VA Engage Journal

The VA Engage Journal promotes engaged scholarship by undergraduate, professional, and graduate students. The journal provides a forum for students to publish community-based research, case studies, action research, reflection essays, and book reviews, with guidance and mentorship from faculty. Any undergraduate or graduate student enrolled full- or part-time at a two- or four-year college or university in Virginia is eligible to submit an article. Submissions with multiple authors are welcome.

The VA Engage Journal was founded in spring 2011 and is published once annually. The journal was on hiatus for the 2012-13 year and is currently expanding its slate of peer reviewers. If you are interested in serving as a peer reviewer, please contact Dr. Sylvia Gale at The journal's areas of emphasis are described below. Submission guidelines and a description of the review process are also available. The submission deadline for the summer/fall 2014 issue is June 15, 2014.

Areas of Emphasis

Submissions are accepted in the following areas. In addition to textual submissions, multi-media and artistic products that emerge from or reflect on engagement are encouraged; this might include photos, video, digital stories, etc. For guidance about multimedia submission requirements, please contact Dr. Sylvia Gale. If you are considering submitting something that you think fits the journal but does not seem to match a specific category, please contact Dr. Gale or another member of the editorial board.

  • Critical reflections on engagement, including reflections on students' own engagement practices - We welcome reflections that prompt new and challenging conversations about the practices of engagement through systematic and critical analysis of specific programs or personal experiences. Reflections on specific programs/projects should include details of the programmatic goals (learning outcomes, community impact, etc.), basic structure, lessons learned, and suggestions for improvement. Inclusion of relevant assessment metrics in programmatic reflections is helpful but not explicitly required. Reflections on a personal community engagement experience should include enough relevant details to help orient the reader along with particular attention to what was learned--about oneself, another individual, a community, the field of engagement, an academic discipline, etc. In both cases, the word "critical" implies thorough attention to considering multiple lenses and perspectives, often including potential power dynamics associated with engagement, the role of personal identities/roles in shaping one's reflections, etc.
  • Reviews of literature - We welcome reviews of singular or multiple books or other media relevant to civic or community engagement. The review should evaluate the literature's insight (or lack thereof) into best practices in the field and offer a critical view of the work in relationship to a larger body of literature or a student's own engagement experiences, or in the context of additional research about a related social issue or topic. Reviews do not have to cover new work to be considered for publication.
  • Research studies (quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods) - Submissions that present results from research inquiry are welcome. Data can be qualitative and/or quantitative in nature. Papers presenting the results from pilot studies or small-scale research or evaluation projects are also welcome. All research papers should ensure that the research adhered to APA ethical standards, indicate that participants consented to participate via an informed consent process, if relevant, and that the research was approved (or exempted) by human subjects protection committee (e.g., IRB). Per APA style, the paper should be organized into the following sections as follows: literature review, method, results, discussion, references, and tables/figures (if applicable).
2012 Issue
Clinical Decision

From the very beginning of my experience in the dental hygiene program, patient care has been the central focus. Not just in administrating dental hygiene services, but in their safety. Every patient presenting to the clinic for treatment has their blood pressure measured. I would like to compare two very similar incidents with two different responses by the clinic staff I have experienced while on external rotation.

Read Clinical Decision.


Margaret Fish Candidate BSDH 2012, Department of Oral Health Promotion and Community Outreach, Dental Hygiene Program, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA

Global Connections Mentoring Program for Panamanian Girls

Established in 1997, the Young Women Leaders Program (YWLP) is a mentoring program that pairs middle school girls with college women from the University of Virginia for combined group and one-on-one mentoring. In addition to their initial preventative program model, YWLP has recently begun to develop a global connections curriculum in order to create an opportunity for cultural exchange amongst girls and women across the globe. This study focused on the feasibility of developing a YWLP ―sister site‖ in Panama City, Panama and their participating in a cultural exchange with YWLP girls in Virginia.

Read A Preliminary Study of the Feasibility of a Global Connections Mentoring Program for Panamanian Girls.


Hannah Lambert is a fourth year English and Spanish major at the University of Virginia. She has been involved in YWLP for three years as a mentor, facilitator, program coordinator and researcher.

Case Study: The Bosnia Project

The purpose of this report is to critically examine William & Mary’s longest running student-run service trip. The Bosnia Project has sent William & Mary students to Bosnia each summer since 1998 to run a summer camp focused on teaching English with a partner Bosnian non-governmental organization (NGO). This collaboration with NGOs in Bosnia has changed and grown over time to adapt to the needs of Bosnian youth and take advantage of new technology. As the Bosnia Project enters its fourteenth summer, the following history and context for the project, as well as an exploration of results and opportunities for growth, provides a model for other student organizations as they reflect on the past in preparation for the future.

Read Case Study: The Bosnia Project.


Anna Mahalak is a student at the College of William & Mary graduating May 2012. Anna traveled to Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2010 with the Bosnia Project and stayed involved with the project as a mentor to future volunteers. She hopes to return to the Balkans in the future through a Fulbright ETA and continue to foster international service in the region through the Bosnia Project and other collaborations.

Empathetic and Innovative Solutions to Community Mental Health

In this case study, I presented a thorough evaluation of one of Massachusetts’ premier community mental health institutions: Wayside Youth and Family Services. First, I explained a brief history of the deinstitutionalization movement and the early days of Wayside. Following this, I discussed the organization services and how they fit the needs of the community. Finally, I presented my thoughts on the organization’s strengths, and how these strengths are exceptionally significant due to the organization’s business model.

Read Empathetic and Innovative Solutions to Community Mental Health.


Sarah McHenry is a member of the class of 2013 at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. Majoring in Psychology, she plans to focus her further studies on early intervention in child development and community psychology policy.

Tracking a Lifelong Service Commitment in Alumni of the College of William and Mary

In order to better understand the development of a commitment to service, this paper explores the lives of alumni of the College of William and Mary as case studies. It is valuable to students and academic institutions alike to track a student‟s service commitment to see if his or her college experience was able to deepen that commitment. William and Mary is an exemplar in service-learning, which is why its alumni were interviewed and used as case studies. The College of William and Mary has an Office of Civic Engagement (OCE) that has connected students with community partners since 2009 to advance students‟ service-learning achievements. Individual alumnus‟s responses to questions regarding their participation in service and service-learning before, after, and during college provide insight into William and Mary‟s ability to build and inspire a lifelong dedication to community service.

Read Tracking a Lifelong Service Commitment in Alumni of the College of William and Mary.


Emma Catherine Merrill, William and Mary Class of 2013

NGO Staff Implement Educational Goals in Northside Richmond

The Richmond non-profit organization, Kid's House, complements imperfect educational models with creative and flexible community-based programs. In Northern Richmond, children living in oppressed communities have diminished educational opportunities and outcomes. I use the term "oppressed" to describe these communities because it highlights various political, social, and economic power that has historically been exerted in the process of creating poverty. An NGO's staff is effective in reaching poor students and parents when they are attuned to local social processes. Kid's House teachers negotiate an uneasy existence as mediators between the spheres of structural bureaucracy and local poverty. This ethnographic study culminated in a senior thesis project. The author spent one summer completing participant observation, and three years mentoring and teaching weekly at Kid's House. While Kid's House continually works to develop legitimacy in Northside, its daily implementation of program goals shows an interest in fostering sustainable solutions to urban poverty.

Read NGO Staff Implement Educational Goals in Northside Richmond.


Grace Leonard is a 2012 graduate of the University of Richmond with a BA in anthropology and a minor in geography. As an undergraduate, she explored issues of social justice and civic engagement through mentoring and teaching in Northside Richmond, fieldwork in Northern Ghana, and participation in Community-Based Learning courses. She has been selected as the CCE Fellow at the University of Richmond Bonner Center for Civic Engagement for the upcoming academic year. Grace is a native of Sylva, North Carolina.

My Community, Their Community Our Community: Musings on "Development"

This reflection explores the collision of anthropology and civic engagement, a combination that has come to define my senior research. My fieldwork at educational NGOs in Northern Richmond and Northern Ghana caused me to question the local relevancy of NGO management strategies. How can white, middle class teachers appropriately improve educational outcomes for low-income black students in Richmond? Is compulsory education appropriate training for Ghanaian farmers? Academic theories criticize “development” for furthering power against the oppressed, while the qualitative work of NGOs is quantified to fit the needs of grant writers. I find policy can never prescribe perfectly. In order for the management plans of educational NGOs to reflect local community perspective, teachers must self-identify as part of the community. My work as an ethnographer has caused me to reprioritize my identity as a citizen.

Read My Community, Their Community Our Community: Musings on "Development".


Grace Leonard is a 2012 graduate of the University of Richmond with a BA in anthropology and a minor in geography. As an undergraduate, she explored issues of social justice and civic engagement through mentoring and teaching in Northside Richmond, fieldwork in Northern Ghana, and participation in Community-Based Learning courses. She has been selected as the CCE Fellow at the University of Richmond Bonner Center for Civic Engagement for the upcoming academic year. Grace is a native of Sylva, North Carolina.

2011 Issue
Brothers Behind Bars: Salvation, Insult, and the College Education

A group of University of Virginia undergraduates read and discuss Russian literature with residents at Beaumont Juvenile Correctional Center every week. They not only learn about each other’s lives, but also about the contradictions within their conceptions of themselves as young people in America. In fleeting moments, through literature and friendship, they find solace and maybe even transcendent meaning in one another.

Read Brothers Behind Bars: Salvation, Insult, and the College Education.


Gregorio Casar, University of Virginia

Smoke Signals: The Effects of Eco-stoves on Community and the Environment

The use of solid biomass fuels and the implementation of eco-stoves to mitigate its harmful effects has become a popular topic in discussions on global development. An article published on use of traditional fuels in The New Yorker reports, “A map of the world's poor is easy to make…just follow the smoke.” Eco-stoves are now being constructed in impoverished communities around the world as an alternative to traditional stove models as a means to improve health and overall quality of life. Global Brigades, a sustainable development NGO, has been working in communities in rural Honduras to construct an eco-stove model called an Estufa Justa. This article pertains to a research project designed to evaluate household satisfaction with this new stove model, the stove's efficiency, and the effect that installing these stoves has had on community dynamic. The methodology included a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods. Using the data obtained from this study, it can be concluded that the Global Brigades model is more efficient and has a higher satisfaction rate among users compared to the traditional fogón models currently in use and that the installation of stoves has had a positive impact on community dynamic.

Read Smoke Signals: An Investigation of the Effects of Eco-stoves on Community and the Environment.


Claire Hennigan and Amy Rogers, University of Virginia

Narrowing the Digital Divide

Research suggests that girls are at especial disadvantage in the field of informational technology and are less likely than boys to take courses or seek out careers in this area. The Young Women Leaders Program (YWLP), a mentoring program at the University of Virginia that pairs at-risk middle school girls with college women for a year of mentoring, developed the YWLP HerStory project to engage middle school girls in informational technology through their development of technology projects focused on psychosocial issues of importance to them. This study reviewed an early version of the YWLP HerStory’s technology curriculum and training for mentors, the revisions made to both, and evaluated the effectiveness of the revisions with a sample of 27 eighth grade girls and their mentors. Findings indicated that participating in the revised curriculum improved girls’ engagement in technology projects, including an 83% completion rate, and modifications to mentor training improved mentor’s grasp of relevant technology and confidence in teaching it to their mentees. Notably, participating eighth grade girls reported that the technology curriculum was fun and expressed an interest in further engagement in using technology platforms to tell their stories.

Read Narrowing the Digital Divide: The Young Women Leaders Program HerStory Project.


Stephanie Newton, Emily Peters, Victoria Tucker, Christine Quilpa, Edith Lawrence, and Clare Vierbuchen, University of Virginia

Closing the Achievement Gap

This paper provides an overview of the educational achievement gap, paying particular attention to the gap between white and minority students. Additionally, this paper explores why closing the achievement gap is important, and why it is hard to do. The goal of this paper is to suggest that using a literacy-based method will produce superior results than using STEM-field methods by highlighting a “best practice,” Musick Elementary School in Newark, California.

Read Closing the Achievement Gap: Favoring a Literacy-Based Approach to Solving the Nation's Educational Crisis.


Timothy Siverd, College of William and Mary

The Middle Eastern/Muslim Community at the University of Virginia

Education concerning the history of one‟s surroundings is an essential step to becoming an active member of one‟s community. I am originally Middle Eastern and upon entering the University of Virginia realized that a written compilation of this particular minority community‟s history and resources was not accessible. The purpose of this paper is to provide a portrait of the Middle Eastern community at UVa, from the issues facing students, to the numerous ways they continue to engage and serve the greater University. Although the discussion is centered around UVa, as the number of Middle Eastern students in higher education continues to increase, a trend of similar concerns and modes of engagement across universities emerges.

This paper outlines the history of resources available for Middle Eastern and Muslim students at the University of Virginia, and attempts to create a profile of what the community has looked like throughout the years. It then assesses the most common concerns throughout the community and policy recommendations. It concludes with ideas for where further research of this community can continue.

Read A Profile of the Middle Eastern/Muslim Community at the University of Virginia: Resources, Concerns, and Recommendations.


Manal Tellawi, University of Virginia