The Center for Communicating Science

  • Provides learning opportunities such as workshops and courses in which tools from the arts are used to help participants learn to connect and communicate across differences, whether those differences be based on education level, academic discipline, research specialty, race, culture, religion, or others.
  • Provides opportunities for those interested in communicating science to connect and work together.
  • Serves as a clearinghouse for communicating science resources at Virginia Tech.
  • Serves as a training ground for post-MFAs from programs around the country who wish to learn to apply their theatre and performance training to transdisciplinary areas.

The work of the center embraces the principle of theater educator Viola Spolin (1999), who stated, "If the environment permits it, anyone can learn whatever he or she chooses to learn; and if the individual permits it, the environment will teach everything it has to teach."  The center creates, supports, and promotes environments and opportunities for participatory learning that leads to communication that is direct, personal, spontaneous, and responsive.  Improvisation, storytelling, creative problem solving, and imaginative exercises are shared through student, faculty, and stakeholder workshops, seminars, courses, web resources, and professional development events.

We are committed to the heart of the concept “Hands On, Minds On.” Embodied learning is learning that lasts. Experimentation, awareness of others, and providing a safe space to take risks all help to open connections between people. Training in improvisational skills fosters successful collaborations. Participants pay close attention, listen and observe deeply, and accept and build on others' actions and offerings while staying flexible and open. Creative investment, freedom, and unconventional approaches to problem solving ignite participants’ imaginations and open paths to effective thinking. Arts practices help participants develop confidence, allow them to learn to fail, and encourage them to follow failure with risk. These are the skills that leaders, scholars, and scientists urgently need to connect the public with their important work—and to connect with one another.

This is the Center's logo

"When you improvise, you are putting your best listening into practice; you are actively engaged in empathy; you are creating and re-creating human behaviors. Put another way, you are fine-tuning the part of your brain that allows you to read a room and interpret information as you receive it."

-- Kelly Leonard and Tom Yorton, Yes, And 

"I think the biggest thing that the class conveyed so far is the importance of being fully present in the situation that I'm in. It's so easy to be distracted by things that are not only not present, but are also often completely out of my control."

--Industrial and Systems Engineering graduate student

"Thank you for pushing us outside of our comfort zones and challenging us. It has definitely made an impact in my life, of making me more willing to test unknown waters and more confident in the process."  

--Computer Engineering graduate student

"Although we usually think about writing as a mode of 'telling' about the social world, writing is not just a mopping-up activity at the end of a research project. Writing is also a way of 'knowing'—a method of discovery and analysis. I write because I want to find something out, I write in order to learn something that I didn’t know before I wrote it."

--Laurel Richardson, 1994