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).





Congratulations Marc Fialkoff!

14 09 2017

Congratulations to Marc Fialkoff who successfully defended his PhD in Planning, Governance, and Globalization on Monday. 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 Marc’s committee with Ralph Buehler, along with committee members Kathleen Hancock, Henning Mortveit, and Jonathan Gutoff.

In addition to being an interdisciplinary study of law, policy, and freight transportation, Marc’s research leveraged a collaborative partnership between the School of Public and International Affairs at Virginia Tech with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). As part of his research, Marc spent a year with the Critical Infrastructure and Climate Change team at ORNL, under the supervision of Dr. Olufemi Omitaomu, collecting data and analyzing the impacts of the law on the highway and railway networks. Using tools developed by ORNL researchers, Marc connected his background in law and planning with technical expertise to evaluate law and policy decisions on freight transportation. Most recently, Marc was selected as an Eno Fellow by the Eno Center for Transportation in recognition of his interdisciplinary approach to studying problems in transportation research.

Marc’s research is timely in the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma to inform decision-makers as to the impact of relaxing the Jones Act and its implications on the freight transportation network. It is the first study to externalize the Jones Act as a legal lever for influencing recovery within the freight transportation system.

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Abstract

In October 2012, Hurricane Sandy caused massive disruption and destruction to the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. The intensity of the storm forced the Port of New York and New Jersey to close, forcing cargo diversion to the Port of Norfolk in Virginia. Because of the Jones Act restriction on foreign vessels moving between U.S. ports, the restriction on short sea shipping was viewed as a barrier to recovery.

Much of the critical infrastructure resilience and security literature focuses on the “hardening” of physical infrastructure, but not the relationship between law, policy, and critical infrastructure. Traditional views of transportation systems do not adequately address questions of governance and emergent behaviors such as resilience. In contrast, recent development of a System of Systems framework provides a conceptual framework to study the relationship of law and policy systems to the transportation systems they govern.

Applying a System of Systems framework, this research analyzed the effect of relaxing the Jones Act on freight transportation networks experiencing a disruptive event. Using WebTRAGIS (Transportation Routing Analysis GIS), the results of the research demonstrate that relaxing the Jones Act had a marginal reduction on highway truck traffic and no change in rail traffic volume in the aftermath of a disruption. The research also analyzed the Jones Act waiver process and the barriers posed by the legal process involved in administration and review for Jones Act waivers. Recommendations on improving the waiver process include greater agency coordination and formal rulemaking to ensure certainty with the waiver process.

This research is the first in studying the impact of the Jones Act on a multimodal freight transportation network. Likewise, the use of the System of Systems framework to conceptualize the law and a critical infrastructure system such as transportation provides future opportunities for studying different sets of laws and policies on infrastructure. This can provide policymakers and planners with a more robust opportunity to understand the impact of law and policy on the infrastructure systems they govern.





VT PGG Student Presents at ISNGI 2015

16 09 2015

This past week, one of my PGG doctoral students, Marc Fialkoff, attended the International Symposium on Next Generation Infrastructure in Washington D.C. The conference brought together scholars from a variety of disciplines to discuss challenges in the areas of energy, transportation, water resources, and healthcare. MarcThe panel sessions focused on individual critical infrastructure sectors as well as techniques for modeling and implementing policies for more resilient infrastructure. Marc presented his work on freight transportation resilience and using GIS to evaluate legal restrictions on short sea shipping under disruptive conditions. This research was undertaken during his summer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory under guidance of Olufemi Omitaomu, the team lead for the Critical Infrastructure and Urban Resilience group at Oak Ridge National Lab.

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Marc’s research provides a good example of the interdisciplinary work that is undertaken by students in the PGG program at Virginia Tech. With training in law and transportation planning, Marc’s research bridges disciplines of law, planning, civil engineering, and network analysis to explore the impact of law and policy on the movement of goods under a time of crisis – e.g., during Hurricane Sandy.

I co-chair Marc’s PhD committee with Ralph Buehler. Kathleen Hancock, Henning Mortveit, and Jonathan Gutoff also serve on Marc’s committee.