Katrina Powell, associate professor of English in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences and director of the Women’s and Gender Studies program at Virginia Tech, has received the university's 2015 Diggs Teaching Scholars Award.

Sponsored by the Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research, the Diggs Teaching Scholars Award was established in 1992 and is presented annually to up to three Virginia Tech faculty members to recognize exceptional contributions to the teaching program and learning environment. A cash award is given to each recipient and their academic department. Diggs Teaching Scholars are invited to lead the Diggs Roundtable — a series of presentations and a discussion of their innovative teaching — a year after receiving the award.

The award is supported by an endowed fund from an estate gift by the late Edward S. and Hattie Wilson Diggs. Edward Diggs was a 1914 graduate of Virginia Tech.

Powell’s teaching-enhancement project, “Transgressive Archives as Activism,” is a methodological approach toward reading, writing, and creating that imagines alternative ways of reporting research. Powell’s approach combines her teaching, research, and outreach objectives to disseminate academic scholarship in innovative and public ways.

In addition to traditional academic scholarship, Powell’s teaching incorporates reflective, autobiographical, active engagement exercises and writing to ask what archives of particular spaces might look like and as a way to more fully understand traditionally accepted scholarship. Participants discuss what traditional archives are, who gets to decide what goes into an archive, and how to create transgressive archival material that examines traditional disciplinary and professional boundaries in ways that challenge the political and social forces at play within those traditions.

Powell teaches courses in autobiography, research methods, and rhetorical theory. She wrote two books about the displacement of families from Shenandoah National Park, "The Anguish of Displacement" and "Answer at Once: Letters of Mountain Families in Shenandoah National Park, 1934-1938."

Studying the hand-written letters of displaced residents to the government, Powell's research examines the ways that residents represented themselves to state and park officials as their relocations approached.

In addition to these two books, she acted as assistant producer for the documentary film (with filmmaker Richard Robinson) “Rothstein’s First Assignment,” which includes oral history interviews with descendants of displaced families.

Her most recent book, "Identity and Power in Narratives of Displacement," was published in 2015 and expands her work on localized displacement to examine the transnational implications of displacement narratives and the ways that identity, representation, environment, and narrative are enacted across seemingly disparate displacement events, such as eminent domain law, natural disaster, and civil unrest.

Powell received her bachelor’s degree from Mary Washington University, a master’s degree from George Mason University, and a Ph.D. from the University of Louisville.

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.

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