Davon Woodard | Graduate Student

Program of Study: Economics

Contact: davon@vt.edu 


Davon is a PGG/UEDP PhD student with a focus on urban computing. His research interests include the intersection of big data and the city, specifically using big data to: Engage marginalized communities in urban planning processes and policy; and, enhancing the delivery of health and social services. Davon earned his BS in Public Policy from Michigan State University and a MS in Economics and a MBA from DePaul University in Chicago.

Ben Taylor | Graduate Student

Program of Study: Finance

Contact: benbt16@vt.edu


Ben Taylor graduated from The College of Wooster in Wooster, OH, in spring 2016 with a double major in political science and English as well as a minor in philosophy. While at Wooster, he completed a senior thesis examining the role that popular media play in generating democratic “consent,” analyzing how Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy both reflected anxieties regarding terrorism and provided support for the ongoing efforts on behalf of the U.S. surveillance state.  Ben completed the political science M.A. program at Virginia Tech in May of 2018.

Ben is currently attending John Hopkins University and pursuing his PhD in political science with a major subfield in political theory.

Emma Buchanan | Graduate Student

Program of Study: Urban Affairs

Contact: emmak8@vt.edu


Emma worked as an undergraduate at the Global Forum and completed her Master’s of Urban and Regional Planning Program. She also completed the Local Government Management and Public and Nonprofit Financial Management Graduate Certificate Programs. Emma is interested in rural economic development and resiliency with a focus on asset-based community Development. Emma is currently employed as the Town Planner for the town of Culpepper, Virginia.

Sara Jamal Eddin | Graduate Student

Program of Study: Masters of Architecture, School of Architecture + Design

Contact: saraj93@vt.edu


Sara Jamal Eddin is a Syrian Masters student at Virginia Tech. She graduated from University of Aleppo, where she studied architectural engineering and earned her bachelor degree. Her graduation project “Environmental Research Center” studies the using of renewable energy technologies that have a lower environmental impact than conventional energy technologies. The project depends on sun and wind energy as the only source of producing electricity, was suggested to structure on the third expansion of Aleppo University area and ranked among the best projects carried out in her class.

Sara plays the Piano; she graduated from the Arabic Institute for music, Syria in 2006. Her goals include specializing in rehabilitation of historic buildings and sites as well as contributing as an essential member in the reconstructing process in Syria.

Sara worked on special projects with the Global Forum and will be completing her Master’s Program in the College of Architecture.

Vera Smirnova | Graduate Student

Program of Study: Ph.D. in Planning, Governance, and Globalization (PGG); School of Public and International Affairs



Vera Smirnova joined the Department for Spatial Development and Regional Studies at the Higher School of Economics, Russia, as a postdoctoral fellow in 2018, where she is collaborating with the School of Geography at Cardiff University, UK. Vera received her PhD in Planning Governance and Globalization program from Virginia Tech where she worked as a graduate assistant at GFURR. She also holds a MArch degree from Kansas State University where she was a Fulbright Graduate Scholar.

Vera’s research interests combine political and historical geography and urban political economy of capitalist land struggles. Her work explores practices of land enclosure in Russia with a particular interest in policies, popular discourses, and day-to-day realities of large scale land acquisitions in late imperial and post-socialist periods. She conducted extensive archival research to examine this issue.

Yao “Hilary” Huang | Graduate Student

Program of Study: Economics

Contact: yaoh711@vt.edu


Yao Huang is a PHD candidate at the department of economics in Virginia Tech. Her research interests including housing market, macroeconomics and finance economics. Yao Huang holds a master degree in economics at both Georgetown University and Virginia Tech. Her dissertation about the housing price market in DC area focused on the pricing changing patterns and affecting factors of that area.

Marion Repetti | Post-Doctoral Research Associate

Marion Repetti has a PHD in sociology. She did her doctoral thesis at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, where she studied the Swiss genesis of the old age problem. This research was based on an analysis of policy makers’ as well as social scientists’ discourses about aging and retirement. Working with the bourdieusian concept of the “thought of the state”, she emphasized how social policies produce and reproduce moral representations of a good aging. With qualitative interviews, she also highlighted how retirees attribute these representations in ways that vary according to their socioeconomic status and their gender.

Her current research questions the tensions between the globalization of the life-course and the national-based organization of the welfare states, and their consequences on the definition of the social contract. Based on qualitative methods, she studies how people with limited economic resources deal with the opportunities and constraints that these tensions produce. She also analyses the role that experts play in the definition of social problems and social justice in this context.

While she did her PHD, Dr. Repetti first worked as a social worker. Then she occupied a position as a teaching assistant and then first assistant for the chair of social policies and social problems, as well as sociology of education, in the University of Lausanne. Recently. She has been working as a postdoctoral research fellow of the Swiss National Science Foundation in collaboration with the Institute for Collaborative Research on Ageing in the University of Manchester and the Department of Sociology of Virginia Tech, before joining the Global Forum.


Rupinder Paul Khandpur | Graduate Student

Program of Study: Ph.D. in Computer Science

Contact: rupen@vt.edu | http://people.cs.vt.edu/~rupen/


Rupinder Paul Khandpur is a Computer Science PhD student at the Discovery Analytics Center (https://dac.cs.vt.edu/), Virginia Tech. His research centers on applied data sciences with an emphasis on open information extraction, knowledge summarization and narrative generation from structured (newspapers) & unstructured (Twitter) texts. He is part of the team working on EMBERS, which is an ongoing IARPA OSI (Open Source Indicators) project aimed at forecasting significant societal events (disease outbreaks, civil unrest, elections) from open source datasets. He received his Masters in Computational Biology from Carnegie Mellon University.

Teni Ladipo | Graduate Student

Program of Study: Ph.D., Environmental Design and Planning

Contact: tladi001@vt.edu


Teni graduated in May 2016 with a Ph.D. in Environmental Design and Planning in the Department of Building Construction in the Myers- Lawson School of Construction. Teni was inducted into the 2016 Edward A. Bouchet Honor Society at Virginia Tech as an Outstanding Doctoral Degree Student. Her teaching and research activities centered on building physics, natural disaster resilience, building performance modeling, and high-performance building. Teni holds both an M.Sc. degree in Building/Construction Science and Management and a B.Sc. in Housing from Virginia Tech.

Michal Linder-Zarankin | Graduate Student

Program of Study: Center for Public Administration and Policy, School of Public and International Affairs

Contact: michall@vt.edu


Michal Linder Zarankin is a Ph.D Candidate in the Center for Public Administration and Policy, School of Public and International Affairs, at Virginia Tech and a Graduate Assistant at the Global Forum on Urban and Regional Resilience. Her teaching and research interests address inter/intra-organizational behavior before, during and after crises and disasters, with an emphasis on the range of individual, group and community organizations’ responses to large-scale emergencies. Her dissertation, “Lost in the Hazard Cycle: Public Libraries and Disaster Response within the Current Emergency Management Paradigm,” is focused on the role public libraries play in disaster relief and recovery. Michal holds a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Sussex, UK, and an MPA from the University of Missouri, Columbia.

Trey McMillon | Graduate Student

Program of Study: Architechture

Contact: mcmillon@vt.edu | https://www.linkedin.com/in/jmcmillon


Trey is a Masters student in the School of Architecture and Design. Trey has held both professional appointments and internships focused on marketing, graphic design, and interior design for public and private entities. Trey holds a BS in Architecture from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Omchand Mahdu | Graduate Student

Program of Study: Planning, Governance, and Globalization (PGG)

Contact: omchand4@vt.edu


Omchand is a Ph.D. student in the School of Public and International Affairs. His research interest is the impact of climate change mitigation on rural and agricultural progress in developing countries. His professional work experience includes the oversight of financial and operations management of large USAID projects in Iraq and Afghanistan in addition to short term assignments in Yemen and Tunisia. Omchand holds a Bachelor of Social Science degree in Accountancy from the University of Guyana, an MS in Industrial Technology, an MBA in Finance from Morehead State University, and an MS in Agricultural and Applied Economics from Virginia Tech.

Rongrong “Emma” Wei | Graduate Student

Program of Study: Ph.D. in Planning, Governance, and Globalization (PGG)

Contact: rrw1988@vt.edu


Rongrong is a PhD student in the School of Public and International Affairs at Virginia Tech. Her work centers on theorizing and measuring municipal fiscal resilience, with a particular focus on decentralized fiscal choice. Rongrong’s research interests are in the areas of fiscal federalism, intergovernmental transfers, municipal fiscal architecture, public choice theory, and public economics. Rongrong holds a BA in Tourism Management and Planning from Shanghai Normal University, and a dual Master’s degree in Public Administration and Policy, and Urban and Regional Planning from Virginia Tech.

Priscila Izar | Ph.D. Candidate

Program of Study: PhD PGG, Urban & Environmental Design & Planning (UEDP)

Contact: izarpris@vt.edu | https://vt.academia.edu/PriscilaIzar


Priscila Izar is a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Public and International Affairs and graduate research assistant at the Global Forum or Urban and Regional Resilience. Her work explores the connections between financialization and urban space production. Her dissertation examines the scope, limitations and meaning of financialized urban policy in contexts in which the size and character of financial markets are not clear. Priscila holds a master’s degree in International Development Policy from Duke University and a professional degree in Architecture and Urban Planning from Mackenzie University in Brazil. She has previously worked in the fields of housing and local economic development, including efforts to develop especially impoverished areas.

Trevor Flanery | Graduate Student

Program of Study: Planning, Governance, and Globalization (PGG)

Contact: tflanery@vt.edu


Trevor graduated in the Summer of 2016 from the Planning, Governance, and Globalization Program in the School of Public and International Affairs. His dissertation titled, “Planning Local and Regional Development: Exploring Network Signals, Sites, and Economic Opportunity” is an inquiry about local neighborhood centers as behavioral settings that are the network interfaces between regional, economic, and human development. His work uses network and simulation tools to research these meeting points of information, motivation, and environmental structures as complex adaptive systems at the functional heart of urban development and adaptation. His research interests are focused on economic & community development, complex adaptive systems, networks, and models & simulation science. Trevor holds a BA in Geography from UNC Chapel Hill, an MS in Geography and Ph.D. in Planning, Governance, and Globalization from Virginia Tech.