Our former VISTA members have gone on to do amazing things! Many attend graduate school, continue working for WVU as Mountaineer Temps, or launch their careers using skills they learned while serving with The Collaborative. Below are our fantastic alumni!
Zach Beard is an AmeriCorps VISTA serving the College of Law's Land Use and Sustainable Development Law Clinic. The clinic meets the needs of communities in Southern West Virginia by promoting sustainable development and conservation through legal services and land use planning. As a VISTA, Zach works with communities in Southern West Virginia in developing plans to address local issues such as dilapidated buildings, wastewater infrastructure, and public health needs. While a native of Virginia, Zach has always been drawn to the strong sense of community in the Mountain State. Zach became a VISTA to gain first-hand experience in local government land use planning. You can learn more about the Land Use Clinic by visiting their website.
Caleigh Dunlevy was an AmeriCorps VISTA serving the Addiction Studies Minor. A student herself at WVU in the social work program, Caleigh decided to take the year off to serve with AmeriCorps VISTA in order to better understand the population of people she hopes to work with. While she took this year off, Caleigh planned to better understand the Addiction Studies minor and all the resources it will provide students. She has faith it will ultimately arm people to win the battle against addiction one day.
This year of service she raised awareness about the Addiction Studies Minor that just rolled out this fall, advocated for those facing addiction, networked, and overall maintained the publicity of the minor so that people are able to learn more about the disease that is rampant throughout our nation. As a social work student Caleigh had always had hopes of providing resources and needs to those who need it the most. Therefore, choosing to be a VISTA was an easy decision for her, allowing her to obtain professional opinions about the population of people she wishes to work with while also educating others who may wish to help as well. To learn more about the addiction studies minor visit http://counseling.wvu.edu/addiction-studies-minor
Lidi Castro Gregory
Lidiane (Lidi) Gregory was an AmeriCorps VISTA serving as the Honors College Community Engagement Specialist. She worked collaboratively with the ASPIRE Office, and the Pre-Health Professional Development Office developing resources and implementing programs that increase student retention and education. She also also be involved with the design and implementation of a upcoming new program, the Experiential and Community Engaged Learning (EXCEL).
Lidi has a Master's degree in Parks and Recreation from WVU and a licentiate degree in Portuguese Language and Literature from the Federal University of the State of Para (Brazil). Lidi has a passion for adventure and enjoys traveling, photography, and exploring new places. For her year of service she used her knowledge and skills to give something back to the WVU community and her new home, the State of West Virginia.
Brynn Benson was an AmeriCorps VISTA serving with Adventure WV. She just finished her BS at West Virginia University in Sport and Exercise Psychology, minoring in Recreation, Parks, and Tourism Resources. During her time at WVU, Brynn developed her love of international travel, environmental stewardship, and the mountaineers! Being a part of Adventure WV as a student staff member for many years, inspired Brynn to apply to serve the program that changed her outlook on what life could be.
During her VISTA year, Brynn inspired more students to get outdoors and find their own home among the hills. She developed professional skills related to outdoor education programming, and gave back to the communities that have given her so much. Adventure WV seeks to encourage personal growth, leadership, and student success through adventure- based, experiential education. To find out more on Adventure WV: https://adventurewv.wvu.edu/
Chris Cunningham was an AmeriCorps VISTA serving with the Veterans Affairs Office at West Virginia University. He was a third year Industrial Engineering student. During his year of service, he gained exposure for the Veterans affairs office, obtained grants for the Veterans Affairs Office, secured tutors, and assisted in developing a new Veterans Resource Center. He chose to serve because AmeriCorps offered a way to help pay for school, serve his WVU community, and build skills which would make him more marketable for internships and future jobs.
Carrie Tanner was an AmeriCorps VISTA serving for the College of Law's Land Use and Sustainable Development Law Clinic. The clinic meets the needs of communities in Southern West Virginia by promoting sustainable development and conservation through legal services and land use planning. As a VISTA, Carrie assisted communities with implementation of their land use plans, worked on wastewater infrastructure ideas, and connected low income communities to WVU through the development of high impact initiatives.
Always a passionate defender of the environment, Carrie pursued an Environmental Protection degree at West Virginia University and obtained her BS in 2017. Carrie applied for the VISTA service year as an opportunity to develop professional skills, learn about legal proceedings related to the environment, and give back to the state that has given so much to her.
Laura Lucas was an AmeriCorps VISTA serving with the VISTA Collaborative at WVU Tech Student Life. Laura graduated in 2012 from Concord University with a BA in Sociology. Laura is heavily involved in outreach and volunteering in her community. She is passionate about her state and has a true heart for service. This year of service gave Laura the opportunity to help give back to the community and continue to make strides towards alleviating poverty.
As a VISTA, Laura’s goal was to focus on increasing partnerships within the University, community, and state; and developing sustainable procedures for continued service.
Shuba Narasimhan is an AmeriCorps VISTA serving with the WVU Collegiate Recovery Program (CRP). Since the CRP is only in its second year of operation, Shuba hopes to help build the foundation of it and bridge connections with other student organizations and the Morgantown community. She also wishes to help students construct empowering and “recovery-positive” programs and events.
She graduated in May of 2017 with a B.A. in Criminology and Psychology and a minor in Religious Studies. She has always been passionate about social justice issues and she wants to pursue the MSW program here at WVU right after her service year ends. With continued education, she will be able to figure out avenues on how to create programming directed towards minority groups, addressing healing post-traumatic stress related to the injustices within society, and educating dominant groups on how to use their privileges in ways that benefit the greater good.
Her hobbies include reading, writing, singing (especially with the WVU Community Choir!), driving through the countryside, and spending time with friends in cafés.
Dillon Muhly-Alexander, of Bridgeport, West Virginia, is the VISTA for the WVU Honors College, the Pre-Health Professional Development Office, and the ASPIRE Office. A life-long resident of West Virginia, Dillon graduated summa cum laude from WVU in May of 2017 with a degree in International Studies. His hobbies include traveling, reading, wine, hiking the mountains of West Virginia and watching Mountaineer basketball.
As a VISTA, Dillon is developing programming for the Honors College and the inaugural year of the WVU Peace Corps Prep program. In addition, Dillon is identifying medical professionals across West Virginia to increase communication between the university, prospective medical students, and health specialists.
M. Shea Lamanna
Eberly College VISTA Shea Lamanna graduated from the WVU Honors College in May 2017 with a BA in History and minor in Political Science. Her experience with volunteering in education initiatives in WV began with her sorority Pi Beta Phi during her three years spent as an undergraduate. She taught at a local school before finding a calling within higher education. She hopes to continue her own education in graduate school following her year as VISTA.
Passionate about the way that individuals shape the world around them, she is devoted to helping students and faculty see the benefits of applied service learning. Shea hopes to foster the creation of connections within Eberly between faculty, students, and engaged scholarship. She will provide support in developing service learning courses and providing a fresh perspective on how students' education benefits from community experience.
Janet Weeks is an AmeriCorps VISTA serving with the VISTA Collaborative in the WVU Sociology and Anthropology department. Janet recently graduated from Florida State University with a PhD in Sociology and Demography. Her research focuses broadly on the social determinants of health behaviors and health outcomes. This year of service has given Janet the opportunity to not only join her partner as he completes his education at WVU, but more importantly to utilize the knowledge she has acquired in school to help give back to the community and continue to make strides towards alleviating poverty.
As a VISTA Janet’s goal is to increase the amount of applied service learning and engaged scholarship by faculty and students within the Department of Sociology and Anthropology to address health and economic needs at the local, national, and international levels. She will also focus on increasing partnerships within the University, community, and state; writing grants to support the needs of community partners, faculty, and students; and developing sustainable procedures for continued service learning and engaged scholarship participation within the Department.
Disaster 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.
STEM 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 to link students and faculty to service-learning opportunities. He is also tasked in developing programs to recruit 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 statewide, nationally and abroad is extremely important.
Ryan loves most outdoor hobbies including fly fishing, climbing, and hiking. Ryan plans to pursue a Masters of Landscape Architecture after his year of service and eventually pursue a career in environmental planning. 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.
Scotty 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.
Ashley Reece is an AmeriCorps VISTA serving with the Food Justice Lab as part of WVU's VISTA Collaborative. The Food Justice Lab, which is housed in the Department of Geology and Geography, is an experimental space for research and action focused on challenging food system inequalities. Food security is something that Ashley is extremely passionate about because it is an area that is pervasive into every single person's life. No one should struggle to access the foods that they want or need at any time.
Prior to serving as a VISTA, Ashley served as an AmeriCorps member at Christian Help in Morgantown. She is excited for the opportunity to continue giving back to West Virginia by building the capacity of the Food Justice Lab's programs.
Billy Boylan is an AmeriCorps VISTA serving the Veteran Affairs Office and Davis College to serve the Veteran Community at WVU. Billy comes to WVU as a Veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and the United States Army. As someone who enjoys the outdoors, exploring, and living life to the fullest, Billyrecognized the unique opportunity to serve in West Virginia. A passionate supporter of the Veteran Community, Billy has dedicated his life to service, both here and abroad. Being a person that felt obligated to take ownership of his own community Billy made the choice to spend this year serving his Community as it applies to education. Billy is a Certified Peer Support Specialist, with years of Mental Health Service within the Veteran Community, as well as other areas of impoverished need within our society such as Youth at risk, Foster Care, and Homelessness.
Billy will be enrolling in the RBA program here at WVU with hopes to gain
a Masters in Rehab Counseling. As a member of the Veteran Community, Billy saw
first hand the difficulties of transitioning from combat services to civilian
life. The amount of pressure to succeed with the instant realization that
he will never be the same again made for a rocky transition. As the years
went on, Billy developed more of the skills necessary to be a successful
person in society. With absolute experience, as well as his education. Billy feels
he can be of service to help other Veterans that may find the transition
to becoming a civilian again tougher than they imagined. Through the Veterans
Affairs and Davis College, Billy hopes to develop a collaborative
plan to help WVU and its Veterans in that transition. With the ultimate goal
that all Veterans at WVU have the opportunity to successfully complete their
degrees and become more comfortable here at home. No Veteran left behind.
Collaborative 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.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.
West 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.
Jeremy 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).
Allison 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.
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.
CS&L VISTA Rikki Bower is resourceful, resilient, and refreshing! He served as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer at West Virginia University Center for Service and Learning. His placement concentrated on alleviating the risk of poverty by contributing to the Center for Service and Learning focus of connecting students to service. Rikki understands that it is through service that students gain valuable insight, build community, and form relationships with others.
Rikki enjoys working with students and being part a community that values service! During his free time, Rikki can be found in the kitchen, exploring the world, and taking in the moments! Rikki has a Bachelor of Science in Child Development, a minor in LGBT Studies, and a masters of arts in Social Work.
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 served as a VISTA on the WV FOODLINK research project building capacity among community food security advocates and agencies throughout West Virginia through the development of the WV FOODLINK GIS database, advocacy toolkit, interactive mapping tools and social media accounts. Zach’s service with FOODLINK was 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, nutritious diet and ultimately the pursuit of a healthy and happy life. For more info on the WV FOODLINK Project check out http://foodlink.wvu.edu/.
Student Success VISTA Marissa Pulice is originally from Fairmont, WV. She completed an undergrad degree at West Virginia Wesleyan and graduated Summa Cum Laude with majors in English, Gender Studies, and Philosophy. After that Marissa moved to Athens, Ohio, and completed a master’s in literary history with a concentration in the presence of disability in 20th century American literature. She then took a position as the VISTA with the student success pod. Her pod’s focus is on making college accessible to students who are low-income or the first in their family to attend, or apply for, higher education opportunities.
Marissa served with the Mountaineer Success Academy, the McNair scholars program, the Girl Scouts of Black Diamond Council, Energy Express, and Upward Bound to create various service opportunities that merge service with college/career readiness lessons.
My Brother’s Keeper VISTA Nia Waters is from Baltimore, MD. She is the middle child and the only girl of three children. Her parents both graduated from West Virginia University and she is a recent graduate of West Virginia University with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Child Development and Family Studies, Early Childhood Development and Infant/Toddler Education certification. She is currently an AmeriCorps VISTA focusing on the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative. This initiative focuses primarily on mentoring young African American and minority males in the community. These efforts are carried out through the Successful MALE Initiative. MALE is an acronym that stands for Men Achieving through Leadership and Engagement. The primary focus of this program is to provide a support system academically, socially, professionally, culturally, and personal in order to encourage their growth and development as well rounded individuals.
Nia’s role as a VISTA was to develop sustainable recruiting measures for African American and minority males on campus and involved in the community. It was also her role to create programs and service opportunities that encourage their continued participation in this program and in the community.
Ladies First VISTA Chelsey Franklin was the Ladies First AmeriCorps VISTA serving at the Center for Service and Learning. Chelsey is proud alumni of West Virginia. In her undergrad, Chelsey received a bachelor’s degree Psychology, with a minor in Women and Gender Studies. Chelsey is very creative, innovative and has a strong passion for art. She tries to incorporate her creativity in all that she does, even when doing service. Service has always been a major aspect of her life. Chelsey believes that service is a lifestyle, and should be done with a great intent to make a difference. Chelsey plans to continue her service and learning as she pursue her masters in Social Work.
Chelsey served with the Ladies First Pod, which focuses on education, gender issues, and service-learning. One of her goals as a VISTA was to build capacity through collective impact; by working collaboratively with female WVU students, faculty, and community partners that serve women to develop campus resources. She partnered with Council for Women Concern and the American Association Women University (AAUW) on campus. She worked on various projects that cultivated the awareness of women issues, including the Start Smart Negotiation Workshop, an initiative to develop awareness on issues surrounding the gender wage gap.
STEM VISTA Erin Greenleaf completed her undergraduate degree at WVU in Animal & Nutritional Science. She is currently finishing a Master’s Degree in Animal Physiology. Erin is a volunteer foster and trainer with Hearts of Gold Service dogs. She loves to read, watch movies with her husband, and work on the farm.
The STEM POD aimed to recruit students to come to WVU and pursue degrees in any of the STEM fields or in an agriculture-related field. The target audience is low-income, first generation students. Erin spread the message to these students that there are resources out there for them to utilize to be able to not only attend college but to be successful while they are here. Erin worked with the WVUteach program, collegiate 4-H, WVU Upward Bound, WVU Animal Science Farm and various student organizations in the Davis College to help spread this message. An additional focus was working on recruitment, getting more volunteer opportunities, and recognizing the great service already being done by these students.
Veterans/Adult Learners VISTA Brian Ricketts was an AmeriCorps VISTA working as a part of the VISTA Collaborative with the WVU Center for Service and Learning. His VISTA placement focused on increasing awareness of poverty issues and promoting higher education among veterans. Brian received his B.S. in Recreation, Parks, and Tourism from Virginia Commonwealth University and moved to Tucson, Arizona in 2007 to supervise an outdoor program for Miraval Resort and to work as a guide instructing mountain biking, hiking, and backpacking. After two years of guiding, Brian moved back to the east coast to take the position of Coordinator of Adventure Pursuits at Towson University in Towson, MD.
Having met his wife in 2012, Brian has since moved multiple times and worked in both the outdoor and photography fields. In addition to his work as a VISTA, Brian is a member of the Morgantown Bike Board and is working to start his own business in commercial photography. Brian currently resides in Morgantown with his wife Sarah.