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In memoriam: Craig Leonard Brians, associate professor of political science, College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences

BLACKSBURG – Craig Leonard Brians, associate professor of political science in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences at Virginia Tech, died at home surrounded by his family Sunday, Nov. 10. He was 51.

Brians is survived by his wife, Jessica Folkart, an associate professor in foreign languages and literatures, and four children.

A member of the faculty since 1998, Brians taught undergraduate and graduate courses in American politics, elections, political communication, public opinion, and political science research methods, and assisted in the college’s First Year Experience course. He also served as associate chair of the department for several years.

“Craig Brians was an exemplary colleague whose love of teaching, devotion to the craft of social science research, and commitment to political science education helped make each one of his courses here at the university outstanding,” said Tim Luke, chair of the Department of Political Science.

Brians’ research analyzed communication and political behavior. He also studied how people acquire, utilize, and retain information. His research interests covered a broad scope; for example, he examined how knowledge of polling place data affect voter turnout, identified the teaching techniques that help students seek and use information more efficiently, clarified the mechanisms through which students benefit from using clickers in large classes, and researched differences in information collection and retention from print and digital media.

Pursuing his decades-long commitment to research methods, Brians was the principal author of “Empirical Political Analysis.” He also published articles in the American Political Science Review, American Journal of Political Science, Presidential Studies Quarterly, Public Choice, Political Research Quarterly, Journal of Political Science Education, and other leading journals.

Brians provided interpretation of elections and political behavior to media as diverse as the Los Angeles Times, FoxNews.com, the Boston Globe, Al Jazeera English, and WDBJ-7 TV. Additionally, he provided live election-night commentary on the Virginia NPR affiliate, WVTF-FM, most recently last week.

Honored with the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences’ Diversity Award last year, Brians had also been the recipient of the Excellence in Undergraduate Research Mentoring Award as well as a Certificate of Teaching Excellence.

A favorite among students, Brians also received the Professor of the Year Award from the Political Science Club.

“Many students – both those currently enrolled and former graduates working in academe, government, and private industry – have told us this week that he was an important figure in their lives and a crucial influence in their decisions to become social scientists,” said Luke.

Brians completed his bachelor’s degree from the California State University, Fresno, and a master’s degree and Ph.D. from the University of California, Irvine.

A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 14, at Luther Memorial Lutheran Church, 600 Prices Fork Road in Blacksburg. Visitation will be held on Wednesday from 5-7 p.m. at McCoy Funeral Home, 150 Country Club Dr. S.W. in Blacksburg.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to either the Blacksburg Interfaith Food Pantry or WVTF.

Those in the university community who may wish assistance or desire counseling support may contact:

Cook Counseling Center at 540-231-6557

Dean of Students Office at 540-231-3787

Office of Residence Life at 540-231-6205

Human Resources / Hokie Wellness at 540-231-9331

Employee Assistance Program / Anthem at 855-223-9277

Employee Assistance Program / Aetna at 888-238-6232

Employee Assistance Program / Kaiser Permanente at 866-517-7042

Referrals to a campus cleric may be done through the Dean of Students Office at 540-231-3787.

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