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2021 College of Architecture and Urban Studies Awards

Each year in April the college celebrates the achievements of it faculty, staff and students with awards who are nominated by their peers and voted on by the college’s Honorifics Committee and allied units in the university. Unfortunately due to the pandemic we are unable to host and in-person event, and therefore invite you to applaud our colleagues virtually. Below are the CAUS award recipients as well as ones who received recognition at the university level. There are excerpts from their nominators. Congratulations to all!

CAUS Certificate for Excellence in Teaching

Aleksandra Graff
Building Construction
Myers-Lawson School of Construction

Aleksandra’s nominators had this to say:

  • Aleksandra is an indispensable faculty member who brings the reality of construction to the classroom early in students’ course of study at both the undergraduate and graduate levels by being responsible for five key courses in the curriculum.
  • She brings the richness of perspectives of the heavy civil and industrial sectors to the Department of Building Construction, which has historically been far more focused on vertical construction and real estate development.
  • She also coaches the regional and national BC competition teams, which compete in categories of heavy civil, green building, concrete, and project management.
  • Congratulations Aleksandra!

CAUS Certificate for Excellence in Teaching

Theo Lim
Urban Affairs and Planning
School of Public and International Affairs

Theo’s nominators had this to say:

  • Theo was part of a cluster hire for the Policy and Data Decisions Destinations Areas and became a part of the UAP/SPIA faculty in January of 2019.
  • His classroom environment nurtures harmonious relationships, compelling collaboration between novice learners and experienced students, ultimately fostering an expansion of skill sets for all.
  • He shows his students that those within the planning field can and should be radical advocates for social justice issues.
  • Congratulations Theo!

CAUS Certificate for Excellence in Outreach

Jonas Hauptman
Industrial Design
School of Architecture + Design

Jonas’s nominators had this to say:

  • Jonas has consistently and successfully applied his digital fabrication and new materials research efforts toward a goal of developing sustainable building products. His approach focuses on offering alternatives to harmful and unsustainable design practices by combining traditional ideas of craft and design with non-toxic, renewable, and environmentally sustainable materials.
  • He has also used his design and fabrication skills to assist the Blacksburg New School with their fundraising efforts.
  • Congratulations Jonas!

CAUS Certificate for Excellence in Outreach

Andrew McCoy
Building Construction
Myers-Lawson School of Construction

Andrew’s nominators had this to say:

  • Andrew is responsible for a University Center whose mission is outreach – to serve as a resource to policy makers, communities, and businesses for research-based information and technical assistance. 
  • He has committed his career to implementing a research agenda that will address and find solutions to the most critical housing needs of the Commonwealth and the nation.
  • His peers awarded him Engineering New Record’s 2014 “Top 20 under 40” for the Mid-Atlantic. 
  • He was also selected by the Virginia Housing Coalition for the 2015 Commonwealth of Virginia Game Changer Award for his work on the “Impact of Energy Efficient Design and Construction on LIHTC Housing in Virginia” grat and report.
  • Congratulations Andrew!

CAUS Certificate for Excellence in Scholarship

Aki Ishida
School of Architecture + Design

Aki’s nominators had this to say:

  • In Aki’s book, Blurred Transparencies in Contemporary Glass Architecture, she successfully blends her world-class practice experience as an architect with her scholarly activities bridging between often opposed realms of practice and theory.
  • The main chapters of the book are devoted to six seminal buildings each of which brings out a different theme related to transparency – matter, mirror, “glass ceilings”, liquidity, impermanence and quasi-transparency.
  • Her work is a very significant, scholarly and professional contribution demonstrating her emergent maturity as an important scholar in her field.
  • Congratulations Aki!

CAUS Certificate for Excellence in Scholarship

Nazila Roofgari-Esfahan
Building Construction
Myers-Lawson School of Construction

Nazila’s nominators had this to say:

  • Nazila has demonstrated exemplary research and creative scholarship at Virginia Tech for almost four years.
  • She is leading eight major research projects to date in the area of highway worker safety and training, human-centered smart academic buildings, AR/VR to improve construction productivity and training, human-centered design, and worker situation awareness.
  • She has authored 22 book chapters and papers published and forthcoming in leading journals and conferences in the field during her timer here.
  • Congratulations Nazila!

CAUS Certificate for Creative Achievement

Eric Standley
School of Visual Arts

Eric’s nominators had this to say:

  • Eric’s latest body of work is currently on view in New York City’s Chelsea Gallery District at Dinner Gallery. This alone, an exhibition at an established Chelsea Gallery, is quite an accomplishment in today’s art world.
  • His current success inspires not only the many students with whom he has worked, but enhances the school’s reputation.
  • His exhibition in the nexus of the international art world, along with his growing list of solo shows internationally, cements his achievements professionally and spotlights Virginia Tech’s growing reputation as an educational hub for Art + Technology.
  • Congratulations Eric!

CAUS Certificate for Creative Achievement

Jonas Hauptman
Industrial Design
School of Architecture + Design

Jonas’s nominators had this to say:

  • Jonas’s work, is nearly always conducted in collaboration with experts in other disciplines including faculty sustainable biomaterials and bamboo farmers, aims to achieve net positive impact on the environment while responding to human needs.
  • His research contributes to new possibilities in sustainable building materials by seeking new fabrication techniques and applications for bamboo and other sustainable biomaterials.
  • His team’s research has been presented and published in the proceedings of the 2019 Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture (ACADIA) Conference and recognized with a Runner Up for the 2019 Autodesk ACADIA Emerging Research Award.
  • Congratulations Jonas!

CAUS Diversity Recognition Award

Cecily Rodriguez
Center for Public Administration and Policy
School of Public and International Affairs

Cecily’s nominators had this to say:

  • Cecily has spent over four hours teaching future city, county, and town leaders on the importance of diversity and inclusion and was able to communicate in clear terms how to implement policies in local government.
  • She brings her own struggles and faults to her discussion, which makes it easier to relate to and learn from.
  • Congratulations Cecily!

CAUS Certificate for Career Achievement

Ralph Buehler
Urban Affairs and Planning
School of Public and International Affairs

Ralph’s nominators had this to say:

  • Ralph has been an international leader in research on sustainable transportation policy and in research on bicycling. This year this leadership culminated in his co-edited book policy “Cycling for Sustainable Cities” (MIT Press). The book is already selling very well.
  • The Web of Science ranks five of his papers as ‘highly cited papers’ – with enough citations to place them in the top 1% of the academic field by publication year.
  • A new article published in October 2020 has already been viewed 2,166 times.
  • Congratulations Ralph!

CAUS Outstanding Administrative & Professional Faculty/Staff Award

Renee Ryan
Myers-Lawson School of Construction

Renee’s nominators had this to say:

  • Renee has conceptualized and designed the Myers-Lawson Professional Program. It’s great because of its ability to bring industry to the classroom even as it provides new ways to bring the classroom to industry.
  • She has identified key industry needs and then brought together the necessary expertise and resources to develop an online platform for professional education.
  • She has developed marketing plans to drive awareness through social media-targeted marketing to the program.
  • She is currently managing negotiations with another large construction firm for customized content.
  • Congratulations Renee!

CAUS Outstanding Administrative & Professional Faculty/Staff Award

Erin Poff
College of Architecture and Urban Studies

Erin’s nominators had this to say:

  • Erin Poff developed the information and organization for the InsideCAUS dashboard and substantially expanded the transparency of CAUS financial and other important information.
  • The InsideCAUS dashboard provides personalized fixed assets information, internal policies and procedures, as well as information related to academics, research, and diversity and inclusion. This has dramatically improved the percentage of reporting for equipment, yielding more funds for the college.
  • Congratulations Erin!

Elizabeth Roberson Staff Excellence Award

Ann Lee
Myers-Lawson School of Construction

Ann’s nominators had this to say:

  • Ann is an academic advisor in the CEM program and she has demonstrated outstanding service, unwavering professionalism, and a kind and caring attitude toward all in CAUS.
  • She has received “Advisor of the Month within the Office of Undergraduate Advising” recognition in 2019-2020 and 2020-2021, nominated by both colleagues and students.
  • Since joining she has increased student enrollment and interest in the major and she has made a huge difference in MLSOC.
  • She also leads a meal program for colleagues who recently had babies to provide meals for them now that their families are not around due to the pandemic.
  • Congratulations Ann!

University Awards

The college’s Honorifics Committee in collaboration with the university’s Academy of Teaching Excellence, Center for Outreach and International Affairs, Alumni Association, Student Affairs and the Graduate School celebrate these CAUS awardees, who received their respective certificates in separate ceremonies. Congratulations to all!

William E. Wine Award for Teaching Excellence

Lisa Tucker
Interior Design
School of Architecture + Design

This award is decided by the Academy of Teaching Excellence

Lisa’s nominators had this to say:

  • Lisa exemplifies the qualities of a multifaceted faculty member and teacher at Virginia Tech, representing and serving the needs of students while leading a nationally-ranked professional program in interior design.
  • Her book which focuses on sustainable building systems and construction, won the American Society of Interior Designer’s Polsky Prize for outstanding academic contribution.
  • She has received numerous teaching awards and recognitions since joining Virginia Tech in 2007, such as Most Admired Design Educator for 2018, 2019, and 2020.
  • Congratulations Lisa!

University Certificate for Excellence in Teaching

Edward Becker
School of Architecture + Design

Edward’s nominators had this to say:

  • Edward is a fine architect who has the gift of bringing his love of architecture to life for young aspiring architects. He has the rare ability to bring forth from his students high quality, engaging work that helps propel them forward successfully in multiple trajectories. 
  • His secret weapon is his ability to creatively and productively mine the intersections of practice, research, and pedagogy in service of his students, the art and science of architecture, and the greater community.
  • Congratulations Edward!

College Award for Outreach Excellence

Mary Beth Dunkenberger
Institute for Policy and Governance
School of Public and International Affairs

This award is given by the Center for Outreach and International Affairs.

Mary Beth’s nominators had this to say:

  • Mary Beth has done a remarkable job assembling an interdisciplinary university team to work closely with an equally complex cadre of community organizations to develop and deliver an innovative and broadly gauged array of support services for the drug addicted in our region, even despite the exigencies of the pandemic.
  • VT and community partners will now cooperate in providing additional services to this and other at-risk populations in our region.
  • Thanks to her efforts, individuals in our region are being offered a continued chance to live daily.
  • Congratulations Mary Beth!

Outstanding Recent Alumni Award

Christina Lidwin
Creative Technologies
School of Visual Arts

This award is given by the Alumni Association.

Christina’s nominators had this to say:

  • Christina is the embodiment of an education in which Arts and Technology are brought together.
  • She is a User Experience Engineer for Google Maps, using her background in design and software engineering to push the boundaries of cartographic – and navigation-based user interface design through prototyping.
  • She is a talented and driven individual, who, in the short time since graduating, has already established a successful career at Google – and she uses her current position to help raise others up.
  • Congratulations Christina!

Outstanding Recent Graduate Alumni Award

Carolina Dayer and Jon Foote
School of Architecture + Design

This award is given by the Alumni Association

Carolina’s nominators had this to say:

  • Carolina is the Design Editor of the Journal of Architectural Education, the field’s shared voice. Her work is dedicated to exploring and thinking through the ways that architects design.

Jon’s nominators had this to say:

  • As Associate Professor at Aarhus School of Architecture in Denmark, Jon received a major long-term grant to research the “Material Imagination: Reconnecting with the Matter of Architecture” for which he chose to study Greenland marble.


  • Jonathan and Carolina, who married while students at VT, are exceptional in making the most of the values and inquiries that they began while students at VT.
  • Together, on another continent, they span across the wide field of architecture and bring VT values in their own ways to a new generation.
  • Congratulations Carolina and Jon!

Outstanding Senior (4th or 5th Year Undergraduate)

Gates Breeden
School of Architecture + Design

Gates’s nominators had this to say:

  • Gates performs strong academically, with a 3.9 GPA. As an honors student he has pursued undergraduate research and secured numerous internships while at Virginia Tech.
  • With the studio hybrid model as a result of the pandemic, he came forward and volunteered to organize some of his peers to assist with studio move-in.
  • He has served as the President of Alpha Rho Chi and CAUS ambassador, since the spring of 2017, 
  • Congratulations Gates!

Outstanding Graduate Student

Lydia Gilmer
Urban and Regional Planning
School of Public and International Affairs

Lydia’s nominators had this to say:

  • Lydia is currently a student in our MURP program, and previously completed the Smart and Sustainable CIties (SSC) undergraduate program.
  • Professionally, she is already working in a related field as a Small Business Solutions Specialist with the Pulaski County, Virginia Economic Development Authority.
  • She is also a very active volunteer in the community. She is a Student Mentor with the Blacksburg Refugee Partnership. As an undergraduate, she made genuinely innovative contributions as the President of the Mozaiko Living-Learning Community. That relationship has continued, as she now serves on Mozaiko’s advisory board.
  • Congratulations Lydia!

Outstanding Doctoral Student

Drew Barnes
Environmental Design and Planning
Myers-Lawson School of Construction

Drew’s nominators had this to say:

  • When exposed to affordable housing studies and research, Drew quickly learned housing data analytics, housing technology and innovation. He then asked to go beyond the work and requested that he be allowed to create new courses in the BC curriculum on these topics. His SPOT scores for these courses had a mean score of 5.67.
  • His research agenda, and his potential as a teacher, will drive our future thinking in education.
  • Congratulations Drew!

Outstanding Dissertation

Kaiwen Chen
Environmental Design and Planning
Myers-Lawson School of Construction

Kaiwen’s nominators had this to say:

  • Kaiwen’s research draws upon a bioinspired approach to reduce the data intensity of conventional automated approaches to building facade inspection, which is a challenging task to complete using humans due to safety concerns. Her approach significantly reduces required computing resources and improves accuracy and efficiency of anomaly detection.
  • She is an outstanding, insightful colleague, who contributes creatively to scientific discussions, while inspiring others with her enthusiasm for research and inquiry.
  • Congratulations Kaiwen!

Outstanding Mentor

Annie Pearce
Building Construction
Myers-Lawson School of Construction

Annie’s nominators had this to say:

  • Annie has co-chaired committees investigating Academic Bullying and Graduate Student Mental Health at the University level , resulting in reports that have led to significant investments in the processes and infrastructure at the Graduate School.
  • Her commitment to graduate student mental health following her own personal health struggles has started to bear fruit at a time when the university and community at large desperately need help with this issue. 
  • She is always pushing her students to grow and several have elected to pursue nontraditional career paths that better align with their personal strengths and passions.
  • Congratulations Annie!

CAUS Faculty and Staff Service Recognition