The New SPIA Undergraduate Program Launches

11 08 2018

In one week we will welcome our first cohort of students into the new Smart and Sustainable Cities (SSC) and Environmental Policy and Planning (EPP) majors. Over the past two years, faculty in the School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA) have worked to completely revise the Bachelors of Arts in Public and Urban Affairs (PUA) that is now the home of these two majors. The PUA degree will provide students with a solid foundation in U.S. government and politics, the legal foundations of planning, collaborative policy-making and planning processes, urban public issues, transdisciplinary problem solving, and public service leadership. It has been carefully designed to ensure student learning outcomes are introduced, reinforced, and assessed throughout the curriculum, which provides significant opportunities to integrate signature projects/problems within the curriculum.

The SSC major consists of two unique tracks in urban analytics and urban sustainability, an integrative course on data and the art of decision-making, and a capstone studio. The PUA degree core and SSC major creates one of the first undergraduate degrees in the nation to integrate governance and planning processes, urban analytics, and urban sustainability. See the video below for a little more information on the new SSC major.

The EPP major draws from the long and successful legacy of the Bachelors of Science in Environmental Policy and Planning, and will provide students with the knowledge and skills needed to understand complex environmental challenges and develop enduring solutions. EPP majors will be able to analyze how environmental policies are implemented at national and sub-national levels, and evaluate how environmental policies are managed across sectoral and jurisdictional boundaries.

Students at Virginia Tech will be able to major or minor in SSC and EPP, or complete a double major in SSC and EPP. Students will also be able to take advantage of other majors and minors at Virginia Tech to develop their own unique combination of knowledge and skills. To support their decision-making, we have enhanced our undergraduate advising capacity to ensure that each student receives the help they need when selecting majors, minors, courses, and potential career pathways.

For more information about the new SPIA undergraduate program, please visit our website or contact Chris LaPlante (540-231-3831; chrisl@vt.edu).





The GreenPreneur Show

21 07 2018

This Sunday (July 22) at 3pm (Central Daylight Time), I look forward to joining Michael Thomas on The GreenPreneur Show to talk about my work on sustainable transportation and sustainable development.

Recordings of previous shows – which cover topics such as Modern-Day Entrepreneurship, Human and Environmental Interactions, Safe Public Drinking Watera Zero Waste Economy, Socially Responsible Investing, a Zero Emission Future, and Eco Friendly Community Development – can be accessed by clicking on the image below.





2018 PUA and EPP Graduation Video

17 05 2018

Congratulations to our 2018 Public and Urban Affairs (PUA) and Environmental Policy and Planning (EPP) graduates! The video below (taken through Google Glass) captures my view of the 2018 CAUS Commencement Ceremony. It also provides a behind the scenes look at the ceremony, which I hope the family and friends of our graduates will enjoy. I’d like to thank Prof. Eric Lyon for allowing me to include his original music – entitled “Of the Beginning” – in the video. This music was written for the 2018 Graduate School Commencement Ceremony. I was able to record a live version of this piece that can be heard throughout the video.





Public Talk – King’s Ethics & Kelso’s Economics

29 04 2018

On Wednesday, May 9, at 7:00pm, Dr. Virgil Wood (the 2018 VT Graduate Commencement Speaker), Prof. Harvey Cox (Hollis Professor of Divinity, Emeritus, Harvard University), and I will hold a public conversation on The Role of Dr. King, Jr.’s Ethics Kelso’s Economics in Creating a Workable Society. Prof. Cox will be joining the conversation via video conference.

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Image of Dr. King, Jr. with Dr. Virgil Wood; Image of Louis O. Kelso

The event will be held in the Solitude Room at the Inn at Virginia Tech. Please share this announcement with students and community groups who may find this subject of interest. The event will provide attendees with a unique opportunity to engage with Dr. Wood and Dr. Cox, who have spent their lives working to advance economic and spiritual development across the nation.





Congratulations Kaitlyn Spangler!

24 04 2018

Congratulations to Kaitlyn Spangler for successfully defending her thesis entitled “When he comes home, then he can decide”: Male out-migration, the feminization of agriculture, and integrated pest management in the Nepali mid-hills.

Kaitlyn Spangler and Dr. Maria Elisa Christie

Kaitlyn’s research focused on gendered processes of male out-migration and their relation to IPM practices. See her abstract below for more information on her main findings.

I served as a member of Kaitlyn’s thesis committee, along with Dr. Maria Elisa Christie (committee chair), and Dr. Luke Juran (committee member).

Abstract:

As part of a USAID-funded integrated pest management (IPM) project, this thesis presents research conducted in the Midwestern mid-hills of Nepal across four communities. We used mixed methodologies to conduct semi-structured interviews, focus group discussions, and participant observation with local farmers and NGOs. Through a feminist political ecology (FPE) lens, the goal was to better understand how the feminization of agriculture affects and is affected by IPM practices and decision-making. This research responds to a growing interest within development in the feminization of agriculture as a potentially empowering or disempowering global process of change, conceptualized through the ways that male out-migration affects the labor and decision-making roles of women and other household members left behind on the farm. We find that contextual factors change the implications of the feminization of agriculture narrative. Co-residence with in-laws and different migration patterns affect the dynamic and varied nature of household structure and headship. Furthermore, migration patterns have pushed women to take on new agricultural duties and manage increasing household labor responsibilities. Yet, IPM vegetable cultivation is changing how farmers use and value their land through increasing crop diversification. These agricultural decision-making processes extend beyond the household, and participation in community spaces through the IPM project may contest traditional gender norms. We contend that the heterogeneity of household power dynamics muddies the potentially empowering or disempowering effects of the feminization of agriculture, and we emphasize the importance of community spaces as a locus of decision-making in the sustainability of new agricultural technologies.





MLK50 and the 2018 BCI Essay Contest

4 04 2018

At around 6pm today, it will be 50 years since the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It will also mark the end of the 2018 Beloved Community Initiative (BCI) Essay Contest. To thank the students of Virginia for participating in the essay contest, Dr. Virgil A. Wood (who worked with Dr. King, Jr. and his father), Dr. Sylvester Johnson (Professor and Director of the Center for the Humanities, Virginia Tech), and Dr. Corey Walker (Vice President, Dean and Professor of Religion and Society, Virginia Union University) held a webinar this morning – as part of the MLK Jubilee Summit – in which they explored the legacy of Dr. King, Jr. and provided their thoughts on what this legacy means for the students of today. A recording of this webinar is provided below.

The essay contest (described in the video below) was designed to provide junior and senior students at high schools across Virginia with the opportunity to explore exemplars of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s notion of the Beloved Community – a community based on social and economic justice and a common love for fellow human beings. Dr. King, Jr. often thundered “The moral arc of the universe is long but it bends toward justice,” quoting American Bards of generations gone. Dr. Wood’s life-long search for the elusive promised land of the American Dream led to the realization that at every point where the moral arc did bend, even ever so slightly, there stood a pair, or in some cases triplets, of Black and White ancestors of the Beloved Community. Sometimes these ancestors were not contemporaries, but they can be linked by the spirit they exemplified. Through their essays, students were challenged to explore the connections between these ancestors and to consider how they helped advance the notion of the Beloved Community. In the coming weeks, a review panel will select four winning essays that will be showcased at an event this fall.





Dr. Marc Fialkoff Receives Outstanding Dissertation Award

30 03 2018

This evening I had the pleasure of attending Virginia Tech’s Graduate Awards Banquet where Marc Fialkoff received the award for Outstanding Dissertation in Social Sciences, Business, Education, and Humanities. This university-level award is a significant achievement and well deserved.

Marc’s research focused on quantifying the effect of the Jones Act restriction on freight transportation networks in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. His research blended civil engineering, law, network science, and planning to analyze the impact of a law on critical infrastructure. Marc’s committee represented the interdisciplinary nature of transportation policy, with committee members from Urban Affairs and Planning; Civil and Environmental Engineering; Law; and Network Science. I served as co-chair of Marc’s committee with Ralph Buehler, along with committee members Kathleen HancockHenning Mortveit, and Jonathan Gutoff.

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During the evening, Marc and I reflected on the life and legacy of one of my PhD advisors – Prof. Joseph Sussman – who sadly passed away on March 20, 2018. I had the privilege of knowing Prof. Sussman since 2000, and he served on both my Masters and PhD committees. Since I graduated from MIT in 2006, Prof. Sussman continued as a mentor and friend, providing insightful advice on my tenure process and was always keen to learn what was happening on the family front.

Prof. Sussman also became a mentor to Marc, who included Prof. Sussman’s approach to CLIOS (Complex, Large-Scale, Interconnected, Open, Sociotechnical) systems in his research. Prof. Sussman fondly referred to Marc as his “academic grandson,” which provides a sense of how he approached his role as an educator and mentor. Prof. Sussman made MIT a home for his students, many of whom (including myself) were international and new to the American way of life. I know that my approach to advising has been heavily influenced by Prof. Sussman, who I’m sure is also very proud of what Marc has been able to achieve.

Prof. Sussman (1939-2018)