Cities After Decline: Urban Revival in the USA, Russia, and Germany

I’m really looking forward to participating in this workshop next week (9/24/18-9/26/18) in Leipzig, Germany at the Leibniz-Institut für Länderkunde.  Along with my colleague, Dr. Thomas Skuzinski, I will be talking about ways we might help frame an international comparison of cities after decline. More to follow!


A highlight of one’s profession

Hamre graduation_2018

I’d always thought that the hooding ceremony for a PhD advisee would be a professional highlight and on Sunday, May 13, 2018 I found that to be 100% true. I was honored to hood my first student, Dr. Andrea Hamre. Though I was not technically Dr. Hamre’s chair — I was merely a stand-in for her actual chair, Dr. Kris Wernstedt, who is presently in Tanzania on a Fulbright — the feeling was still enormously rewarding. What a fun way to metaphorically pass the torch on to the next wave of scholars! A heartfelt congratulations to my own advisee, Dr. Caitlin Walter, who also graduated (though she did not walk, and hence no picture) on Sunday.

Tis’ the season for capstone defenses

I’ve been witness to two successful capstone defenses here in Alexandria this past week. The first, by James Garman (not pictured, sorry!), explored cost externalities associated with pervious pavement.  The second, by Bryan Steckler (picture below), examined the West Philadelphia Scattered Site Model, which has been used to redevelop vacant properties in residential neighborhoods. Congratulations to both James and Bryan!



A successful dissertation defense

I am delighted to share the news that Caitlin Walter successfully defended her dissertation today. The work – entitled, “Metropolitan Areas in 1990 vs. Today – How Different Are They? An Examination of Changes in Built Form and Resident Characteristics” – explores how density has changed in the context of the overall metropolitan region and the extent to which the characteristics of residents in metros has changed as well. Her findings suggest that the suburbs-city distinction may no longer be relevant and that Millennials are not having as big of an impact on density as was predicted.

 Caitlin’s other committee members include Tom Sanchez (UAP/SPIA), John Provo (VT Office of Economic Development), and Lisa Sturtevant (Lisa Sturtevant and Associates).

Congratulations, Dr. Walter!

Caitlin Walter defense

Inspiring student work

I had the opportunity to participate in two excellent MURP student capstone defenses today here at Virginia Tech. The first, by Valeria Gelman, uses public radio (and podcasts) to bring attention to long-standing local businesses along Lee Highway and in the Nauck/Green Valley neighborhood in Arlington County, VA. A link to the audio files, which will also be featured on Arlington Independent Media (Saturdays, 9am-930am for the next 20 weeks), can be found here.


The second, by Emily Lockhart, examines the fiber arts community in Alexandria, VA. Emily produced a really beautiful quilt to illustrate her findings (below). A hearty congratulations to both of them on the successful defense of their capstones!


National Science Foundation National Research Traineeship in Disaster Resilience and Risk Management

Good news! We were recently awarded a NSF grant to build a program here at Virginia Tech. Formally, it’s called the NRT: Disaster Resilience and Risk Management (DRRM) – Creating quantitative decision making frameworks for multi-dimensional and multi-scale analysis of hazard impact. The initiative will ramp up beginning next month, but the general gist of it is that we will synthesize expertise in science, engineering, planning, and business to address the critical issue of growing disaster losses attributed to both natural and man made hazards. The program will train a new community of multi-disciplinary researchers, practitioners, and leaders at the master’s and doctoral levels. Over five years, the project will support 26 trainees on NSF stipends, and an estimated 150 additional students will participate in at least one element of the program. Each trainee will pursue a degree through existing academic entities at Virginia Tech or through the university’s new Individualized Interdisciplinary PhD program.  More to come on this soon……