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.

If you are unable to attend the study abroad fair, 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.

Seminar – Theory for Action (Feb 4, 12pm)

On Friday, February 4, from 12 – 1pm, Dr. Tiziano Distefano (University of Pisa, Italy) will talk about his research on applying system dynamics to address climate change and social inequality.

Please register here to obtain the Zoom link for the seminar. 

During his presentation, Dr. Distefano will also talk about a unique summer 2022 VT-MIT-UNIPI Study Abroad program (in Pisa, Italy) that will explore transitions towards sustainability and enable students to attend the 14th Conference of the European Society for Ecological Economics (ESEE) and hike and learn in the Apuan Alps.

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.  

Dr. Marc Fialkoff Receives Outstanding Dissertation Award

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)