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;

UAP 5424: Smart Data for Smart Cities

9 08 2017

This fall, Julie Kanzler will be offering a module in the National Capital Region (NCR) focused on Smart Data for Smart Cities. A description of the module can be found below.

Title: UAP 5424: Smart Data for Smart Cities (module in NCR)

Instructor: Julie Kanzler

Meeting times: 5:00-8:00 PM on Friday, October 27th and 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM on Saturday, October 28th, 2017

Meeting place: 1021 Prince Street, Alexandria, VA


This module will probe behind the buzzwords to expose students to “smarter” uses of data for cities. Especially when the civic community is engaged in the process, there are many opportunities for using data analytics and visualization to make government work better. However, it’s important to temper this optimism with a clear picture of the pitfalls of data visualization inference. In the first half of the module, the instructor will draw from first-hand experience and Smart City cases to share examples that illustrate the need for this balanced perspective. The second half covers clear strategies for critical data interpretation and clear presentation. Students will also receive hands-on exposure to several popular online visualization tools. The material is presented in plain language and designed for students with a humanities background.

Julie Kanzler

Julie Kanzler manages Washington DC’s Data APIs and Systems program for the Chief Data Officer and is a member of DC’s Open Government Advisory Group and its working group on the Transparency and Understandability of Data. Her team of data professionals is responsible for developing data dashboards and administering the systems behind DC Open Data. Ms. Kanzler is a passionate public servant who believes in the effectiveness of civic engagement and the value of good data use. She has 20 years of experience as a data professional, most of it in an urban setting. She has worked to promote good data in the technology offices of the DC and Alexandria City governments and performed analysis on cities as diverse as Worcester, MA and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. She has a B.A. in Geography from Clark University and an M.A., in Geography with a focus on urban geography, quantitative analysis and modeling.