Thank You Social Investors!

12 10 2017

On behalf of Jessica Agnew, I wanted to thank everyone who kindly donated money to Jessica’s BUY2THRIVE program. The positive response Jessica received from family, friends, students, faculty, and members of the general public (including one or two from the UK and Ireland) has been the most rewarding aspect of her initiative so far. In total, 147 people made a donation and the final amount raised was $16,555. This amount put Jessica in second place in the overall CGU-U Commitments Challenge, which far surpassed what we thought was possible.

Jessica will be leaving for the CGI-U meeting tomorrow, where she will present her ideas and learn about ways to enhance the impacts of her project. If you plan to attend the event, please keep an eye open for Jessica and ask her plenty of questions about the program she is developing.

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Jessica Agnew Launches Buy2Thrive Initiative

6 10 2017

Please consider becoming a social investor and supporting Jessica Agnew’s BUY2THRIVE nutrition education program in Mozambique. Click on the image below to learn more.





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.





Jessica Agnew’s $20k CGI-U Challenge

17 09 2017

Jessica Agnew is a PhD student in Planning, Governance, and Globalization at Virginia Tech. She is one 1,000 students to attend the prestigious Clinton Global Initiative University conference in Boston this October. Students attending the conference are asked to make commitments to action in five core areas: education, environment and climate change, poverty alleviation, peace and human rights, and public health. Jessica is one of about 100 students who have been invited to present their proposed projects at the CGI U Exchange – an exhibition style networking event on the second day of the conference. She is also one of 50 students who were selected to receive support on the Crowd Rise platform to crowdsource the funds they need to advance their projects.

Jessica’s nutrition education program in Mozambique is called BUY2THRIVE. It will not only educate mothers of young children about good nutrition, but also how to purchase foods that are safe and nutritious. While knowing the right types of foods to eat is important, if mothers don’t know how to adjust food purchases based on changes in income and availability, then nutrition education will have little impact. BUY2THRIVE will also train respected women in the communities to deliver the education to mothers. This will ensure that mothers receive the education from people they trust. It will also help to create changes in the way entire communities think about food. The BUY2THRIVE program will be run in Mozambique, partnering with local organizations to ensure maximum impact.

Jessica is now crowdsourcing the money she needs to launch the beginning stages of BUY2THRIVE in Mozambique. Please consider partnering with her – as a social investor – as she works towards addressing malnutrition in Mozambique.





Congratulations Marc Fialkoff!

14 09 2017

Congratulations to Marc Fialkoff who successfully defended his PhD in Planning, Governance, and Globalization on Monday. Marc’s research focused on quantifying the effect of the Jones Act restriction on freight transportation networks in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. His research blended civil engineering, law, network science, and planning to analyze the impact of a law on critical infrastructure. Marc’s committee represented the interdisciplinary nature of transportation policy, with committee members from Urban Affairs and Planning, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Law, and Network Science. I served as co-chair Marc’s committee with Ralph Buehler, along with committee members Kathleen Hancock, Henning Mortveit, and Jonathan Gutoff.

In addition to being an interdisciplinary study of law, policy, and freight transportation, Marc’s research leveraged a collaborative partnership between the School of Public and International Affairs at Virginia Tech with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). As part of his research, Marc spent a year with the Critical Infrastructure and Climate Change team at ORNL, under the supervision of Dr. Olufemi Omitaomu, collecting data and analyzing the impacts of the law on the highway and railway networks. Using tools developed by ORNL researchers, Marc connected his background in law and planning with technical expertise to evaluate law and policy decisions on freight transportation. Most recently, Marc was selected as an Eno Fellow by the Eno Center for Transportation in recognition of his interdisciplinary approach to studying problems in transportation research.

Marc’s research is timely in the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma to inform decision-makers as to the impact of relaxing the Jones Act and its implications on the freight transportation network. It is the first study to externalize the Jones Act as a legal lever for influencing recovery within the freight transportation system.

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Abstract

In October 2012, Hurricane Sandy caused massive disruption and destruction to the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. The intensity of the storm forced the Port of New York and New Jersey to close, forcing cargo diversion to the Port of Norfolk in Virginia. Because of the Jones Act restriction on foreign vessels moving between U.S. ports, the restriction on short sea shipping was viewed as a barrier to recovery.

Much of the critical infrastructure resilience and security literature focuses on the “hardening” of physical infrastructure, but not the relationship between law, policy, and critical infrastructure. Traditional views of transportation systems do not adequately address questions of governance and emergent behaviors such as resilience. In contrast, recent development of a System of Systems framework provides a conceptual framework to study the relationship of law and policy systems to the transportation systems they govern.

Applying a System of Systems framework, this research analyzed the effect of relaxing the Jones Act on freight transportation networks experiencing a disruptive event. Using WebTRAGIS (Transportation Routing Analysis GIS), the results of the research demonstrate that relaxing the Jones Act had a marginal reduction on highway truck traffic and no change in rail traffic volume in the aftermath of a disruption. The research also analyzed the Jones Act waiver process and the barriers posed by the legal process involved in administration and review for Jones Act waivers. Recommendations on improving the waiver process include greater agency coordination and formal rulemaking to ensure certainty with the waiver process.

This research is the first in studying the impact of the Jones Act on a multimodal freight transportation network. Likewise, the use of the System of Systems framework to conceptualize the law and a critical infrastructure system such as transportation provides future opportunities for studying different sets of laws and policies on infrastructure. This can provide policymakers and planners with a more robust opportunity to understand the impact of law and policy on the infrastructure systems they govern.





2017 New Cadet Parade

28 08 2017

The video below captures a few moments from the 2017 New Cadet Parade. Enjoy!





Malawian Role Models

11 08 2017

My previous posts on the “Experience WASH in Malawi” study abroad course were written primarily for a U.S. audience. I write this post for students in Malawi.

Over the past month, I have had the privilege of getting to know nine graduate students from Mzuzu University. These graduates formed around one third of our study abroad course alongside students from the University of Denver and Virginia Tech.

During the course, all the students engaged in an extensive range of fieldwork that included household surveys, focus groups, technical assessments of water sources, and key informant interviews. All of these activities were made possible by the hard work and focus of the Mzuzu University students, who led the activities in one of two local dialects. For many, this was their first real fieldwork experience, and like the U.S. students, they were able to advance their research skills.

Outside of the fieldwork activities – i.e., traveling to and from the field and through reflexive and engaging conversations during the evenings or over the weekends – I began to hear the life stories of several of the Mzuzu University students. One of the most striking aspects of these stories was the adversity that each student had to overcome (and are still overcoming) to be a graduate student. Several of the students grew up in communities that were similar to the ones we visited during the fieldwork. These communities do not have access to electricity (unless they own a solar panel array – which is rare), have limited access to improved water, and in many cases are located long distances from local schools and basic health clinics. The students from these communities regularly commented on how our research was enabling the U.S. students to see and experience ‘real life’ in Malawi – meaning the everyday life for about 80% of the country’s population.

When you see and experience this life, the gravity of the challenges facing families and children can at times seem insurmountable. It is for this reason that I wanted to highlight the graduate students who we had the privilege of working with as role models for other students in Malawi.

When pressed on how they made it to graduate school, each Malawian student spoke of a role model who encouraged, inspired, or enabled them to stay in school and continue their education. One of the major challenges facing students is the cost of tuition, which is why many seek employment to cover these costs. The profiles below demonstrate an impressive array of professional experience, which many U.S. graduate students would be hard pressed to match.

While finding good enrollment data is difficult, I estimate that the graduate student population in Malawi is less than one tenth of one percent of the total population. Thus, the Mzuzu University Malawian role models represent the future of the nation and I look forward to seeing what they can collectively accomplish in the coming decade. I list them below in alphabetical order (and will add any missing profiles in the near future).

Elton Chimwemwe Chavura

Elton Chimwemwe Chavura: Elton studied Clinical Medicine and Anaesthesiology at Malawi College of Health Sciences, in Lilongwe and Blantyre, Malawi, graduating in 2003. He also earned a B.S. in Public Health at University of Livingstonia in 2015. At present, Elton is studying for an M.S. in Sanitation at Mzuzu University. He has worked with the Malawi Government civil service since 2007 and was stationed at the Kasungu District Health Office. Elton is currently operating a private practice medical clinic within the town of Kasungu, Malawi. Upon graduation, he intends to integrate WASH-related healthcare and hygiene initiatives into his community outreach program as part of his overall strategy to advance sustainable community development.

Charles F. Chirwa

Charles F. Chirwa: Charles received a B.S. in Environmental Health from the University of Malawi in 2010 and a M.S. in Sanitation from Mzuzu University in 2017. His research at Mzuzu University focused on measuring pit latrine fecal sludge resistance using a dynamic cone penetrometer in low income areas in Mzuzu city, and his findings were published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. I had the pleasure of working with Charles at Virginia Tech in 2016, when he advanced the analysis of the data he collected from 300 household surveys and pit latrine tests. For the last six years, Charles has served as the District WASH Project Officer (in the Chitipa District) for Marion Medical Mission. He recently joined a USAID project as a District WASH Officer in the USAID/ONSE Health, Development Innovations Group, ONSE Project. In the future he plans to obtain a PhD in a WASH-related field.

Gabriel Junior Kapanda, Jr

Gabriel Junior Kapanda, Jr.: Gabriel is a WASH Scientist with 3-years of experience working with non-profit organizations. He is currently a Water Program Manager for Orant Charities Africa – an international NGO working to serve rural communities in Malawi. He is passionate about community development and humanitarian work in rural and remote areas. Gabriel holds a B.S. in Water Resources Management and Development from Mzuzu University, and is now studying for his M.S. in Sanitation. His master’s research focuses on “determining the willingness to pay for, and initiatives for mitigating, indiscriminate household solid waste disposal in informal settlements in Mzuzu, Malawi.” Upon graduation he plans to create a ‘Water and Environmental Protection’ social business enterprise, comprising both non-profit and for-profit operations.

Chifundo Ruth Kayoka

Chifundo Ruth Kayoka: Chifundo received a diploma in Environmental Health from the Malawi College of Health Sciences in 2007 and a B.S. in Health Management from the University of Malawi, College of Medicine, in 2012. She works with the Ministry of Health as an Environmental Health Officer for the Lilongwe District Health Office. Her main responsibilities include planning, monitoring, and evaluating environmental/public health activities, including water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH), supervising a team of Health Surveillance Assistants, maintaining the workflow schedule, and supporting a safe work environment by adhering to the Ministry of Health’s protocols and guidelines. Chifundo is currently studying for an M.S. in Sanitation at Mzuzu University, where she is researching innovative ideas to improve WASH services for people with disabilities. In the next 5 to 10 years, Chifundo plans to help operationalize sustainable development strategies and interventions that promote the self-reliance of people living with disabilities across Malawi. She also aspires to work closely with communities to utilize appropriate locally available technology that will improve the lives of people with disabilities. In addition, she plans to contribute to attaining the right to WASH for all.

Madalitso Mmanga

Madalitso Mmanga: Madalitso received a B.S. in Environmental Health from the University of Malawi in 2007. Since then he has worked for the Ministry of Health in the Ntcheu District Hospital, where he is now the Environmental Health Officer and WASH Program Manager. Madalitso has also worked as a water resources and GIS technician for COMWASH (in 2004) and was an agriculture extension and development officer for the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Water Development (from 2003-2007). He is currently studying for a M.S. in Sanitation at Mzuzu University. Upon graduation, Madalitso plans to develop a comprehensive healthcare waste management system that will be implemented in all healthcare establishments in Malawi.

Welton Eddie Mtonga

Welton Eddie Mtonga: Eddie received a B.S. in Civil Engineering from the University of Malawi in 1999 and an M.S. in Civil Engineering-Hydropower Development from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in 2008. Eddie has 18 years of professional experience, four of which were with an Engineering Consultancy firm, nine were with a water utility, and the remainder have been with the Department of Water Resources Management and Development in the Faculty of Environmental Sciences at Mzuzu University. Elton was the most senior participant in the WASH course and is currently working to complete his PhD in Sanitary Engineering, after which he hopes to work as a faculty member at a university in Malawi.

Mike Petani

Mike Petani: Mike received a Diploma in Clinical Medicine from the Malawi Adventist University in 2008 and a B.S. in Public Health from the University of Livingstonia, Malawi, in 2014. He is currently studying for a M.S. in Sanitation at Mzuzu University and is working as an Environmental Health Officer for the Ministry of Health in the Kasungu District Hospital. To earn sufficient funds to support his family and pay for his school fees, Mike created the Come Again Medical Private Clinic and Medicine Pharmacy in his hometown. His long-term ambition is to obtain a PhD after which he plans to expand his clinic and pharmacy to include a maternity wing and X-ray department that serves local communities that are too far from government facilities.