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Q&A at the SVHEC

SoVaNow.com / March 21, 2011
Dr. Paul Winistorer

Dr. Paul Winistorer is the Dean of the College of Natural Resources and Environment at Virginia Tech. He has been at Virginia Tech for 10 years, serving as dean for the last two years, and as department head of the wood science program prior to becoming dean. Dr. Winistorfer grew up and was educated in Iowa, spent time at the University of Georgia, and 16 years at the University of Tennessee before coming to VT in the spring of 2001. Dr. Winistorfer, who describes himself as a “wood materials person by education and passion,” is right at home in the College of Natural Resources & Environment because of its focus on forestry, wildlife, fisheries, geography, water, and wood science. Dr. Winistorfer and his peers are considered to be the very best in North America at what they do.

In his role as dean, which he describes as being like the CEO of a company, Dr. Winistorfer works to get the support, connections, and funds the College of Natural Resources & Environment needs for new initiatives, equipment, staffing, and infrastructure. He also spends a great deal of time thinking about the future and how the College of Natural Resources & Environment can be successful at what they do 5-8 years from now. Dr. Winistorfer stated, “I get around the state a lot, listening to and learning about the issues faced by landowners, business owners, and individuals. I work with a great group of faculty who are teaching, conducting research on important problems and who do much outreach to all areas of the Commonwealth. I very much enjoy working in higher education and feel fortunate to have the many opportunities to interact with a wide range of people in the state.”

Question: How did you first learn about the SVHEC and what was your initial impression?
 
Dr. Winistorfer: I first learned about the SVHEC in 2006 when I visited South Boston and arranged a meeting with former director Ted Bennett and his staff.  My first impression was that these are people who want to make a difference in their community and region.  These are genuine people that I’m going to really like working with. My first impression has only been reinforced during these past years.  The people of South Boston are wonderfully genuine.  All the folks at SVHEC have been really great professionals to work with.
 
Question: How would you describe the people & resources of Southern Virginia?
 
Dr. Winistorfer: More than anywhere in Virginia, I’ve enjoyed my interactions with the people in Southern and Southwestern Virginia. The people are genuine, open, friendly, and professional—and they want to make a difference for Southern Virginia. I have been amazed and impressed with the spirit of the communities and the focus to bring resources to bear on the welfare and future of the communities. I can’t say enough about the goodness of the people in Southern Virginia. 

Question: In terms of creativity, collaboration, and innovation, how does the SVHEC compare with other organizations you’ve worked with?
 
Dr. Winistorfer: There is willingness at the SVHEC to move forward with innovative programs and ideas.  The collaboration with us at Virginia Tech has been super and I applaud the overall goals and objectives of SVHEC.  The Business of Art and Design initiative with its track in Product Design and Development, and the R&D Center for Advanced Manufacturing and Energy Efficiency are key, signature programs that hold great promise for the region. It is exciting and a real testament to creative thinking, innovation, partnering, and willingness to stake out new frontier.  To see the future is not usually easy – and that is what the leadership at the SVHEC is trying to do. I want to be a part of that vision anyway I can contribute. We have been and will continue to be partners in this effort from Virginia Tech.
 
Question: What has surprised you the most about the people and/or resources of Southern Virginia?
 
Dr. Winistorfer: I am pleasantly surprised at the support of the community and community leaders. Having support and engagement is critical for any successes at the SVHEC. The entire SVHEC leadership group has been exceptional to work with.  Knowing people on a personal level has been a real joy for me in my visits from Blacksburg – and sets a tone that lets all contribute in a positive way.  I guess you could say the culture of the SVHEC and the region is one of giving, caring, and thinking about the future.  I’m impressed and thankful I’ve been able to make connections and friendships into the region. There is a real sense of personal reward that comes from working with people in a trusting, caring, respectful way – but also in a way that builds community, partnership and commitment. 
 
Question: Are you currently working on a project, or planning for a future collaboration, with the SVHEC or others in the region?
 
Dr. Winistorfer: We have been a partner from the beginning in the vision of The Business of Art and Design, the Product Design and Development track, and the Innovation Center. We’ve worked very closely with the SVHEC during this time.  We took several road trips out of state to see other programs–and used some really good ideas of others.  These are well-thought ideas that will be successful. The SVHEC will play an important role in the Governor’s plan to award an additional 100,000 Bachelors degrees over the coming decade; all institutions of learning have a role to play in this effort. We want to continue our partnership with the SVHEC from Virginia Tech.  I look forward to the coming years and future successes as we move forward together.  I also look forward to helping create opportunities for the students and people of Southern Virginia.  Working together we can accomplish anything we set out to do – and a rising tide floats all boats – we can do more by working together than any of us could ever do working alone.

Dr. Phil Parrish

Dr. Phil Parrish is Associate Vice President for Research at the University of Virginia. In his current role he is responsible for pan-university research institutes in nanoscience technology and research (nanoSTAR), the UVA Institute on Aging, the UVA Energy Leadership Group and serves as the UVA member on the Board of Governors of UT-Battelle LLC, the managing contractor of Oak Ridge National Laboratory. He is also Principal Scientist and Director of the Intelligent Processing of Materials Laboratory in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.

Dr. Parrish holds a Ph.D. in Materials Engineering from the University of Florida, where he also earned his B.S. and M.S. degrees in Materials Engineering. Prior to joining UVA, Dr. Parrish worked in government and private industry in the advanced materials and manufacturing sectors.

Question: How did you first learn about the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center, and what were your initial impressions?

Dr. Parrish: I’ve gained a knowledge of the SVHEC and the region over the past couple of years through interactions with the Halifax Industrial Development Authority, Riverstone and the SVHEC. Over the past year, the SVHEC and UVA partnered to submit a request for proposal to the IDA to manage the Riverstone Energy Centre. They [the IDA] took a different direction but they asked both organizations to partner with them to develop that Centre. We have continued to do that, and I’ve become more familiar with the administration & staff at the SVHEC, the Halifax County IDA, and Riverstone.

I find the people to be highly professional, and I believe that they are able to move the economy of the region in a very positive direction.

Question: What made you want to partner with the SVHEC?

Dr. Parrish: I find that the kinds of research and innovation going on at UVA link very well with the interests of the people in Halifax & Southside Virginia, the SVHEC, and Riverstone. We seem to be able to easily build collaborations even though there’s a significant distance between us.

Question: In terms of creativity, collaboration, and innovation, how do the people of southern Virginia compare with others you’ve work with?

Dr. Parrish: In terms of creativity, the Halifax IDA and the Halifax Educational Foundation members I’ve met have been highly creative in their vision of how the region should develop in terms of transitioning from tobacco, textile & furniture-based manufacturing to advanced manufacturing of advanced products, as well as in professional services. I think that’s shown in the effort that’s been put forth in the Innovation Center, and in the people who have been brought in to lead the SVHEC, including Betty Adams, Patty Nelson, and David Kenealy. David has been particularly helpful in establishing the vision for an affordable energy efficient housing initiative working, in conjunction with Riverstone and several industrial organizations in the region.

Question: What do you think of the region’s resources?

Dr. Parrish: One thing I really like about the region are all of the amenities that are being developed such as nice restaurants, the Prizery, the really attractive building systems at Riverstone and those that have been renovated where the SVHEC is located. They’re all remarkable examples of revitalization of the region.

Question: What are you currently working on with people in Southern Virginia?

Dr. Parrish: We’re working on establishing an affordable energy efficient housing initiative [An SVHEC R&D Center of Advanced Manufacturing & Energy Efficiency initiative]. We’re working with Cardinal Homes, a company in Wylliesburg that builds home systems, SIPS of America in Blairs, and the Coatings Center that’s being developed at Riverstone. If funded, the project will enable Southside Virginia to establish a leading center in the manufacture of affordable energy efficient housing systems. It will also help us at UVA to physically locate some UVA architecture and engineering graduate & undergraduate students in the region so they can be locally situated and work directly with the project. We look forward to that. We are also part of the team (along with Dominion Virginia Power and a battery manufacturer) which was selected by the Tobacco Commission to establish a large solar farm and associated battery production facility in Halifax County. We look forward to these and other projects in which capabilities at UVA can be matched up with those in the region to strengthen its economy, and to building a stronger relationship in workforce training and education with the SVHEC.


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