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Current VISTA Members

Zach Summerfield

Zach FOODLINK VISTA Zach Summerfield is a recent and proud West Virginia University graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Geography with a history minor and a certificate in Geographic Information Science. During his time as an undergraduate Zach developed a passionate interest in the role geography and spatial relationships play in today’s society and into the state of food insecurity in the country and around the globe. He was born in Philadelphia, PA and raised in southern New Jersey before enrolling in WVU in 2012 and moving to Morgantown where he curently resides. After his year of service with AmeriCorps, Zach also plans on beginning graduate school at WVU for his master’s degree in Geography with a GIS focus. Zach loves reading, history, maps, his weiner dog Rocco, and all things Philadelphia sports.

Zach is currently serving as a VISTA on the WV FOODLINK research project building caparcity among community food security advocates and agencies throughout West Virginia through the matienance and development of the WV FOODLINK GIS database, advocacy toolkit, interactice mapping tools and social media accounts. Zach’s service with FOODLINK is also focused on community outreach and relationship building among organizations whose aim is to combat hunger. The aim of the FOODLINK project is to educate and unite stakeholders, as well as highlight the extent and severity of food insecurity in the Mountain State through the development of resources such as maps, reports, the database and interactive mapping tools. Zach, as well as the members of the FOODLINK team feel improving food access and addressing the overall issue of food insecurity is paramount because every person has the right to a sustainable, nutritous diet and ultimatley the pursuit of a healthy and happy life. For more info on the WV FOODLINK Project check out http://foodlink.wvu.edu/ or to contact Zach directly email ztsummerfield@mix.wvu.edu


Emily Sheperd

Emily Campus Compact VISTA Emily Sheperd is originally from South Bend, Indiana. As a life-long resident of Indiana, Emily was anxious when her spouse came home with a new job opportunity in West Virginia. Two weeks later, they moved 500 miles away from home along with their four dogs and two cats to small town West Virginia. Armed with a bachelor’s in Child Psychology and a passion for serving others, Emily embarked on the VISTA journey with a goal of leaving a positive mark on her new community.

As the Campus Compact VISTA, Emily is working with institutions of higher education across the state of West Virginia to recruit college students to opportunities of civic engagement to improve community wellbeing and to encourage the students to use their time and education to serve their communities for life. Emily can be reached at emily.sheperd@mail.wvu.edu.


Matthew Spearly

MatthewWest Virginia University Honors College VISTA Matthew Spearly graduated with Presidential Honors from WVU in 2016 with bachelor’s degrees in international studies and criminology, along with a Spanish minor. His passion for all varieties of service motivates him; Matthew has served both domestically and abroad, namely with populations affected by physical and mental impairments, and, in other venues, with incarcerated individuals. Working to understand and alleviate poverty has been a fundamental and recurrent aspect of his diverse experiences. Matthew’s other interests include practicing and performing music, cooking, baking and reading.

As a VISTA Matthew is serving with the WVU Honors College as a Community Engagement Specialist. Here he is working expand and strengthen partnerships within the University, and between the Honors College, the local community and the state. Specifically, Matthew is addressing the issue of poverty in the area by ensuring that Honors College students especially first generation and Pell Grant eligible students are meaningfully engaged in service, with the desired outcomes of increasing graduation rates, securing more job placements, and providing service to the state. Matthew can be reached at mcspearly@mail.wvu.edu.


Joel Nelson

JoelCollaborative Adult Learner Support VISTA Joel Nelson is a graduate of WVU with a Master’s degree in Political Science. His main academic interests are in economic development and environmental policy. He hopes to someday work in the public sector or for a non-profit focusing on addressing poverty in developing countries or aiding in the development of sustainable environmental policy. He was born in Charleston, WV and enjoys the outdoors including hiking, camping, and kayaking. Joel loves sports, culture and spending time with his family.

As a Collaborative Adult Learner Support VISTA, Joel will be working with West Virginia University’s Regents Bachelor of Arts program developing sustainable models to recruit veterans, adult learners and non-traditional students. He will also develop data collection and retention mechanisms to better understand and serve the RBA student needs. The RBA program offers a valuable foundational degree for veterans, adults and non-traditional students looking to advance or change careers. This degree is especially important in the state of West Virginia as our economy evolves and workers are displaced. You can learn more about the RBA program at http://rba.wvu.edu. You can reach Joel at jnelson7@mail.wvu.edu.


Allison Eckman

AllisonAllison Eckman is an AmeriCorps VISTA serving the College of Law’s Land Use and Sustainable Development Law Clinic and WVU’s Center for Big Ideas. In 2016, Allison graduated from West Virginia University with a BA in English, concentrating her studies in creative nonfiction. A passionate lover of the outdoors, Allison spends her free time exploring the beautiful state of West Virginia. Backpacking is Allison’s favorite hobby, and drinking coffee is a close second. She is from Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

The Land Use Clinic promotes conservation and sustainable development in West Virginia through legal services and land use planning. During her year as a VISTA, Allison will assist communities with the implementation of their Comprehensive Plans, or their roadmap for future land use. Allison will seek funding opportunities that will help communities in Southern WV thrive at a local level and will create volunteer-based projects that promote community engagement. Allison can be reached at aveckman@mail.wvu.edu. Learn more about the Land Use Clinic at http://landuse.law.wvu.edu/.


Jeremy Lambson

JeremyJeremy Lambson,WVU Extension Service VISTA, was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah. He enjoys hiking, fishing, hunting, and playing sports. In 2012, his wife was given an opportunity to teach chemistry at West Virginia Wesleyan College, and they decided to move to Buckhannon, West Virginia. Jeremy saw this as an opportunity to finish his degree, which he received in the spring of 2016 as a Religious Studies Major.

Jeremy is passionate about a variety of social justice issues and is excited to be a part of the Americorps VISTA organization. During his year of service, Jeremy will be working on the Community Leadership Academy, which unites community members from elected officials to business owners and civic-minded residents, and provides community leaders with leadership skills that promote community growth. Upon completion, he plans on attending seminary where he will get the training necessary to become a pastor for the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA).


Scotty Stone

ScottyScotty Stone is an AmeriCorps VISTA serving with the VISTA collaborative at WVU Tech. Scotty graduated from WVU Tech in 2016 with a BA in History and Government. He grew up in the small West Virginia town of Widen, which is located in Clay County. As an advocate for youth in the impoverished small towns of Appalachia, Scotty hopes that his service with AmeriCorps will make a lasting difference for children from small towns, and hopefully increase college enrollment.

As a VISTA Scotty's goal is to build sustainable volunteer opportunities for WVU Tech students that help with poverty alleviation in the communities surrounding the WVU Tech campus. Scotty will also create service-learning opportunities at WVU Tech, as well as raise awareness of iServe and the opportunity to collect and track volunteer hours.


Heather Beeseck 

HeatherDisaster Relief VISTA Heather Beeseck is a lifelong West Virginian and proud alumna of West Virginia University. While working toward her Bachelor’s degree in Geography, Heather fell in love with the city of Morgantown and its people. She’s excited to once again call Morgantown home during her year of service. 

As a geography major, Heather became particularly interested in rural issues and disaster relief. She hopes to bring her love of her home state and her training in rural and regional development together in a way that inspires WVU students to give back to the communities surrounding the university. Heather is inspired by the selflessness and compassion of the WVU student body, and looks forward to working with them to develop models of assistance and outreach that honor the people of West Virginia. 

During her time as a VISTA, Heather will combat poverty by building partnerships between Southern West Virginia counties and WVU to make connections between community needs and WVU support. She will also focus on expanding university students’ opportunities to serve and encouraging long-lasting lifestyles of service. After completing her year as a VISTA, she hopes to return to school to pursue a graduate degree in social work.


Ryan Blair 

RyanSTEM Service in Agriculture VISTA Ryan Blair has always had an interest in solving the world's problems. Ryan graduated from West Virginia University with a B.S. in Environmental and Natural Resource Economics in 2016. Through the STEM in Agriculture POD, Ryan's VISTA assignment is to develop and expand healthy partnerships between the Davis College at West Virginia University and local agriculture based non-profits. He is also tasked in recruiting students into STEM fields in the Agriculture sciences field; specifically, lower-income and underrepresented students. Ryan believes that higher education is the true ticket out of poverty and increasing those opportunities both nationally and globally is extremely important.

Ryan loves most outdoor hobbies including fly fishing, climbing, and hiking. Ryan plans to pursue his masters in Agricultural and Resource Economics after his year of service and eventually pursue a career in environmental project management. He also plans on starting his own environmental based non-profit later down the road. Ryan took up the VISTA opportunity for his gap year in search of making a meaningful impact on the local WV community and he strongly recommends others to do the same. Ryan can be contacted through email at rcblair@mail.wvu.edu

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