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).





2018 PUA and EPP Graduation Video

17 05 2018

Congratulations to our 2018 Public and Urban Affairs (PUA) and Environmental Policy and Planning (EPP) graduates! The video below (taken through Google Glass) captures my view of the 2018 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. I’d like to thank Prof. Eric Lyon for allowing me to include his original music – entitled “Of the Beginning” – in the video. This music was written for the 2018 Graduate School Commencement Ceremony. I was able to record a live version of this piece that can be heard throughout the video.





Public Talk – King’s Ethics & Kelso’s Economics

29 04 2018

On Wednesday, May 9, at 7:00pm, Dr. Virgil Wood (the 2018 VT Graduate Commencement Speaker), Prof. Harvey Cox (Hollis Professor of Divinity, Emeritus, Harvard University), and I will hold a public conversation on The Role of Dr. King, Jr.’s Ethics Kelso’s Economics in Creating a Workable Society. Prof. Cox will be joining the conversation via video conference.

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Image of Dr. King, Jr. with Dr. Virgil Wood; Image of Louis O. Kelso

The event will be held in the Solitude Room at the Inn at Virginia Tech. Please share this announcement with students and community groups who may find this subject of interest. The event will provide attendees with a unique opportunity to engage with Dr. Wood and Dr. Cox, who have spent their lives working to advance economic and spiritual development across the nation.





John O. Browder

27 09 2017

Last week, a colleague, mentor, and friend Professor John O. Browder lost his battle against cancer. John has left behind a significant legacy at Virginia Tech and I wanted to take a moment to reflect on his enduring impact.

During the eight years I worked with John, I was able to witness his dedication to student learning and leadership in advancing the international aspects of our academic programs. As a mentor, John was always willing to provide honest and constructive feedback that helped many faculty at Virginia Tech navigate the tenure and promotion process. I now find myself repeating the advice I received from John to others, advice that came from his decades of experience serving on promotion and tenure committees at the school, college, and university level.

In the classroom setting, John created a relaxed and open environment, but always challenged students to continually advance their knowledge. He created a learning partnership model with our doctoral students as they co-explored theories of pedagogy and learning. With our masters students, John anchored our international development offerings. At the undergraduate level, John taught environmental ethics and addressed real problems with clients in the environmental problem solving studio.

When I arrived at Virginia Tech in 2009, John asked me to take over the international development planning studio that he created and had taught for over a decade. We later made this studio one of the two core classes that support the graduate certificate in Global Planning and International Development Studies. This certificate was created under John’s leadership in collaboration with other programs at Virginia Tech. John never went far from the studio, leading discussions on the lessons he learned from his research in the Amazon or serving on the studio’s proposal review panel. I have included a few pictures below of John in action.

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John will be dearly missed by everyone he touched. He still had much to give, especially related to helping Virginia Tech become a global land grant institution.

Thank you John for everything you gave us.





The Future of Work and Income

17 03 2017

On March 24-25, the School of Public and International Affairs will be holding its Ridenour Faculty Fellowship Conference & High Table Celebration, at the Virginia Tech Inn. The title of the conference is Faith in the System: Rebuilding Trust in Government in a Time a Complex Governing Challenges.

During the conference, I will moderate a panel discussion (at 2:45pm on Friday, March 24) on The Future of Work and Income in an Era of Economic Inequality.

The panelists include Dr. Virgil A. Wood (Pastor Emeritus, Pond Street Baptist Church; Former Dean, Northeastern University; Former ten-year working associate of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.), Dr. Joyce Rothschild (Professor, School of Public and International Affairs, Virginia Tech), and Dr. Christian Matheis (Visiting Assistant Professor, Government and International Affairs, Virginia Tech).

Dr. Virgil Wood beside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Source: Getty Images)

During the panel discussion we will explore how the forces of globalization and rapid technological change, along with an overall decline in pay and wages, have resulted in the perception of a stagnant post-recession economic recovery. Emphasis on economic inequality was persistent in the 2016 presidential election along with promises to bring back jobs and industries that once supported the American Dream. The panel members will examine these major socio-economic and political shifts, and discuss what could be done to reduce economic inequality and reestablish trust in government.

The conference sessions are free, but participants are asked to register.





Congratulations Selma Elouardighi!

23 04 2016

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.

I served as the co-chair of Selma’s doctoral committee, alongside Edward Weisband (co-chair), Karen Hult, and Deborah Gallagher.

Ralph Hall, Selma Elouardighi, Karen Hult, and Edward Weisband

Ralph Hall, Selma Elouardighi, Karen Hult, and Edward Weisband





Pictures from Orientation and Cadet Parade

22 08 2015

Over the past several days, Virginia Tech as come alive with returning and new students. In the slideshow below, I capture a few images from the SPIA and UAP orientation and the New Cadets Parade that was held this morning.

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