Congratulations to our 2022 Environmental Policy and Planning (EPP) and Smart and Sustainable Cities (SSC) graduates. The images below were taken before, during, and after the CAUS graduation ceremony.
On Monday, November 15, our AgChain Hackathon at Egerton University, Kenya, will officially begin. My welcome address for the three-day hackathon event can be watched below. During this address, I outline a number of the findings we have obtained from our USAID LASER PULSE project entitled “Exploring Blockchain Technology to Improve Food Security Through African Indigenous Vegetables in Western Kenya.” This hackathon is the second project milestone event this fall, and follows the blockchain webinar we held on October 26, 2021.
Please find below a recording of our international USAID LASER PULSE webinar entitled To Block or Not? Exploring the Use of Blockchain in Last Mile Agriculture Communities.
Webinar Description – Blockchain technology is heralded for its ability to improve traceability, trust, and trust in agri-food value chains. What is lesser known is whether it is a viable technology for those value chains that originate in last-mile agriculture communities. This webinar explores the contexts in which blockchain offers real solutions to strengthening value chains and its potential for creating social impact, like improved food security or engaging youth in agriculture, and where it does not. For the optimist and the skeptic, this two-hour webinar aims to discard the trendiness of the emerging technology and take a pragmatic view of the opportunities to use blockchain to strengthen last-mile agriculture.
The final paper from Dr. Kushboo Gupta’s dissertation has been published in the Journal of Urban Technology. This new paper focuses on exploring smart city project implementation risks in the cities of Kakinada and Kanpur, India. The list below captures several other contributions by Dr. Gupta that stem from her PhD research:
- Gupta, K. and Hall, R. P. (2020) Understanding the What, Why, and How of Becoming a Smart City: Experiences from Kakinada and Kanpur. Smart Cities 3(2), 232-247.
- Gupta, K., Zhang, W., and Hall, R. P. (2020) Risk priorities and their co-occurrences in smart city project implementation: Evidence from India’s Smart Cities Mission (SCM). Environment and Planning B: Urban Analytics and City Science, 1–15.
- “The Indian perspective of smart cities.” Paper presented by Khushboo Gupta at the 2017 Smart City Symposium Prague (SCSP).
- “Measuring Smart Cities in India.” Poster presentation by Khushboo Gupta at the 2016 Smart Cities Summit, June 13-15, 2016, Austin, Texas.
With an increasing number of smart city initiatives in developed as well as developing nations, smart cities are seen as a catalyst for improving the quality of life for city residents. However, the current understanding of the risks that may hamper the successful implementation of smart city projects remains limited. This research examines the risk landscape for implementing smart city projects in two Indian cities, Kakinada and Kanpur, by interviewing 20 professionals from industry and local government who were closely associated with implementing smart city projects. Seven risks are identified—namely resource management and partnership, institutional, scheduling and execution, social, financial, political, and technology—using thematic analysis. Further, the interrelationships between the risks are modelled using causal mapping techniques. The results suggest different risk priorities among the two types of professionals interviewed. Further, a number of risks were found to be closely connected. These findings suggest that risk mitigation strategies need to take a comprehensive view towards all risks and their interconnections instead of managing each risk in isolation.
Since I was unable to celebrate with the class of 2020 today, I tasked my children with helping me record a video message for our graduating seniors. I even managed to find enough courage to record myself playing the guitar 🙂
The online VT commencement ceremony will start at 6:30pm (EDT) this evening and can be accessed here: https://commencement.vt.edu
Congratulations to all of our 2020 graduates!
On Thursday, April 15, we had the pleasure of speaking with Grace Blakeley – author of Stolen: How to Save the World from Financialisation – during the VT Honors College SuperStudio. Rather than posting an hour-long/unedited video, I thought it would be more helpful to break our conversation into parts. The first video below captures Grace’s introductory remarks. After this, students were able to ask questions ranging from how to “hack” financialization to advice on where to study heterodox economics.
For some context, the SuperStudio combines five advanced undergraduate courses – focused on Environmental Policy and Social Change, Data Analysis for Health Reform, “Drone-Age” Innovation for the Public Good, the Future of Higher Education, and the Future of Employment – that collaborate to examine the potentials and challenges of the Green New Deal. The SuperStudio is designed to engage students in transdisciplinary and collaborative work and provide a space where they can develop critical skills and knowledge that are applied to group or individual capstone projects.
Payton Green to Grace Blakeley – How to build a “populist narrative”?
Lonnie Hamilton III to Grace Blakeley – Thoughts on democratic socialism in Nordic countries?
Lorena Beltran to Grace Blakeley – Impacts of COVID-19 on efforts to advance the Green New Deal?
McKenna Magoffin to Grace Blakeley – Is there a way to “hack” financialization?
Caitlín Adams to Grace Blakeley – Where to study heterodox economics?
Natalie Serio to Grace Blakeley – How to create an influential social media platform?
Ralph Hall to Grace Blakeley – Will automation/AI undermine efforts to strengthen unions/labor?
Congratulations to our 2019 Public and Urban Affairs (PUA) and Environmental Policy and Planning (EPP) graduates! The video below (taken through Google Glass) captures my view of the 2019 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.
From 5:00 to 7:45pm on May 7, 16 teams of students (in SPIA/GEOG 2244 Sustainable Urbanization) will be presenting their projects that envision the VT Innovation Campus. The presentations will be held in room 220 in the New Classroom Building and will consist of a poster, handout, and a live demonstration of how they have analyzed their ideas using UrbanFootprint.
Last fall, Virginia Tech announced its plan to build a 1,000,000 square-foot Innovation Campus in Alexandria as part of a larger pitch to bring Amazon’s HQ2 to Northern Virginia. After hearing this news, I started thinking about how this development could be explored in my Spring semester Sustainable Urbanization course.
Around the same time, I was also introduced to UrbanFootprint – a big data urban analytics platform – as an interesting tool for teaching urban sustainability. Combining these two opportunities resulted in a proposal to use UrbanFootprint to study the new Amazon HQ2 and VT Innovation Campus. However, I faced to two challenges with this idea. The first was securing the financial resources to cover the UrbanFootprint license for up to 90 students. The second was finding an appropriate way for the class to engage with the VT Innovation Campus team to make sure that (1) students had access to relevant information and (2) their final products would be of value to the team.
After exploring a couple of funding opportunities, the first challenge was solved when the Urban Affairs and Planning Program (UAP) and the School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA) kindly agreed to share the cost of a one semester license. In addition, UrbanFootprint agreed to allow over 80 students in the class to use the platform in teams, rather than as individual users, which had not been done on this scale before.
The second challenge was addressed by working closely with Dr Kristie Caddick, the project manager for the VT Innovation Campus. As one might expect, building a 1,000,000 square-foot campus is a formidable challenge and managing such an endeavor requires a dedicated team that was forming at the time I was exploring this idea. Fortunately, the team saw the pedagogical value of challenging our undergraduates to learn more about the project and explore visions of how the campus could be developed.
As with all new ideas, it’s never as easy as you hope. While the funding for the UrbanFootprint license had been secured, it took a patient team of professionals at VT and UrbanFootprint to develop a workable license agreement that was signed the day before classes begun. This delay meant the teaching team were co-learning the platform with the students, which was a little uncomfortable at first, but resulted in a learning environment that was ‘real’ and collaborative.
By the time we reached Spring break, the teaching team had a sufficient handle on the platform that we moved from knowledge/skill-based exercises to a more complex task – to start exploring how the VT Innovation Campus could be built in Alexandria. This task was co-designed with Dr. Caddick, who introduced the students to the history of the VT Innovation Campus and more recent developments via a guest lecture.
In parallel with their work in UrbanFootprint, students have been searching for best practices of sustainable urbanization in the US and overseas that are now informing their ideas for the VT Innovation Campus. Last week, each of the 16 teams crafted a vision statement for the new campus. Several of the draft statements are shown in the slideshow below, along with a few pictures from several guest lecturers who have joined us this semester.
On May 7, from 5:00 – 7:00pm, in room 220 of the New Classroom Building at Virginia Tech, 16 teams of students will present their visions for how the VT Innovation Campus could be developed. The presentations will consist of a poster that outlines their vision and development strategies and a live demonstration of how they analyzed the potential impacts of their vision using UrbanFootprint.
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.