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Oral History @ VT: Practitioners

This guide brings together resources relating to conducting and transcribing oral histories, and includes the best practices for collecting oral histories and donating them to Virginia Tech.

Oral History Practitioners on Campus

Virginia Tech scholars practice oral history across disciplines and a variety of topics. Click the links to learn more about their work and scholarly impact. 


Shannon Elizabeth Bell is Associate Professor of Sociology at Virginia Tech. Her research falls at the intersection of environmental sociology, gender, and social movements, with a particular focus on understanding the ways in which environmentally-destructive industries acquire, maintain, and exercise their power and discovering strategies for increasing the political participation of communities most affected by environmental injustices. She is the author of two award-winning books: Fighting King Coal: The Challenges to Micromobilization in Central Appalachia (MIT Press, 2016) and Our Roots Run Deep as Ironweed: Appalachian Women and the Fight for Environmental Justice (University of Illinois Press, 2013). 


Joe Forte is the Athenaeum Coordinator and Digital Humanities Specialist with VT Publishing in Newman Library. He develops audio and video production projects in the Athenaeum Suite, which is the Libraries’ hub for Digital Humanities projects and courses developed in partnership with the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, the Center for Humanities, and the Institute for Creativity, Arts and Technology. He has worked on projects including the Montgomery County Oral Legacy Project and the Denim Day project. 


Julie Gerdes is an assistant professor in the English department. She works at the intersection of technical communication and global public health and teaches courses in professional and technical writing and in qualitative research methods. Her interdisciplinary research focuses on inclusive risk communication, particularly during outbreaks of infectious disease. Her recent work investigates Zika behavior change communication in Latin America and the Caribbean and Covid-19 vaccine communication among marginalized communities in the U.S.


Ren Harman is the Oral History Projects Archivist in Special Collections and University Archives and a member of the Stakeholders Committee for the Center for Oral History at Virginia Tech. An alumnus of Virginia Tech and for the past six years, he has been involved in several Oral History projects throughout the university and local community. As part of his position he co-founded and manages VT Stories, an Oral History Project that collects and examines stories, memories, tall tales, tragedies, and triumphs of all members of the Hokie community to help us know our shared history and to make sense of it. In this role, he manages undergraduate and graduate interns, corresponds with interviewees and schedules interviews, conducts interviews, coordinates VT Stories across campus, and supervises the development of stories.


Jason A. Higgins is a postdoctoral fellow in digital humanities and oral history, jointly affiliated with the Center for Humanities, VT Publishing, and the History Department. He earned a Ph.D. in History and a graduate certificate in Public History from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2021. Over the past ten years, he has recorded over 100 interviews with veterans and has been involved in several projects beyond his research focus. Jason is the director of the Incarcerated Veterans Oral History Project. He also led workshops with the UMass Oral History Lab and created open-access training modules designed to teach students to do oral history. He completed internships with Special Collections and University Libraries at the W.E.B. Du Bois Library and the Oklahoma Oral History Research Program.


Marian Mollin is an associate professor of history at Virginia Tech. Her research analyzes the connections between gender, protest, religion, activism, and culture. Her current book project, The Power of Faith: Understanding the Life and Death of Sister Ita Ford, is a historical biography of one of the four North American churchwomen murdered by the El Salvadoran military in December 1980.


Katrina Powell is a Professor of Rhetoric and Writing and the Director of the Center for Refugee, Migrant, and Displacement Studies. Her research focuses on displacement narratives, human rights rhetorics, identity and self-representation and performative autobiography. Her research projects include the New River Valley Refugee Research Coalition, Voice of Witness, and Virginia Training Centers (intellectual and developmental disabilities).


Emily Satterwhite is an Associate Professor and the Director of Appalachian Studies in the Department of Religion and Culture.  Her book Dear Appalachia: Readers, Identity, and Popular Fiction since 1878 (2011) won the Weatherford Award for best nonfiction about Appalachia and the Phi Beta Kappa Sturm Award honoring excellent work that is recognized as significant by a wider audience. Her oral history projects include Talking about Work and Tazewell County Oral Histories.


Jessica Taylor is a public historian in the history department. She teaches Oral History for graduate and undergraduate students and specializes in Native American history and Southern history. Her oral history projects include the Tidewater Main Street Project, Voices of Virginia Primary Source Reader, Southern Foodways Alliance, and VT150.


David Trinkle is an associate clinical professor of psychiatric medicine and Training Director of the geriatric psychiatry fellowship program at Carilion Clinic-University of Virginia Roanoke Valley Program and medical director of the Center for Healthy Aging at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital. He is the geropsychiatric consultant to the Geriatric Assessment Clinic at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital, the League of Older Americans, and numerous nursing homes in the Roanoke Valley serves as chief of staff of the Department of Psychiatry at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital. He is responsible for the Healthstorian Mobile Audio Booth.


Anthony Wright de Hernandez is the Community Collections Archivist in Special Collections in the Newman Library. He builds collections, partnerships, and pathways to original documentation about traditionally marginalized communities and other community groups and works to improve access to archival materials. His oral history projects include Denim Day and the Virginia Tech QTPOC Oral History Project.