Visiting Professor – University of Florence

Today, I began a summer position as a visiting professor in the Department of Economics and Management at the University of Florence. During my time here I will deliver seminars on inclusive economics and Multiple Use Water Services (MUS), engage in a two-day workshop on Behavioural Ecological Economics (at the University of Florence), co-teach a summer school on Leveraging Ecological Economics to Advance the Sustainability Transition (at the University of Pisa), and co-teach a Hiking Ecological Economics Summer School (in the Apuan Alps). I’m looking forward to meeting over 100 students from across the EU, US, and beyond who have enrolled in the above activities.

Congratulations Dr. Chi Nguyen Anh!

Congratulations to Dr. Chi Nguyen Anh for successfully defending his PhD dissertation entilted “Risk Allocation, Decision Rights, and Adaptive Lifecycle Project Management Practices in Public-Private Partnership Highway Contracts in Australia, the Philippines, and India.” The general audience abstract for his dissertation is privided below.

I served on Chi’s dissertation committee along with Michael Garvin (Committee Chair), Duc A. Nguyen, and Tripp Shealy.


Public-private partnerships (PPPs) involve decades-long contracts between governments and private firms where a single private firm typically designs, builds, finances, operates, and maintains a specific infrastructure facility for revenues mainly from users (tolls) or governments. PPPs are theoretically expected to address certain limitations of traditional delivery approaches by capitalizing on private sector expertise and capabilities. Numerous studies have shown the feasibility of PPPs in many projects and sectors in various countries. However, PPP transactions are characterized by high uncertainty as a result of the involvement of numerous diverse stakeholders and the integration of multiple project lifecycle phases that span decades where changes in circumstances and requirements are inevitable. Contracts are the key and central instrument in project governance. Thus, addressing uncertainties is crucial in designing and implementing a PPP contract. Using a data set of 20 contemporary greenfield highway contracts in Australia, the Philippines, and India, this dissertation explored three key issues: risk allocation, decision rights allocation, and lifecycle project management. Risk allocation refers to which contracting party would take responsibility for certain contractual requirements with corresponding consequences or benefits. Decision rights allocation defines the boundaries of public sector involvement and consequently its control of the private sector’s activities and decisions. Lifecycle project management is a set of contractual requirements, project structure, processes, and principles that steer the actions of and interactions between parties over a project’s lifecycle.

For risk allocation, the results reveal that most of the 35 key risks investigated were either transferred to the private sector or shared. One interesting and, to some extent, unexpected finding was the relatively high level of similarity in risk allocation within each country and across the countries, despite remarkably different characteristics at both project and country levels. This suggests that similar risk allocation practices may be employed across regional and comparable countries and perhaps beyond. No noticeable transnational trends or variances were observed except some shift of responsibilities to the private sector in user-paid projects (typically longer contract duration) compared with government-paid ones (typically shorter). Some limited trends over time such as a decrease in silent or indeterminate provisions and more risks retained by the public sector in recent projects in the Philippines and India, respectively, were observed. Additionally, exogenous risks (external to the project) had more consistent allocation and were shared more than endogenous risks (within a project’s boundary). Some silent provisions were identified, indicating areas for improvement of contractual designs.

For decision rights allocation, the key finding was the dominant level of owner control in 10 key provisions in almost all contracts, regardless of the country’s level of development and the substantial number of risks transferred to the private sector. Contracts in Australia were more rigid, having distinctive, rigorous, and more detailed requirements with more efforts required beforehand to specify numerous provisions. Some limited national trends include contractual design evolvement over time in some provisions in the Philippines and India. Some silent provisions were identified, indicating areas for improvement or consideration.

For lifecycle project management, parties designed contractual practices to rely on (1) contractual requirements with consequences for noncompliance and harmonious and collaborative relationships between parties, (2) rigid and detailed requirements and flexible ways to correspond to uncertainties, and (3) output-based management approaches (e.g., performance linked payments) and process-based management approaches (e.g., regular meetings and communication, procedures to resolve disputes) to address future uncertainties throughout a project’s contract duration. Contracts in Australia tend to be more comprehensive in many areas requiring more ex ante contracting efforts such as naming contractors in contracts and ex post implementation efforts to comply with many distinctive requirements such as those concerning environment and community/user management. Meanwhile, contracts in Australia likely rely more on trust-based management versus monitoring/control-based management, having limited requirements for monitoring and safeguarding the contract.  Overall, the common and different practices revealed facilitate informed decisions such as market entry, project selection, and strategic contractual designs at both the project-level and policy-level, especially for evolving markets such as the Philippines, India, and other regional and comparable countries. For instance, international developers expecting high revenue can choose the Philippines over India since revenue risk is typically a private risk in the Philippines but shared in India. Additionally, governments in the Philippines and India might want to consider adopting more trust-based management practices so that their contracts would better attract and incentivize international developers. The findings also provide contractual evidence that supports numerous contract and governance theories and principles and establishes a baseline for subsequent inquiries such as investigating the effectiveness of the practices uncovered, the key reasons for parties’ contractual choices, and the gaps with parties’ preferences. The research is characterized by its broad scope exploring comprehensive sets of key provisions in 20 contracts spanning three countries and its important implications for both theory and practice of PPP contractual designs.

Recording of VT Food, Housing, and Well-being Presentation

The recording of our presentation on Addressing Food, Housing, and Well-being at Virginia Tech: Results from the 2019 & 2021 Survey to the VT Center for Food Systems and Community Transformation, can now be accessed here.

Food, Housing, and Well-bing at Virginia Tech

On Wednesday, April 26, at 3:30pm, please join Dr. Jessica Agnew and I to learn about the results from our 2019 and 2021 food access and well-being studies at Virginia Tech. The report from our 2019 study can be accessed here. We will provide a brief summary of the 2019 results and then share the findings from the 2021 study. We will also discuss the events that led to the creation of The Market of Virginia Tech and will outline the future research that is underway.

2023 Study Abroad Program

The three main components of our 2023 study abroad program in Italy are now open for any student to apply. Virginia Tech students who are accepted into the VT program will be automatically enrolled into each part of the program.

VT Students: The application portal will remain open for the next week, so please apply this week if you would like to be considered for the program. Please also make sure you apply for a GEO Scholarship (due March 15th).

Non-VT/International Students: I hope you will considered applying to one or more parts of the program via the links below. In 2022, we had over 20 countries represented in the Pisa summer school that hosted around 40 students. It was a really engaging and culturally rich experience for everyone involved in the program.

Get Out There with SPIA – Slides & Recordings

Please find below links to the 3-minute presentations given during the “Get Out There with SPIA” event held on February 10. The slides from the event can be accessed here

If you have any questions about a specific program/course, please reach out to the lead faculty member(s) listed below. The first two summer programs have an application deadline of February 15, so please apply before then if you would like to be considered for one of these. 

Washington, D.C. Semester, Leadership through Policy & Governance (WSLG) (Summer) & U.S. Congressional Oversight in Action (Winter)

Study Abroad in Italy (Florence, Pisa, and the Apuan Alps), Sustainable Transitions in Employment, Economic Welfare, and the Environment (Summer)

Support Provided by the VT Global Education Office

Washington, D.C. Semester in Global Engagement (WSGE) (Fall and Spring)

UAP 2004 Real Estate (Summer, online course)

SPIA 2005, 2006, & 2014 Urban Analytics (Summer, online course)

Homeland Security Policy (HSP) Graduate Certificate (open to seniors) (Video)

Study Abroad, Sustainable Policy Making & Planning in Europe (Summer)

  • The 2023 program is full. If you are interested in the 2024 program, please make sure you apply early in the fall semester. 
  • Contacts: Ralph Buehler,; Todd Schenk,

Get Out There with SPIA!

VT undergraduate and graduate students, please join us (in room 111, Architecture Annex or via zoom) on Friday, February 10 at 12pm to learn more about SPIA’s off campus and summer opportunities

During the event, faculty will give 3-minute presentations on their programs/courses to provide a broad overview of the full range of unique opportunities available to students.

New Center for the Future of Work Places and Practices

At 9am (EST) on Friday, January 27, we will launch the new Virginia Tech Center for the Future of Work Places and Practices at the ICAT Playdate. Information on how to join this event (in person or via YouTube) can be found by selecting the first image below. The second image below will take you to a news story about the new center.