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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Congratulations Yehyun An!

26 02 2015

On February 24, Yehyun An successfully defended her dissertation entitled “The Operationalization of Capacity Development: The Case of Urban Infrastructure Projects in India.”

Yehyun was a doctoral candidate in the Planning, Governance, and Globalization (PGG) program at Virginia Tech, and over the past several years has been a highly valued graduate research assistant in the IITK-VT partnership on Sustainable Infrastructure Development.

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Guru Ghosh, Ralph Hall, Yehyun An, Michael Garvin, and Yang Zhang

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.

ABSTRACT

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.

I served as the chair of Yehyun’s dissertation committee along with committee members Guru Ghosh, Michael Garvin, and Yang Zhang.