CUGH Global Health Conference

5 04 2017

This weekend, Drs. Penny and Andy Muelenaer will be presenting the poster below at the 8th Annual CUGH Global Health Conference entitled Healthy People, Healthy Ecosystems: Implementation, Leadership, & Sustainability in Global Health. The conference will be held at the Washington Hilton Hotel, Dupont Circle.

The poster captures captures some of the work of Virginia Tech’s TEAM Malawi.

Dr. Virgil Wood Talks About His Life and Working with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

28 03 2017

Last week, Dr. Virgil Wood was interviewed by Rebecca Powell-Doherty and Ben Grove on Andy Morikawa’s Trustees Without Borders show. During the conversation, Dr. Wood talked about his life and work with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Louis Kelso, and many other leading American figures. The interview can be accessed by clicking on the image below.

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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 Marc Fialkoff

13 03 2017

Congratulations Marc Fialkoff (PGG Doctoral Candidate) for being selected as a 2017 Eno Transportation Fellow. The Eno Center for Transportation is non-profit foundation whose core mission is the study of emerging issues in transportation policy and the cultivation of future leaders in the field.

Marc is the first student in the School of Public and International Affairs at Virginia Tech to be selected as an Eno Fellow. As a Fellow, Marc will travel to Washington D.C. in early June to participate in the Eno Center Future Leaders Development Conference.

As a doctoral candidate and a lawyer, Marc’s research is at the intersection of law, transportation policy, civil engineering, and network science. His research focus on freight transportation resilience was awarded a HERE Dissertation Support Grant by Oak Ridge National Laboratory in 2016, where he carried out his research into the effect of the Jones Act on freight transportation movements after Hurricane Sandy. His research has been published in the Critical Infrastructure Report and the International Journal for Critical Infrastructure Protection.

Marc’s committee represents the interdisciplinary nature of transportation policy, with committee members from Urban Affairs and Planning, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Law, and Network Science. I currently co-chair Marc’s committee with Ralph Buehler, along with committee members Kathleen Hancock, Henning Mortveit, and Jonathan Gutoff.

2017 Undergraduate Research Conference

21 02 2017

Today I had the fortune of moderating a session at the 2017 Dennis Dean Undergraduate Research & Creative Scholarship Conference. This conference showcases the creative and scholarly accomplishments of Virginia Tech’s undergraduate students.

During my session, the following students (from five different programs) each provided excellent presentations of their research:

Congratulations Behshad Ghadimi!

15 02 2017

Congratulations to Behshad Ghadimi who successfully defended his PhD in Civil Engineering today. Behshad’s researched focused on the impact of project delivery methods on stakeholder issues and involvement practices in megaprojects. I served on Behshad’s PhD committee with Michael Garvin (Committee Chair, shown on the left below), Sunil Sinha, and John Taylor. The abstract to Behshad’s dissertation is provided below.



As the scale and scope of infrastructure projects have increased, so too has the array of stakeholders either involved or impacted. Such projects often take years to come together and evolve with time through the actions of project sponsors and the engagement of various stakeholders. Stakeholders through engagement and input can help legitimize and improve large-scale project initiatives. Stakeholders can also marshal opposition that can delay or block these projects. Consequently, the significance of stakeholder involvement is critical in megaprojects.

Governments have increasingly utilized public-private partnerships (PPPs) for megaproject delivery. This method introduces characteristics that distinguish PPP megaprojects from others such as: private control, profiteering, foreign profits, and long-term concessions. This study investigates whether differences exist between PPP and non-PPP megaprojects with respect to stakeholder involvement strategies and stakeholder issues raised in such projects.

The research employs a longitudinal multiple case study approach that examines four tolled fixed crossing megaprojects; two of them are delivered as PPPs and two are delivered as design-build (i.e., non-PPP). The approach follows the design of prior studies in this area by De Schepper, Dooms, and Haezendonck (2014) and Winn (2001). Pre and post milestone event analysis captures trends and shifts in involvement strategies and stakeholder issues. Subsequently, stakeholder issue tables (organized by issue themes) and stakeholder mechanism tables (organized by mechanism type and information flow) are utilized for across case synthesis and comparison to identify similarities and differences among the cases.

Analysis of stakeholder involvements across cases shows that NEPA establishes a baseline for involvement, but its requirements are not sufficient for megaprojects; a more comprehensive strategy is necessary. Further, although participatory involvements may enhance input and legitimize projects, these mechanisms must be carefully managed in terms of process and criteria for evaluating stakeholder input. Examination of stakeholder issues indicates that issues that are common to non-PPP and PPP projects are more prevalent than PPP specific issues. In particular, issues related to tolling are dominant; moreover, toll affordability is extremely sensitive, and its severity is predictable based on affected area demographics and past toll escalation practices.

The study provides insights about how megaprojects are shaped through actions of project sponsors as well as impacted and interested stakeholders. It also demonstrates how these projects become artifacts of aspiration for politically powerful figures. Lastly, it identifies the main stakeholder issues and suggests a set of guidelines to assist future practitioners in developing better stakeholder involvement strategies, which should both enhance and legitimize megaprojects.

Regina Dugan … Part 2: Design Space

3 09 2016

Earlier this week, I posted my reflection to Regina Dugan’s Presidential Lecture. After a couple of days of thinking, I wanted to extend one of the ideas I discussed and connect it with my research on innovation/transformation.

In my previous post, I discussed the idea of creating sandbox spaces or studios where students from any discipline can work on ‘use-inspired’ solutions to significant problems. I wanted to extend this idea by introducing the concept of “design space.”

In 1978, Allen, Utterback, et al. of MIT introduced “design space” as a cognitive concept that refers to the dimensions along which the designers of technical systems concern themselves. The basic idea is simple. Once a problem is clearly defined (or bounded), so too is the design space within which a solution to the problem can be created. A well-defined design space opens up the creativity of an engineer, designer, etc., by clarifying the dimensions of a problem that must be solved. A poorly defined problem cannot be easily solved, if at all. While the roots of the idea stem from innovation theory, Nicholas Ashford and I have argued that the idea of “design space” can be applied in a technical and regulatory setting to advance sustainable development.

If solutions to problems are sought only along traditional engineering lines, unconventional solutions – which may or may not be high-tech – are ignored. Put differently, if the design space ignores a specific factor or dimension, the solution to a problem is also likely to ignore this factor or dimension. From an organizational perspective, organizations that limit themselves to current or traditional strategies or agendas, are likely to have a constrained use of the available design space, reducing the chance they will be able to fundamentally transform their functions. Thus, organizations can become ‘locked-in’ to their own routines and ways of thinking if they do not have a process to engage with outsiders and radically new ideas. The implications of this idea for the Beyond Boundaries process should be clear.

The Presidential Lecture series provides a good example of how Virginia Tech is trying to engage with ‘outsiders’ to expand the Beyond Boundaries design space – i.e., to help us identify important factors or dimensions that we previously had not considered.

In the context of creating sandbox spaces or problem-solving studios, it would be critical to broaden the design space to capture the full scope of issues that underlie a complex problem. For example, a design space for a sustainable development problem would be necessarily broad (or multidimensional). In this case, the design space would need to be ‘opened up’ (perhaps, through engagement with ‘outsiders’) to achieve mutually supportive social goals, co-optimizing the determinants of economic welfare, environment, consumer and public health and safety, and employment, etc. A failure to do this may result in solutions that create problems in those areas excluded from the design space. I believe that limited or single-purpose design spaces are one of the reasons progress towards sustainable development has been so slow.

Finally, the way in which Virginia Tech crafts the design spaces for the Destination Areas (DAs), is likely to be critical to the type and scope of problems that the university will be able to address. We should heed Regina Dugan’s advice and not limit the DA design spaces to what we feel comfortable doing. We need to stretch our imagination and capabilities to the point of discomfort, in search of disruptive and transformative ideas. The sandbox spaces or problem-solving studios could provide safe places where students and faculty could fantastically succeed or fail, both outcomes are part of the same transformative coin.


Allen, T. J., J. M. Utterback, et al. (1978). “Government Influence on the Process of Innovation in Europe and Japan.” Research Policy 7(2): 124– 149.