college. In light of this fact, the Happy Humans aim to bring just a bit of positivity to the Virginia Tech campus with small actions that can turn around a student’s day. 

This year, the Happy Humans asked Hokies to share where they were most happy. Common responses included “in my bed” or “with a dog,” and students hinted that this would be where they retreated to as soon as the summer officially begins. While the Happy Humans mostly cater towards students, some of their best events have targeted the dining hall workers on campus.

Last semester, the Happy Humans gathered in front of the Pylons to write “thank you” notes to dining hall employees and they later met to personally distribute them.

“That was a really important event for them because the first time they tried it, I think the semester before last, they got an overwhelmingly positive response,” said Jacob Long, Vice President of Service for a service fraternity that Happy Humans operates under.  

Though small, the group has garnered a lot of positive attention. During an event last semester, the VTPD Chief of Police, Kevin Faust, stopped by their booth in front of Squires Student Center to take a photo with the group and to commend them for their efforts in keeping Virginia Tech and Blacksburg a happy place to work and live.

Happy Humans Audio Slideshow from Ashley Cimino on Vimeo.

Students recharge in the Energy Pod

Energy Pod #5
Blacksburg, Va., May 3 – Energy Pod: Hokie Wellness released a new energy pod at Squires Student Center as a part of their Hokies Sleep Well campaign. The energy pod allows students to recharge with a 20-minute power nap as they prepare for their finals. Photo: Johnny Kraft

by Johnny Kraft, Anna Friesen–

Hokie Wellness launched the Hokies Sleep Well campaign by releasing an energy pod at Squires Student Center. The energy pod allows students to take a quick 20-minute power nap to recharge their battery and finish the semester strong.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, college students need seven to nine hours of sleep each night. However, research shows that on average most college students get only six to seven hours of sleep per night, and the college years are notoriously sleep-deprived due to an overload of activities, which negatively affects academic performance, according to the University Health Center at the University of Georgia.

The Student Government Association (SGA) health and wellness team at Virginia Tech came up with the idea for the Hokies Sleep Well campaign. They wanted to focus on one health issue and landed on sleep, as it is the first thing to go for college students.

“It’s not really a priority and it’s almost a badge of honor if you don’t sleep, so we wanted to change the narrative of that a little bit,” said SGA co-director of health and wellness, Anna Pike.

The energy pod allows students to sit, sleep, adjust seat tilt and play relaxing music to refresh with a quick power nap to help balance the end of semester stress.

According to Pike, the energy pod was to get attention, but their campaign also included signs on the Drillfield with different sleep deprivation facts such as how memory attention goes down by 40 percent as well as handing out ENO hammocks to any students that would listen to the information they had.

“Even 20 minutes is equivalent to having a couple of cups of coffee, you might even just need to rest your eyes, so the nap pod is good if you can’t fit in a full night sleep just to rejuvenate you and get you back into a full state of mind,” said Pike.

While it is impossible to measure if the campaign has led to students sleeping more, the energy pod has been a huge hit garnering a lot of excitement around it from students. Hokie Wellness released a video introducing the energy pod that has over 20,000 views and has been shared multiple times demonstrating the positive feedback from students.

While the energy pod is in Squires for a limited time, Hokie Wellness expects to get four more pods soon.

Alcohol abuse prevention: a wasted effort?

Blacksburg, Va., April 26, 2017 – Top of the Stairs: Tots is one of Blacksburg’s most popular bar hangouts and home to TOTS Tuesday, where students and residents can come together to sing and listen to karaoke, as well as drink alcohol every Tuesday night.  Photo: Kameron Kopecky

by Kameron Kopecky–

Underage drinking is one of the biggest problems on college campuses throughout the country. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Excessive drinking is responsible for more than 4,300 deaths among underage youth each year, and cost the U.S. $24 billion in economic costs in 2010.”

Virginia Tech has groups for students whose main goal is to combat underage drinking, as well as classes to teach incoming students about alcohol before they arrive on campus. They, along with other colleges are taking initiative and coming up with ways to try to combat underage drinking.

Universities, including Virginia Tech, are testing out various methods, such as Hokie Wellness and AlcoholEdu, to try and educate and prevent underage drinking by addressing it early on. At the beginning of each student’s freshman year, they are required to take the online AlcoholEdu course.  Their main goal “…is to create a welcoming and inclusive campus, and to reduce the negative consequences of alcohol misuse and abuse on campus as well as the incidents of unwanted sexual behavior.”

Virginia Tech junior Evan Burton said he recalls his experience with AlcoholEdu as a time that he rushed through the online course and called the course a joke.

If most students are like Burton, the effectiveness of the online course is clearly in question and it seems Virginia Tech may need to look for alternative methods to educate students on the dangers of alcohol abuse.

While college can be rigorous, stressful, and overwhelming at times, some students may search for ways to help them relieve their stresses through the consumption of alcohol.

For some it becomes more than simply a way to alleviate stress.

“I feel like it’s out there [alcohol] and I’m doing it. I am not going to stop [drinking],” Burton said.


LIFE/STYLE: Enjoying summer on a budget

Photo via


by Courtney Snukis, Carson Bartlett, Haven Lewis–

Attending college can be incredibly expensive and the demand of coursework often leave students with little time to get a job. According to a study from Ohio State University, 70 percent of students feel stressed about finances.

Additionally, the average debt for college students in the United States has increased. According to a report from the Institute for College Access and Success, the average borrower owes more than $30,000.

With mounting debt and inconsistent incomes, frugality is essential for college students during the summer. There are plenty of activities, indoor and outdoor, that can keep students entertained.

Low funds don’t have to mean no fun for college student during the summer, especially if you’re willing to take advantage of free events and low-cost activities.