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Thinking Globally, Acting Locally

Rhizome is an interdisciplinary and mulit-generational community which is aimed at developing the skills and perspectives necessary to act on complex global challenges. Through a combination of curricular, co-curricular, and social involvement, Rhizomers begin to shape their personal, academic, and social development to help them change the world—no matter their future career! With a yearly theme based on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, Rhizome uses real-world case studies to investigate systems thinking, human-centered design, and sustainable development.

Rhizome students on a service learning trip to Plenty Farm & Food Bank.
Rhizome students on a service learning trip to Plenty! Farm & Food Bank.

Rhizome is located within Virginia Tech’s state-of-the-art Creativity and Innovation District (CID) LLC. CID residence includes access to maker spaces (including 3D printing, laser cutting, and wood and metal shops), collaborative technology, practice rooms, and other amenities to help nurture creativity. The CID is also one of VT’s Residential Colleges, which means students gain the benefit of interaction with a faculty family and additional creativity-focused programming.

Rhizome students participating in a nutrition workshop.
Rhizome students participating in a nutrition workshop.
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The word Rhizome is derived from the ancient Greek term rhizoma, which means “mass of roots.” An example of a rhizome occurring in nature is ginger root, which spreads out in all directions equally, with no part of the root subservient or necessary to any other. The Rhizome LLC takes this mode of being—all-over and non-hierarchical—as its inspiration, equipping students to see the interconnected and mutually reinforcing nature of both natural and human systems.

First-year students participating in Rhizome will enroll in two courses, both offered through the College of Architecture and Urban Studies. The first, a 1.0 credit hour course offered during the fall semester and entitled Thinking Globally, offers the theoretical and practical basis for sustainable development in a global context. The second, a 2.0 credit hour course offered in the spring, is called Acting Locally, and is centered on a rotating yearly project addressing a real-world problem in partnership with a campus and/or community partner.

The core of the Virginia Tech LLC experience is weekly traditions, and Rhizome is no exception. Rhizomers gather on Thursday evenings for community dinners, design challenges, hands-on workshops, and introductions to life on campus. Additional seminars, lectures, and field trips are arranged on a one-off basis to support the yearly theme.

Rhizome’s curricular and co-curricular learning culminates in a project based on our yearly rotating theme. Working closely with a community partner and practicing the principles of human-centered design, students provide real-world design and policy interventions to help solve complex, real-world problems using the skills and perspectives they’ve gained during the year’s study.

A partnership between VT's College of Architecture and Urban Studies and Student Affairs, Rhizome explores the roles the arts, design, construction, planning, and evidence-based policy have in shaping the built and natural environment and bringing about change. Rhizome is a vibrant academic community designed to complement undergraduate education. Students enrolled in Rhizome will learn how to analyze as well as act upon the roots, interconnections, and multidimensional character of global challenges in a yearly rotating project that integrates theory and practice.

For additional information, contact Program Director Grant Hamming at