The Virginia Tech Water Study Research Team that exposed lead in drinking water during the Flint, Michigan, water crisis is a regional winner of the 2018 Kellogg Foundation Community Engagement Scholarship Award. One of four regional winners, the team is now a finalist for the C. Peter Magrath Community Engagement Scholarship Award.

The national award winner will be announced in November at the annual meeting of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU).

University Distinguished Professor Marc Edwards, of the Charles E. Via Jr. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, led the team. A two-minute recap of the team’s work can be viewed here:

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In announcing the award, APLU emphasized community partnerships such as Virginia Tech’s, which involved community activist LeeAnne Walters; Mona Hanna-Attisha, Hurley Medical Center pediatrician; and residents of Flint who mobilized at town hall and other meetings. Virginia Tech students distributed test kits and created a video to show residents how to test for lead.

“Community engagement is at the heart of public universities’ mission,” APLU President Peter McPherson said. “We congratulate this year’s Magrath Award finalists and exemplary designees. What sets their community engagement efforts apart is their exceptional partnerships with community organizations to identify, address, and overcome challenges facing their regions.”

The team’s work in uncovering the facts about lead in Flint’s drinking-water supply helped expose a nationwide problem, with experts estimating that cast-iron pipes in more than 600 communities are more than 100 years old and as many as 10 million older pipes may pose a hazard similar to Flint’s. In April, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded Virginia Tech, along with three other universities, $1.9 million to work with consumers and citizen scientists to detect and control lead in drinking water.

Guru Ghosh, vice president of Outreach and International Affairs at Virginia Tech, said, “All of us at Virginia Tech are deeply proud of Marc Edwards – his scientific prowess, his students’ expertise, and their collective commitment to the advancement of citizen science – in carrying out the values of Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) to serve communities. What the Flint Water Study Research Team accomplished embodies everything that is unique about Virginia Tech faculty members who not only deploy their own scientific knowledge, but also engage students to create a more resilient society.”

Earlier this year, Edwards was awarded the 2018 Scientific Freedom and Responsibility Award by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The three other regional winners of the 2018 Kellogg Foundation Community Engagement Scholarship Award are Ball State University, the University of Florida, and Texas Tech University.

Since 2007, APLU and the Engagement Scholarship Consortium, with support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, have partnered to honor the engagement, scholarship, and partnerships of four-year public universities. The award recognizes programs that demonstrate how colleges and universities have redesigned their learning, discovery, and engagement missions to become even more involved with their communities. The national award, which includes a sculpture and a $20,000 prize, is named for C. Peter Magrath, APLU president from 1992 to 2005. The three other regional winners will each receive a cash prize of $5,000 to further their engagement work.

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