Virginia Tech® home

Advisory Council

The Advisory Council's purpose is to focus on enhancing the regional impact of the Southwest Center by serving as a vital link between the university and the community. The members include:

Agriculture and Animal Science

  • Gene Copenhaver, Copenhaver Brothers Farm
  • John Ignosh, advanced specialist, Virginia Cooperative Extension
  • John Roberts, VCA Highlands Animal Hospital

Arts and Culture

  • Kim Davis, executive director of Friends of Southwest Virginia
  • Rene Rodgers, head curator at the The Birthplace of Country Music

Community Engagement / Innovation

Economic Development

  • Whitney Czelusniak, business and economic development manager, American Electric Power (AEP)
  • Nichole Hair, executive director of Mount Rogers Regional Partnership
  • Jenny Nichols, program director of GO Virginia Region 1
  • Will Payne, managing partner of InvestSWVA

Higher Education

  • Amy Clark, professor of communication and Appalachian studies at UVA Wise
  • Adam Hutchison, president of Virginia Highlands Community College
  • David Matlock, executive director, Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center

K-12 Education

  • Amy Price Azano, founding director of the Center for Rural Education at Virginia Tech and a professor of adolescent literacy and rural education in the School of Education
  • Dennis Carter, superintendent of Smyth County Schools
  • Keith Perrigan, superintendent of Washington County Schools


  • Emmett P. Tracy, founding dean of the Emory & Henry College School of Business


  • Richard Bishop, principal investigator for Evolve Central Appalachia project in the Virginia Tech College of Engineering
  • Will Clear, managing partner of Virginia Energy Strategies
  • Daniel Kestner, economic development program manager at Virginia Energy

Environmental Resources

  • Brad Kreps, Clinch Valley Program director at The Nature Conservancy

Government Relations

  • Duane Miller, executive director of LENOWISCO PDC
  • Shawn Utt, county administrator of Smyth County, Virginia

Health care

  • John Jeter, CEO of Bristol Regional Medical Center & Johnston Memorial Hospital
  • Sean McMurray, executive director of Wellspring Foundation


  • Lennie Gail Mitcham, executive director of the Southwest Virginia Alliance for Manufacturing, Inc.
  • John Rainero, vice president of engineering and construction at Permatile Concrete Products

Mental Health / Substance Use

  • Amelia Bandy, Rural Opioids project coordinator at Virginia Cooperative Extension

Outreach and Engagement

  • Susan E. Short, associate vice president for engagement for Virginia Tech Outreach and International Affairs


  • Kalen Hunter, senior destination development manager at Virginia Tourism

Ex Officio

  • Michael J. Quillen, Michael J. Quillen LLC