Congratulations Marc Fialkoff (PGG Doctoral Candidate) for being selected as a 2017 Eno Transportation Fellow. The Eno Center for Transportation is non-profit foundation whose core mission is the study of emerging issues in transportation policy and the cultivation of future leaders in the field.
Marc is the first student in the School of Public and International Affairs at Virginia Tech to be selected as an Eno Fellow. As a Fellow, Marc will travel to Washington D.C. in early June to participate in the Eno Center Future Leaders Development Conference.
Marc’s committee represents the interdisciplinary nature of transportation policy, with committee members from Urban Affairs and Planning, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Law, and Network Science. I currently co-chair Marc’s committee with Ralph Buehler, along with committee members Kathleen Hancock, Henning Mortveit, and Jonathan Gutoff.
This afternoon, Selma Elouardighi successfully defended her dissertation entitled “The Transfer of Environmental Best Practices from Developed to Developing Countries through Multinational Corporations.”
I have provided a brief excerpt from her dissertation below that captures the essence of her research.
This research was prompted by a desire to understand why Moroccan cement companies have adopted advanced environmental responsibility practices far beyond those used by companies in the other sectors of the national economy. While corporate environmental stewardship in Morocco is generally lacking, cement producers have adopted best practices. This observation prompted two questions: why did the cement sector adopt, of its own volition, advanced environmental performance in the absence of the impetus of the state (i.e., stringent and enforced regulation), and how was the industry able to change course, develop, and adopt these best practices? Answering these questions meant identifying the power structures capable of inducing behavioral change within Moroccan companies, as well as the mechanics through which new knowledge is generated within the same context.
Using process tracing as a research methodology, … this research analyzed the external business environment of cement subsidiaries in Morocco, and uncovered the processes through which the adoption of EBP by Moroccan cement subsidiaries was enabled.
Using the knowledge she obtained through her research, Selma set-up an NGO in Morocco in 2014 to help create an Industrial Cluster for Environmental Services (known as CISE-Marco). The NGO and its partners subsequently applied for and received a green entrepreneurship grant from the U.S. Department of State to promote cleaner production processes and green jobs in Morocco. Her research and subsequent work provide an excellent example of how students from SPIA’s PGG program are focusing on significant and real-world problems.
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. The 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.
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.
Yehyun’s research explores the concept of capacity development (CD) in the context of a large urban infrastructure program in India – the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM). Her research utilized a unique combination of qualitative and quantitative methods and (I believe) is the first application of fuzzy-set Qualitative Comparative Analysis (fsQCA) in the field of CD. The findings from Yehyun’s research make important contributions to both CD theory and practice. I have included the abstract of Yehyun’s dissertation below for those interested in reading more about her research.
Since the 1950s, Capacity Development (CD) has been an important component of international development agendas. It established the widespread consensus that the capacity of individuals and organizations is critical to maintaining and enhancing the effectiveness of development projects and programs. A problem, however, is that the concept has been applied without due consideration to how it should be adapted to the local context, making it more of a symbolic gesture. The application of CD to urban infrastructure projects in India is one such example. Recognizing the shortage of urban infrastructure as one of the major impediments in India’s economic growth and rapid urbanization, the Government of India (GOI) launched the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) in December 2005 to provide substantial central financial assistance to cities for urban development over a period of seven years. The GOI expected the JNNURM to reform institutions and strengthen human resource capability related to many areas of project delivery. During its implementation, however, the JNNURM has been confronted by problems related to a lack of capacity. This research reviews the capacity challenges related to the JNNURM program and considers the broader implications for urban infrastructure development in other developing countries.
This research begins with the question “How can CD be operationalized?” From this starting point, the research seeks to reveal the operational values of CD. Following a detailed literature review on CD, capacity factors that are applicable to the urban sector in India are identified and a CD framework is developed. Two research methods – case studies and fuzzy-set Qualitative Comparative Analysis (fsQCA) – are adopted to answer the primary research questions. By leveraging the strength of these two methods, this research advances our understanding of the relationship between capacity and development goals such as improving project performance. In the case studies, this research investigates the gaps between CD theory and practice through the lens of practitioner perceptions of CD. In addition, unlike traditional thinking on the linear relationship between capacity and project outcomes, the case studies reveal two-way causal relationships between capacity and project outcomes that form a spiral structure between the project delivery process and capacity factors. Better capacity can enhance project performance and lead to better outcomes, and project performance and outcomes also influence and reinforce capacity in the reverse direction. Moreover, through the fsQCA, this research identified causal relationships between capacity factors and outcomes and demonstrated that the capacity factors generate different outcomes through their interactions with other capacity factors. This finding contributes to our understanding of how capacity is interconnected with development goals.
In summary, this research contributes to both CD theory and CD practice based on a comprehensive approach that not only considers CD at multiple levels (environmental, organizational/network, and individual/project), but also covers different CD subjects such as context, actors, dimensions, processes, and impacts. Through this comprehensive approach, a range of important findings are developed that can help researchers and practitioners operationalize the complex concept of CD.
If you would like to apply for either of these opportunities, I encourage you to carefully review the UAP Research Needs Statement to identify the subject area and faculty with whom you would like to work. Please include this information in the personal statement submitted with your application.
This afternoon UAP held its inaugural “Get To Know U Event.” The purpose of the event was to enable students in EPP, PUA, MURP, and PGG to get to know one another and to interact with UAP faculty in a fun environment. The images below capture several moments from this afternoon’s activities.
On Monday, December 1 from 2-4pm, UAP will be holding its inaugural “Get To Know U Event” – meeting outside War Memorial Chapel. The purpose of this event is to enable students in EPP, PUA, MURP, and PGG to get to know one another and to interact with UAP faculty in a fun environment. I look forward to having all of our undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students together in one place – it should be quite the event!
I enjoyed meeting the new graduates in the Planning, Governance, and Globalization (PGG) doctoral program and the Urban Affairs and Planning (UAP) program this afternoon. We have a diverse group of students this year who come to Virginia Tech from various U.S. states and countries such as China, India, Russia, and Colombia. I look forward to getting to know them this coming semester. The images below were taken #throughglass.
Selma’s research revolves around corporate environmental stewardship in developing countries within the context of globalization. More specifically she is focusing on how multinational corporations in the cement industry can bring environmental best practices to firms in Morocco.
Please consider supporting Selma’s research. As far as I know, Selma is the first doctoral candidate at Virginia Tech to pursue funding via Microryza, which provides some insight into the creativity she brings to her research.