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Rhizome

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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 an interdisciplinary and multi-generational community that 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 participating in a nutrition workshop.
Rhizome students participating in a nutrition workshop.

Rhizome Teams

Rhizome students serve on the following teams, which are led by returning students, meeting once or twice a month to plan and execute their unique contributions to the community.

Rhizome ambassadors are responsible for sharing Rhizome with their peers across campus—and beyond. In addition to tabling at Hokie Focus, they give tours, participate in information sessions, and plan Weeks of Welcome events for new Rhizomers.

The events/social team helps the program director plan events, including selecting menus for community dinners, setting up and breaking down programs, and planning and executing student-originated programs.

The social media/documentary Team attends Rhizome events, taking photographs for the community’s records. It also manages Rhizome’s Instagram and other social media accounts, posting to both publicize and commemorate events.

Rhizome’s peer mentors work closely with the program director and student leaders to make sure first year students are well acclimated to life in Rhizome and at Virginia Tech. They conduct check-in meetings with first-year students, as well as serving as guides and sounding boards for questions about life in college.

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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. We equip 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, Arts, and Design. Thinking Globally is a 1.0 credit hour course offered during the fall semester; it offers the theoretical and practical basis for sustainable development in a global context. Acting Locally is a 2.0 credit hour course offered in the spring; it is centered on a rotating yearly project that addresses 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 to support the yearly theme.

Rhizome’s curricular and co-curricular learning culminates in a project based on the annual 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.

Rhizome is located in Virginia Tech’s state-of-the-art Creativity and Innovation District (CID) living learning community. The 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. As a Virginia Tech Residential College, students interact with a faculty family and participate in additional creativity-focused programming.

Rhizome is a partnership between VT's College of Architecture, Arts, and Design and the Office of Student Affairs. Members of the community explore the roles that visual and performing arts, design and architecture, and planning and evidence-based policy have in shaping the built and natural environment, informing evidence-based policy and planning, fostering communities, and bringing about change. Rhizome is a vibrant academic community designed to complement undergraduate education. Students enrolled in Rhizome 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 rhizome@vt.edu.