Exploring the Future of Work

19 01 2022

During the Fall 2021 semester, I had the pleasure of teaching an honors course with Prof. Daniel Sui (Senior Vice President for Research and Innovation at Virginia Tech) that focused on the future of work. The course was designed to expose students to the wide variety of research that is undertaken at Virginia Tech on this topic (see the list below). The news article below provides some insight into the course and what the students thought of the experience. We are planning to offer a version of the course again during the Fall 2022 semester.

The list below provides an overview of the subjects covered by our guest speakers during the semester:





Science on Tap – Community Wealth Building

10 01 2022

For many, our current economic models no longer ensure our basic human needs are met. However, other worlds are possible, but we can’t create those worlds without you. Please join performance artist Steven T. Licardi and I on Wednesday, January 26, from 5:30 – 7:00pm at the Rising Silo, for an interactive performance-lecture that imagines, explores, and develops a vision of Community Wealth-Building in our community.





New Paper on Designing Transdisciplinarity

5 01 2022

In this new article published in the Journal of Public Affairs Education, we discuss institutional drivers and barriers to collaborative transdisciplinary teaching as experienced through the Virginia Tech’s Honors College SuperStudio.

Abstract

Employers increasingly desire new graduates to work across boundaries, in teams, and with developed soft skills, especially in public affairs. Likewise, students increasingly seek academic experiences for learning, practicing, and honing transferable, competency-based skills. This suggests instructors should explore alternative pedagogy engaging problem definition and transdisciplinary teamwork. We describe institutional drivers and barriers to collaborative transdisciplinarity in undergraduate teaching and the structure and processes involved in developing a co-taught studio-based capstone involving public affairs students and varied other unrelated majors. We describe the structure through which the “SuperStudio” (1) combines topic concentrations with a shared policy context allowing students to apply disciplinary knowledge to define transdisciplinary problems and (2) fosters collaborative teaching and strategic exploration of overarching issues like problem framing, equity, and effective communication. We then offer lessons learned regarding the drivers and barriers to such efforts, and advice from institutional decision-makers on designing such courses at other institutions.

Suggested citation: Anne-Lise Velez, Hall, R.P., and Lewis, S.N. (2021) Designing transdisciplinarity: Exploring institutional drivers and barriers to collaborative transdisciplinary teaching. Journal of Public Affairs Education, DOI: 10.1080/15236803.2021.1992196.





Recording of Blockchain Webinar

14 12 2021

A recording of the the webinar Dr. Jessica Agnew and I gave for the Center for Food Systems and Community Transformation is now available via the image below.





Behind the Scenes at the AgChain Hackathon

29 11 2021

The video below presents a behind-the-scenes view of the AgChain Hackathon held at Egerton University, Kenya, from November 15 to 17. It was recorded by Nurvitria Kristofikova, a Program Director at AgUnity and core team member of our project entitled “Exploring Blockchain Technology to Improve Food Security Through African Indigenous Vegetables in Western Kenya.”





Webinar – Exploring the Use of Blockchain Technology to Improve Food Security Through African Indigenous Vegetables in Western Kenya

24 11 2021

December 8, 2021
2-3 pm

Jessica Agnew, PhD, MSc, MPH 
Assistant Director of Research, Operations, & Program Management 
Center for International Research, Education and Development 

Ralph P. Hall, PhD, S.M., S.M., MEng
Undergraduate Programs Director and Associate Professor, Urban Affairs and Planning (UAP)
Associate Director, School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA)
Virginia Tech

Visit this link to registerhttps://tinyurl.com/hallagnew

Blockchain technology is heralded for its ability to improve traceability, trust, and trust in agri-food value chains. For the optimist and the skeptic of blockchain, we explore the complexities of using this emerging technology to strengthen agri-food value chains to create social and nutritional impacts. This 1-hour talk will explore results and lessons from the field in Western Kenya as to how blockchain might be used as a tool to improve food and nutrition security, women’s leadership, and youth engagement within the value chains for African indigenous vegetables (AIVs).





AgChain Hackathon Welcome Address

14 11 2021

On Monday, November 15, our AgChain Hackathon at Egerton University, Kenya, will officially begin. My welcome address for the three-day hackathon event can be watched below. During this address, I outline a number of the findings we have obtained from our USAID LASER PULSE project entitled “Exploring Blockchain Technology to Improve Food Security Through African Indigenous Vegetables in Western Kenya.” This hackathon is the second project milestone event this fall, and follows the blockchain webinar we held on October 26, 2021.





Recording of the ‘To Block or Not’ Webinar

27 10 2021

Please find below a recording of our international USAID LASER PULSE webinar entitled To Block or Not? Exploring the Use of Blockchain in Last Mile Agriculture Communities.

Webinar Description – Blockchain technology is heralded for its ability to improve traceability, trust, and trust in agri-food value chains. What is lesser known is whether it is a viable technology for those value chains that originate in last-mile agriculture communities. This webinar explores the contexts in which blockchain offers real solutions to strengthening value chains and its potential for creating social impact, like improved food security or engaging youth in agriculture, and where it does not. For the optimist and the skeptic, this two-hour webinar aims to discard the trendiness of the emerging technology and take a pragmatic view of the opportunities to use blockchain to strengthen last-mile agriculture.





Study Abroad Program in Pisa, Italy

22 10 2021

Next summer, I will be co-running a study abroad program in Pisa, Italy, with colleagues Prof. Nicholas Ashford (MIT), Dr. Tiziano Distefano (University of Pisa), and Prof. Tommaso Luzzati (University of Pisa), from June 10-22, 2022.

We will be holding an information session about the program for students at VT and MIT from 10-11am on November 4, 2021. Please register here to join the session.

Sustainable Transitions in Employment, Economic Welfare, and the Environment

This unique program will provide students with a transdisciplinary perspective on sustainable development and is intended for rising seniors and graduate students interested in planning, policy, economics, business, innovation, environmental studies, and law. The program will explore the many dimensions of sustainability and how national, multinational, and international political and legal mechanisms can be used to further a transition towards sustainable development. 

The program has three unique learning environments.

The first section of the program will consist of a summer school based at the University of Pisa, Italy, which will run in parallel with two other summer schools led by the Center for Politics, Ontologies, and Ecologies (POE) and the European Society for Ecological Economics. Given the proximity of the summer schools, joint sessions will be held where the faculty engaged with each program will share their research with students from the other programs. These sessions will enrich the content of each program and provide an opportunity for intercultural exchange between students (and faculty).   

The second section of the program will consist of students attending the 14th Conference of the European Society for Ecological Economics (ESEE), which will be hosted by the University of Pisa. 

During the third and final section of the program, students will travel to the Apuan Alps (close to Pisa in Italy), where they will share what they learned from the summer school and ESEE conference and discuss/debate future economic/societal transformation strategies. This final reflection will take place in the mountains, where group discussions will be held outside (weather permitting), and students will have the opportunity to hike in the Italian Alps.  





Webinar: To Block or Not – Exploring the Use of Blockchain in Last-Mile Agriculture Communities

17 10 2021

Webinar: October 26, 2021, 8am-10am (EDT). Register (for free) here.

Traceability. Transparency. Trust.

Food systems built on these principles generally are known to attract higher price premiums by increasing consumer confidence and value for the products. This creates income earning opportunities for producers and upgrades the quality of agri-food value chains. Blockchain technology is heralded for its ability to improve traceability, trust, and trust in agri-food value chains. What is lesser known is whether it is a viable technology for those value chains that originate in last-mile agricultural communities.

This webinar explores the contexts in which blockchain offers real solutions to strengthening value chains and its potential for creating social impact, like improved food security or engaging youth in agriculture. For the optimist and the skeptic, this two-hour webinar aims to discard the trendiness of the emerging technology and take a pragmatic view of the opportunities to use blockchain to strengthen last-mile agriculture.

Webinar Host – Ralph Hall, Virginia Tech

Technology Panel: 8am – 9am (ETD)

Views from the Field Panel: 9am – 10am (ETD)