2023 Study Abroad Progam in Florence/Pisa, Italy

If you are a rising senior or graduate student at Virginia Tech and are looking for a unique sustainability-related study abroad experience, please find me on the Drillfield on Wednesday (September 21) to learn more about the planned 2023 Florence-Pisa program in Italy or signup for the information session that will be held from 3-4pm on Friday, October 14.

If you are unable to attend the study abroad fair or information session, please complete this simple form to be kept informed of program updates.

Pisa Study Abroad Program (in photos)

Over the past several weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of leading a study abroad program with colleagues at MIT and the University of Pisa that involved a summer school, an international conference, and a hiking expedition in the Apuan Alps. Since we all survived the experience and had an amazing time in the process, I thought I’d share some pictures/videos from each phase of the program.

The program began with an intensive summer school at the University of Pisa’s Residence Le Benedettine. The summer school was attended by some 40 students from 20 countries and focused on exploring sustainable transitions in employment, economic welfare, and the environment that build on the roots of ecological economics. The photos below capture a few moments from the summer school, including a trip to the leaning tower of Pisa and cathedral complex.

During the second phase of the program, students attended the 14th Conference of the European Society for Ecological Economics (ESEE). The video to the right captures the chamber ensemble “I Bei Legami” performing a piece during the opening ceremony of the conference. This music was the soundtrack of the study abroad program – enjoy!

Since the majority of students attending the summer school were enrolled in doctoral programs, many of them presented their research during the conference. This also meant the summer school teaching faculty could attend their sessions and return the favor of asking difficult questions 😉 The conference also included a social dinner at the Big Fish Restaurant in Marina di Pisa, about 20km from Pisa. I have included several pictures from this dinner below, after a few pictures from the conference.

A unique event that occurred during the conference was the Luminara of San Ranieri, which involved the lighting of some 70,000 candles on the facade of buildings along the river running through the city of Pisa. This event also included a 30-minute fireworks display that was among the best I have experienced.

The final phase of the program consisted of hiking in the stunning Apuan Alps. We hiked up to and stayed at the Rifugio Carrara for four nights, from which we launched several significant treks into the mountains surrounding Carrara. We also visited a marble mine with a local NGO to understand the various impacts from the ongoing mining activities on the environment and community.

None of the above activities would have been possible without the tremendous efforts of Prof. Tommaso Luzzati and Dr. Tiziano Distefano, who taught in the summer school, led the planning of the ESEE conference, and organized the hiking logistics.

Pisa Study Abroad – Last Call

This is the final call for students interested in the Pisa, Italy, study abroad program. This unique study abroad 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 includes a summer school at the University of Pisa, attendance of 14th Conference of the European Society for Ecological Economics (ESEE), and hiking in the Apuan Alps.

If you are interested in the program, please contact me by March 31

While this program was designed for students at Virginia Tech and MIT, it is open to any rising senior or graduate student in good academic standing at any institute of higher education in the US. See below for more information on how to register as a non-Virginia Tech student.

Via Vandelli

Non-Virginia Tech Students 

  1. Create a non-VT study abroad account with the Global Education Office and apply for the study abroad program by the March 31 deadline.
  2. Your study abroad application will be reviewed. If you are offered acceptance to the study abroad program, the offer is pending admission to Virginia Tech as a Non-Degree Seeking student. To apply, complete the non-degree application. The non-degree application requires a $60 application fee and transcripts from previous studies.
  3. Non-degree applications are generally reviewed and approved within 72 hours. Students receive a non-degree offer letter with a Virginia Tech student ID number in order to pay study abroad program fees and be registered for the course. 
  4. Non-Virginia residents pay the out-of-state tuition rate (listed on the financial matters tab), unless students can document Virginia residency. For more information on qualifying for in-state status, see the in-state eligibility page.
  5. Students need to work with their home institution (academic adviser/faculty adviser/Registrar’s Office) to verify whether the Virginia Tech course/transcript can be transferred and count toward their degree.  

Seminar Recording – Theory for Action

The recording of Dr. Tiziano Distefano (University of Pisa, Italy) seminar entitled “Theory for Action: Applying System Dynamics to Address Climate Change and Social Inequality,” can be accessed below. If you would like to read more about his research I recommend looking at this paper on Feasible alternatives to green growth and edited book on Water Resources and Economic Processes.

If you are an undergraduate (rising senior) or graduate student and would like to apply for our joint study abroad program, please submit an application by February 28, 2022.

Exploring the Future of Work

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:

Study Abroad Program in Pisa, Italy

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.  

Riccardo Mastini Joins the VT SuperStudio

During the spring semester, students in the VT Honors College SuperStudio had the pleasure of engaging with Riccardo Mastini, a researcher at the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA) at the Autonomous University of Barcelona. The video below shows Riccardo’s opening remarks that cover the Green New Deal (GND), the need for a new political economy that reduces inequality and protects/enriches the environment, the difference between pubic vs. private services and how the enclosure of public goods can result in artificial scarcity and growth, environmental (in)justice, and the need to move towards a post-growth GND agenda.

The paper behind Riccardo’s remarks that explores the idea of a GND without growth can be access here.

SuperStudio Session with Grace Blakeley

On Thursday, April 15, we had the pleasure of speaking with Grace Blakeley – author of Stolen: How to Save the World from Financialisation – during the VT Honors College SuperStudio. Rather than posting an hour-long/unedited video, I thought it would be more helpful to break our conversation into parts. The first video below captures Grace’s introductory remarks. After this, students were able to ask questions ranging from how to “hack” financialization to advice on where to study heterodox economics.

For some context, the SuperStudio combines five advanced undergraduate courses – focused on Environmental Policy and Social Change, Data Analysis for Health Reform, “Drone-Age” Innovation for the Public Good, the Future of Higher Education, and the Future of Employment – that collaborate to examine the potentials and challenges of the Green New Deal. The SuperStudio is designed to engage students in transdisciplinary and collaborative work and provide a space where they can develop critical skills and knowledge that are applied to group or individual capstone projects.

Student Questions

Payton Green to Grace Blakeley – How to build a “populist narrative”?

Lonnie Hamilton III to Grace Blakeley – Thoughts on democratic socialism in Nordic countries?

Lorena Beltran to Grace Blakeley – Impacts of COVID-19 on efforts to advance the Green New Deal?

McKenna Magoffin to Grace Blakeley – Is there a way to “hack” financialization?

Caitlín Adams to Grace Blakeley – Where to study heterodox economics?

Natalie Serio to Grace Blakeley – How to create an influential social media platform?

My Question

Ralph Hall to Grace Blakeley – Will automation/AI undermine efforts to strengthen unions/labor?

SuperStudio – Spring 2020

This spring I will be taking part in the new Honors College SuperStudio, where five advanced undergraduate courses (described below) will collaborate to examine the potentials and challenges of the Green New Deal. The SuperStudio is designed to engage students in transdisciplinary and collaborative work and provide a space where they can develop critical skills and knowledge.

The SuperStudio will consist of the following five courses:

  • UH 4504: Environmental Policy and Social Change (20945)
  • UH 4504: “Medicare for All!”: Data Analysis for Health Reform (20946)
  • UH 4504: “Drone-Age” Innovation for the Public Good (20947)
  • UH 4504: The Future of Higher Education (20948)
  • UAP 4914: The Future of Employment (19367)

All five courses will meet at the same time and place to facilitate collaboration within and across the classes: Tuesday/Thursday, 2:00 – 3:15, in the Honors College’s new SuperStudio space in Squires Student Center (formerly the Old Dominion Ballroom). Students will have swipe-card access to the studio and dedicated project-development spaces.

In addition to enrolling in one of these five courses, students will also enroll in UH 4984: Honors SuperStudio (20958), a 1-credit corequisite that will meet on Wednesday, 11:15-12:05, to explore connections among their subjects and approaches, interrogate the Green New Deal, and pursue coordinated transdisciplinary responses to its potentials and challenges.

There are no prerequisite courses, but junior standing is required. All honors and honors-eligible students (3.6 GPA or better) are encouraged to participate in the SuperStudio, which we intend to make a vibrant community of practice.

UH 4504: Environmental Policy and Social Change – Dr. Velez

Public policy encompasses not just laws, but regulations, funding priorities, and decision-making in public institutions. In this course, we will study the National Environmental Policy Act to understand policy process; ethics, accountability, and diversity in policy making; and how sectoral differences affect policy decisions.

UH 4504: “Medicare for all!”: Data Analysis for Health Reform – Dr. Lewis

National and global health agencies mine patient data to determine trends in health care and make predictions about health crises. But does that data accurately reflect the health of all citizens? Moreover, does that data suggest how we might pay for universal healthcare as described in the Green New Deal?

UH 4504: “Drone-Age” Innovation for the Public Good – Prof. Banks-Hunt

Drone technology has tremendous potential for social and environmental public good. In this course, we will engage in problem-finding and design thinking for real-world applications of drone technology.

UH 4504: The Future of Higher Education – Dr. Underwood and Prof. Williams

How will higher education change in a world of virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and distance education? In light of policies such as the Green New Deal, how will access, affordability, and innovation change learning and higher education?

UAP 4914: Public & Urban Seminar – The Future of Employment – Dr. Hall

In this seminar, we will study the Green New Deal from a variety of perspectives – industrial, academic, governmental, civil, and socio-ecological – paying close attention to how the proposed initiatives might advance or undermine meaningful and well-paid employment in the future.

Graduate Seminar in Technology, Globalization, and Sustainable Development

Are you a graduate student at Virginia Tech looking for a framework that integrates Technology, Globalization, and Sustainable Development?

If so … sign up for UAP 5784 (CRN 89423)
Meets Mondays, 9:00 – 11:45am
Room 111, Architecture Annex

This graduate seminar will explore the many dimensions of sustainability and how industry and national, multinational, and international political and legal mechanisms can be used to further sustainable development.