Our workshop experiences have reached more than 2,000 participants

As word got out that this approach to connection, collaboration, and communication was available (and effective and fun!), requests for workshops started popping up. And as graduate students completed the course, often they requested workshops for their labs or graduate student clubs. Over the past five years we have responded to requests from the following departments and groups.

Dean of the Graduate School Karen DePauw's commitment to the "improvisation for scientists" approach to improving communication led her to incorporate a three-hour workshop into her Preparing the Future Professoriate (PFP) graduate course. This introduction to the importance of communicating with people outside one's specialty--and to the improv approach--has now been presented to 13 PFP cohorts, once each semester since Fall 2011 when Center Director Patty Raun had just returned from the Alan Alda Center weeklong summer institute.

In 2013 Center Director Patty Raun participated in Virginia Tech's TEDx event, and she took the opportunity to develop a talk on one of her favorite subjects: transformational empathy. In a world of increasing social isolation, empathy is on the decline, studies show. A balance between analytic thinking and empathetic thinking, Patty argued in her talk, is essential to making the important decisions that will shape the future of our world. How can we achieve that? "I believe that arts education and practice can help us rebalance our society," Patty declared from the TEDx stage. "No tool is more important to our survival than the desire to see through someone else's eyes."

You can watch the talk here.

11/1/2017 Landscape architecture/Architecture PhD Colloquium series (Writing for a Variety of Audiences) 

10/24/2017 Nutshell Games prep workshop

10/20/2017 Science Festival exhibitors' workshop (Improvisation for Scientists)

10/4/2017 and 10/11/2017 John Matson Chemistry Research Group (Improvisation for Scientists; Collaboration)

4/20/2017 A. Morris Chemistry Research Group (Improvisation for Scientists)

2/28/2017 Nutshell Games prep workshop 

12/6/2016 Women in Geosciences (Improvisation for Scientists)

8/31/2016 Research a la Mode (Improvisation for Scientists)

8/9/2016 Plant Physiology, Pathology, and Weed Science (Communicating Science)

7/5/2016 Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise (Communicating Science: Interpersonal Communication)

4/27/2016 Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology (Communicating Science: Improvisation and Metaphor)

4/4/2016 Graduate School Professional Development Series (Distilling Your Message)

3/4/2016 Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences (Improv for Scientists; Distilling Your Message)

2/26/2016 Engineering Education (Improv for Engineers: Connecting with Others)

11/2/2015 Psychology Graduate Student Club (Communicating Science: Collaboration)

9/9/2015 Research a la Mode (Communicating Science: Improv for Scientists)

2/25/2015 Translational Biology, Medicine, and Health (Communicating Science: Improvisation)

2/3/2015 Renewable Materials Research Group (Communicating Science: Improvisation)

5/6/2014 VT Carilion Medical School (Patient-Centered Communication: Empathy)

2/18/2014 IGEPs (Communicating Scholarship: Personal, Direct, Spontaneous, Responsive Communication)

12/5/2013 Waste Water Lab (Communicating Science: Improvisation)

10/18/2013 Graduate student policy group (Communicating Science; Distilling Your Message)

11/30/2012 Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise (Communicating Science: Interpersonal Interaction)

Originally aimed at graduate students, the communicating science work we do is spreading into undergraduate programs and associations. Below is a list of recent undergraduate student workshops we've provided.

10/20/2017 Science Festival exhibitors' workshop (Improvisation for Scientists)

10/4/2017 and 10/11/2017 John Matson chemistry research group (Improvisation for Scientists; Collaboration)

7/23/2017 through 8/12/2017 German Fulbright Summer Institute for 24 German undergraduate students (Communicating Science: Communication, Collaboration, and Connection across Differences and Disciplines)

7/19/2017 Undergraduate Summer Research Seminar Series (Poster Presentations)

7/5/2017 Undergraduate Summer Research Seminar Series (Introduction to Improvisation for Scientists) 

4/20/2017 A. Morris Chemistry Research Group (Improvisation for Scientists)

4/10/2017 Introduction to ICAT honors colloquiam (Risk, Fail, Risk)

11/2/2016 Undergraduate researchers seminar (Effective Presentations)

9/27/2016 Galipatia engineering students (Risk/Fail/Risk, for K-12 outreach)

7/13/2016 Undergraduate Summer Research Seminar Series (Effective Poster Presentations)

7/6/2016 Undergraduate Summer Research Seminar Series (Communicating Science: Intro to Improv)

4/19/2016 Iranian Student Association (Communicating across Difference: Connection/Improvisation)


Once the Communicating Science graduate course and workshops were underway, Center Director Patty Raun was approached by faculty members from the Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability (CLiGS) and soon found herself helping to provide communication, collaboration, and leadership training to students in the College of Natural Resources and Environment's Executive Master of Natural Resources (XMNR) program in Virginia Tech's National Capitol Region. Since 2013, she has provided course content for the program. 

We hope to spread this approach--using tools from the arts to help people connect and communicate more effectively--beyond the university campus. Here is a sampling of workshops and events we've been invited to facilitate or participate in "off campus" or that have brought non-university folks here:

2/26/2018 "An Evening with Science Comedian Brian Malow," Anne and Ellen Fife Theatre, Moss Arts Center (589 in audience)

2/26/2018 "A Science Comedian's Guide to Communicating Science," Vet-Med Commons, Virginia/Maryland School of Veterinary Medicine (75-100 in audience)

2/25/2018 "The Role of the University in an Era of Science Skepticism and 'Fake News,'" Anne and Ellen Fife Theatre, Moss Arts Center (panel discussion, 175 in audience)

1/22/2018 Science on Tap, New River Valley (Kwame Harrison: "Experiencing Blackness in Defiantly White Spaces--in a Car")

11/27/2017 Science on Tap, New River Valley (Jake Socha: Flying and gliding creatures)

11/14/2017 Strengthening Your Communication Skills: Exercises to Build Rapport (presentation at the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry North America 38th Annual Meeting, Minneapolis, MN)

10/23/2017 Science on Tap, New River Valley (Marcella Kelly research group: Camera traps and poop)

10/20/2017 Science Festival exhibitors workshop (Improvisation for Scientists)

9/25/2017 Science on Tap, New River Valley (Abi Tyson: Football helmet safety)

9/16/17 interactive session at CESTEMER 2017, Chicago (Cultivating Ensembles in STEM Education and Research)

9/15/17 keynote address at the national conference of the Educational Theatre Association, September 15, Nashville

8/28/17 Science on Tap, New River Valley (Marc Stern: How to build trust)

7/22/17 through 8/12/17  German Fulbright summer institute: "Communicating Science: Communication, Collaboration, and Connection Across Differences and Disciplines" 

5/6/2017 Science on Tap, New River Valley (Caitlin Colleary, Anza Mitchell, Max Ragozzino: paleontology, engineering, insects)

5/1/2017  Communicating Science: Intro to Improv workshop at the Mid-Atlantic Mitosis Meetings, American Association for Cell Biology 

4/24/2017 Science on Tap, New River Valley (Bill Hopkins: Hellbenders) 

4/12-14/2017 Invited residency at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point (Communicating across Difference; Leadership; Empathy; and Connection)

2/27/2017 Workshop for Virginia Tech Global Change Center faculty (Introduction to Improvisation for Scientists) 

2/22-23/2017 workshop for Virginia Chapter of the Wildlife Society (Communicating Science: The Art of Connecting across Difference)

10/3/2016 Southwest Virginia STEM Summit  (Communicating Science: Games for Classrooms)

7/7/2016 University San Francisco di Quito (Ecuador) (Communicating Science: Improvisation)

3/30/2016 AACCS/Pew Research (Distilling Your Message)

3/29/2016 AACCS/Pew Research (Improvisation for Scientists)

11/6/2015 A2RU (Assessing Transdisciplinary Work: Panel/Effective Assessment)

10/20/2015 Virginia Science Festival (Improvisation for Scientists)

6/28/2015 United Methodist Church (Audience Engagement: Communication for Liturgists and Clergy)

1/10/2012 Blacksburg High School National History Day (Effective Presentations: Effective Audience Contact)








This is a photograph of a group of students

Three chemistry graduate students received a warm Hokie welcome when they traveled to Eastern Middle School in Giles County to talk to sixth graders about polymer chemistry.

Undergrad 6

Twenty Virginia Tech Galipatia members, sophomores majoring in engineering, played games that help participants celebrate mistakes, take risks, risk again after failing, and keep the group action going.