Meet the CENTAUR Team

Virginia Buechner-Maxwell

Dr. Virginia Buechner-Maxwell

Dr. Virginia Buechner-Maxwell, professor and large animal internal medicine specialist in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, was appointed director of the Center for Animal Human Relationships in June 2016. Prior to her appointment, she served as a member of the center's advisory board since 2012 and earned an advanced certificate in Animal Assisted Therapy Activities and Learning from the University of Denver's Graduate School of Social Work.

Dr. Buechner-Maxwell completed a bachelor's degree in biology and secondary education from Goucher College in 1976, a master’s degree in cell and molecular biology in 1987, and a doctor of veterinary medicine degree from the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine in 1987. She earned a second master’s degree in veterinary clinical medicine from the veterinary college in 1991. Dr. Buechner-Maxwell also completed an equine surgery and medicine internship from Chino Valley Equine Hospital in Chino, California, and an equine internal medicine residency from Virginia Tech’s Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center in Leesburg, Virginia. In 1994, she achieved Diplomate status from the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine.

Dr. Buechner-Maxwell's plans for the center include expanding the organization's research activities to better understand and document the benefits of the animal-human relationship while continuing to maintain the already established programs. Because of her background in large animal medicine, she is particularly interested in studying the impact of equine-assisted programs on human health. She also hopes to enhance collaborative efforts at the center.

View Dr. Buechner-Maxwell's faculty biography page.

Virginia Corrigan

Dr. Virginia Corrigan and Yogi

Dr. Virginia Corrigan joined the college in 2013 as the house officer in the combined American Board of Veterinary Practitioners canine-feline residency and master's degree in human animal bond studies program.

Dr. Corrigan is a 2010 graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine. She completed a one year rotating internship at VCA Alameda East Veterinary Hospital in Denver, Colorado and then spent two years at the Small Animal General Practice and Emergency Animal Medical Hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina as an associate veterinarian.

Dr. Corrigan has an interest in the human animal bond, the role of the animal partner in Animal Assisted Activities, and promoting fitness and wellness through human-animal interactions. She is a member of the AVMA Future Leaders Program and was the recipient of the 2008 John C. New, Jr. Award for Promotion of the Human-Animal Bond.

Dr. Corrigan is the proud pet parent of Yogi, a 7-year-old male golden retriever trained and certified through Therapy Dogs International.

View Dr. Corrigan's biography page.

Alexandra Freeze

Alexandra Freeze

Alexandra joined the CENTAUR team in August of 2018 as an assistant researcher and science communicator. She has a background in wildlife biology and recently earned her Master of Science in environmental education. Her work is primarily focused on wildlife and conservation biology, environmental education, outreach, and science communication.

Her experiences vary widely, from being a lead technician on a bat research project in the National Capital Region, to years as a collegiate wildlife science educator in the piedmont of North Carolina, to partnering with a National Geographic photographer and land conservationist in Florida working to conserve land and wildlife.

Alexandra is also an adjunct faculty member at Radford University instructing non-science majors in Environmental Biology with a specific focus on biodiversity and mitigating human impacts on the natural world.

With CENTAUR, Alexandra works to educate the public and greater university community about research on the complexities of animal-human relationships. She creates media; pamphlets, event flyers, newsletters, and other materials for CENTAUR outreach. She is working to redesign the CENTAUR website as well as create photographs and videos to highlight research and projects going on within the organization. She has created and now curates all social media for CENTAUR.



Yogi is a 7-year-old Golden Retriever. He was rescued at 2.5 years of age in Colorado. He earned his AKC Canine Good Citizen and Therapy Dogs International certifications in 2013 and joined the VT Helping PAWS therapy dog team in July 2013.

Yogi spends several days per week at the veterinary college, providing happiness and comfort to faculty, staff, and students. Additionally, he spends one day per week at Virginia Tech's Cook Counseling Center and one day per month at the Blacksburg Library participating in the PAWS To Read program.

Yogi's favorite activities, outside his therapy dog work, include chasing tennis balls, swimming, hiking, and taking long naps on the couch. Yogi belongs to Dr. Virginia Corrigan and her husband, Nick.

Advisory Committee

The center has a growing team of core faculty members and research partners supporting its mission. Its advisory committee represents a collaborative team of experts in various fields, including:

  • Dr. John Ryan
    Professor and chair of the Department of Sociology in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, Virginia Tech
  • Dr. Sandra Barker
    Professor of psychiatry and Bill Balaban Chair in Human-Animal Interaction at Virginia Commonwealth University and director of the Center for Human-Animal Interaction
  • Dr. Cindy Otto
    Associate professor of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine and interim director of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center
  • Professor Philip Tedeschi
    Clinical professor at the University of Denver's Graduate School of Social Work and clinical director of the Institute for Human Animal Connection.

Additional Faculty

  • Vicki Arbuckle
    PMHNP, Assistant Director of Psychiatry, Cook Counseling Center, Virginia Tech
  • Dr. Trent Davis
    Licensed Professional Counselor, Cook Counseling Center, Virginia Tech
  • Professor and Head, Department of Population Health Sciences, Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine
  • Associate Professor of Population Health Sciences and Director of the Center for Public Health Practice and Research, Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine
  • Christine Dennis Smith
    MSW, LCSW, Co-Director of Services, Virginia Tech Women's Center
  • Amber Wenderlich
    Staff Counselor, Cook Counseling Services, Virginia Tech