Volume 8 (2020)


Dear readers, authors, and reviewers,

We are filled with equal parts excitement and gratitude to share the 8th volume of the VA Engage Journal (VAEJ) of student scholarship with you. Each piece herein is a testimony to the deep learning and commitment to meaningful social action taking place at institutions of higher learning throughout the Commonwealth in matters related to democratic engagement, civic health, individual responsibility, and Service-Learning. This year’s collection also bears witness to the unique tenacity of our student authors, who are eager to participate in meaningful reflection and discourse in spite of, and in many instances due to, the disturbing effects of COVID-19 on their lives, their communities, and their futures. Thanks to each of our authors for trusting VAEJ with your ideas, sharing your work with our readers, and participating in this discourse community.

As we’ve settled into our editorial roles with the journal, we’ve both become increasingly mindful of the incredible opportunity and responsibility we have to make this publication process a meaningful learning and professional development experience for our authors. Our work has evolved to place increased emphasis on cultivating the scholarly identity and voice of our authors, because we share the conviction that this is the most meaningful aspiration of the journal. While maintaining a regular publication cycle and growing a vast readership are certainly among our ambitions for VAEJ, what makes this work worthwhile is fostering what David Kolb (1984) called “abstract conceptualization.” Likely the most challenging phase in the cycle of critical reflection, we are appreciative that the journal is a vehicle to facilitate authors’ ability to abstractly and concretely integrate their positions and experiences with theory and the opinions of others.

Just when it seemed the issues facing the globe could not get more daunting and the challenges no more vexing, the COVID-19 epidemic began. We already knew we needed the cognitive complexity that results from critical reflection and Articulated Learning (Ash & Clayton, 2009), but this crisis has highlighted the importance of exhibiting critical thinking skills and the necessity to effectively exercise our voices in the pursuit of social justice.

Within this frame of reference, it has truly been an honor to witness the growth of each of our authors this season, and in an effort to provide readers with a glimpse of this process, each of our authors has composed a brief introduction to accompany their article. We hope you will enjoy reading a bit about the context in which these pieces were created, and that it might inspire you to nudge another student scholar to consider publication with VAEJ.

Finally, the evolution of these manuscripts from initial draft to polished article would not have been possible without the input of our dedicated reviewers. We value their insights and subject matter expertise, and we see evidence of their critical contributions in every published piece. Thank you for providing feedback and challenging our authors to produce stronger, more cohesive and compelling arguments. The integrity of each article owes much to these first readers and their challenging questions and critiques.

As we begin to review the next set of submissions for Volume 9 of the journal, we are heartened by the commitment of our colleagues, students, and communities across the Commonwealth to integrate a diversity of knowledge and voices to address issues of fairness, justice, and sustainability.

Steve Grande, James Madison University and Emily Kohl, Washington and Lee University
Editors of VA Engage Journal

Ash, S. L., & Clayton, P. H. (2009). Generating, deepening, and documenting learning: The power of critical reflection in applied learning. Journal of Applied Learning in Higher Education, 1, 25-48.
Kolb, David. A. (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. Prentice Hall.

Critical Reflections on Engagement

Review of Literature and Practice

Profiles of Practice