Seminar Recording – Theory for Action

The recording of Dr. Tiziano Distefano (University of Pisa, Italy) seminar entitled “Theory for Action: Applying System Dynamics to Address Climate Change and Social Inequality,” can be accessed below. If you would like to read more about his research I recommend looking at this paper on Feasible alternatives to green growth and edited book on Water Resources and Economic Processes.

If you are an undergraduate (rising senior) or graduate student and would like to apply for our joint study abroad program, please submit an application by February 28, 2022.

Seminar – Theory for Action (Feb 4, 12pm)

On Friday, February 4, from 12 – 1pm, Dr. Tiziano Distefano (University of Pisa, Italy) will talk about his research on applying system dynamics to address climate change and social inequality.

Please register here to obtain the Zoom link for the seminar. 

During his presentation, Dr. Distefano will also talk about a unique summer 2022 VT-MIT-UNIPI Study Abroad program (in Pisa, Italy) that will explore transitions towards sustainability and enable students to attend the 14th Conference of the European Society for Ecological Economics (ESEE) and hike and learn in the Apuan Alps.

USAID LASER PULSE Article on Kenya Project

USAID LASER PULSE just released the following article on our research project in Kenya. The article includes a short video showing the AgUnity blockchain app being used by project participants along the African Indigenous Vegetable (AIV) supply chain.

New Paper on Designing Transdisciplinarity

In this new article published in the Journal of Public Affairs Education, we discuss institutional drivers and barriers to collaborative transdisciplinary teaching as experienced through the Virginia Tech’s Honors College SuperStudio.

Abstract

Employers increasingly desire new graduates to work across boundaries, in teams, and with developed soft skills, especially in public affairs. Likewise, students increasingly seek academic experiences for learning, practicing, and honing transferable, competency-based skills. This suggests instructors should explore alternative pedagogy engaging problem definition and transdisciplinary teamwork. We describe institutional drivers and barriers to collaborative transdisciplinarity in undergraduate teaching and the structure and processes involved in developing a co-taught studio-based capstone involving public affairs students and varied other unrelated majors. We describe the structure through which the “SuperStudio” (1) combines topic concentrations with a shared policy context allowing students to apply disciplinary knowledge to define transdisciplinary problems and (2) fosters collaborative teaching and strategic exploration of overarching issues like problem framing, equity, and effective communication. We then offer lessons learned regarding the drivers and barriers to such efforts, and advice from institutional decision-makers on designing such courses at other institutions.

Suggested citation: Anne-Lise Velez, Hall, R.P., and Lewis, S.N. (2021) Designing transdisciplinarity: Exploring institutional drivers and barriers to collaborative transdisciplinary teaching. Journal of Public Affairs Education, DOI: 10.1080/15236803.2021.1992196.

Behind the Scenes at the AgChain Hackathon

The video below presents a behind-the-scenes view of the AgChain Hackathon held at Egerton University, Kenya, from November 15 to 17. It was recorded by Nurvitria Kristofikova, a Program Director at AgUnity and core team member of our project entitled “Exploring Blockchain Technology to Improve Food Security Through African Indigenous Vegetables in Western Kenya.”

Webinar – Exploring the Use of Blockchain Technology to Improve Food Security Through African Indigenous Vegetables in Western Kenya

December 8, 2021
2-3 pm

Jessica Agnew, PhD, MSc, MPH 
Assistant Director of Research, Operations, & Program Management 
Center for International Research, Education and Development 

Ralph P. Hall, PhD, S.M., S.M., MEng
Undergraduate Programs Director and Associate Professor, Urban Affairs and Planning (UAP)
Associate Director, School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA)
Virginia Tech

Visit this link to registerhttps://tinyurl.com/hallagnew

Blockchain technology is heralded for its ability to improve traceability, trust, and trust in agri-food value chains. For the optimist and the skeptic of blockchain, we explore the complexities of using this emerging technology to strengthen agri-food value chains to create social and nutritional impacts. This 1-hour talk will explore results and lessons from the field in Western Kenya as to how blockchain might be used as a tool to improve food and nutrition security, women’s leadership, and youth engagement within the value chains for African indigenous vegetables (AIVs).

AgChain Hackathon Welcome Address

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.

Recording of the ‘To Block or Not’ Webinar

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.

Study Abroad Program in Pisa, Italy

Next summer, I will be co-running a study abroad program in Pisa, Italy, with colleagues Prof. Nicholas Ashford (MIT), Dr. Tiziano Distefano (University of Pisa), and Prof. Tommaso Luzzati (University of Pisa), from June 10-22, 2022.

We will be holding an information session about the program for students at VT and MIT from 10-11am on November 4, 2021. Please register here to join the session.

Sustainable Transitions in Employment, Economic Welfare, and the Environment

This unique program will provide students with a transdisciplinary perspective on sustainable development and is intended for rising seniors and graduate students interested in planning, policy, economics, business, innovation, environmental studies, and law. The program will explore the many dimensions of sustainability and how national, multinational, and international political and legal mechanisms can be used to further a transition towards sustainable development. 

The program has three unique learning environments.

The first section of the program will consist of a summer school based at the University of Pisa, Italy, which will run in parallel with two other summer schools led by the Center for Politics, Ontologies, and Ecologies (POE) and the European Society for Ecological Economics. Given the proximity of the summer schools, joint sessions will be held where the faculty engaged with each program will share their research with students from the other programs. These sessions will enrich the content of each program and provide an opportunity for intercultural exchange between students (and faculty).   

The second section of the program will consist of students attending the 14th Conference of the European Society for Ecological Economics (ESEE), which will be hosted by the University of Pisa. 

During the third and final section of the program, students will travel to the Apuan Alps (close to Pisa in Italy), where they will share what they learned from the summer school and ESEE conference and discuss/debate future economic/societal transformation strategies. This final reflection will take place in the mountains, where group discussions will be held outside (weather permitting), and students will have the opportunity to hike in the Italian Alps.