The Institute of Society, Culture and Environment has launched an initiative in the National Capital Region to cultivate innovative, cross-disciplinary research that would benefit the metropolitan Washington, D.C., area and heighten awareness of Virginia Tech’s presence and commitment in the region.

The "DC Initiative," announced by Karen Roberto, director of the institute, is composed of 10 faculty in the School of Public and International Affairs in the National Capital Region who bring a wide range of disciplines and expertise to the table:  transportation planning, economic development, political science, public policy, urban sociology, psychology, historic preservation, law, and environmental planning. 

The team will meet quarterly over a four-year period.

The focus of the initiative is threefold, Roberto said. “The group will discuss their individual ongoing research projects relevant to the Washington D.C. area, look for opportunities to initiate new collaborative investigations, and strategize ways to generate new funding and resources to support this research.”   

“The group is off to a fast start,” said Derek Hyra, associate professor in urban affairs and planning, who is serving as chair of the initiative. “We had our kickoff meeting on Sept. 19 and will be submitting our first proposal to the National Science Foundation in mid-December.” 

The additional nine faculty members serving the initiative include five others from the Urban Affairs and Planning program:  Ralph Buehler and Kris Wernstedt, associate professors; Maggie Cowell and Shalini Misra, assistant professors; and Elizabeth Morton, professor of practice. Matthew Dull and Patrick Roberts, associate professors, and Adam Eckerd, assistant professor in the Center for Public Administration and Policy; and Joe Schilling, director of the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech, are also serving on the DC Initiative. The two Virginia Tech graduate programs and the Metropolitan Institute are in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies.

Funds from the Institute of Society, Culture and Environment for the initiative are being matched by in-kind donations from the Metropolitan Institute and from participating faculty members. The Metropolitan Institute will provide logistical coordination for the group through its administrative staff.

Additionally, Hyra, Wernstedt, and Cowell are committed to having a graduate student in urban affairs and planning serve for a one-year period as the initiative’s content coordinator for the first three consecutive years. 

“Such commitment and support represent a unique long-term collaborative partnership among the Metropolitan Institute, the School of Public and International Affairs, and the Institute for Society, Culture and Environment,” said Roberto. “And we are confident that our goals of conducting research that will prove beneficial to Washington, D.C., and its residents and raising awareness of the work of Virginia Tech social scientists in the region will be realized.”