Susan Sterett has been named the director of the Metropolitan Institute and associate director of research for the university's School of Public and International Affairs in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies at Virginia Tech. 

In this dual role, she will foster research within the Metropolitan Institute, support the ongoing partnership between the Metropolitan Institute and the School of Public and International Affairs, and work with faculty to identify research opportunities and build multi-disciplinary collaborative research efforts within and beyond the school and college.

A scholar of law and social welfare and sociolegal studies and disaster, with attention to feminist theory, Sterett comes to Virginia Tech from the National Science Foundation where she was a program officer for Law and Social Sciences for the past three years, administering $6 million in grants. 

During her three-year tenure at NSF, Sterett was on leave from the University of Denver. Since 1993, she held positions as professor, chair of the Department of Political Science, and associate dean of arts, humanities and social sciences at Denver. She also was a visiting professor at Virginia Tech’s Center for Public Administration and Policy in Alexandria and in her new position, she will continue to teach in the areas of law, politics, and social welfare. 

Sterett’s scholarship focuses on the mobilization of law in administrative states, within both appellate courts and on the ground. Most recently, her research has centered on legal mobilization after disaster. 

She has served on the board of trustees for the Law and Society Association and on the executive committee of the Law and Courts section in the American Political Science Association.

“We are incredibly fortunate for the leadership and experience Dr. Sterett brings to Virginia Tech and particularly the partnership between the Metropolitan Institute and the School of Public and International Affairs,” said Anne Khademian, director of the School of Public and International Affairs.

“She is well poised to oversee the work of the institute’s research faculty, associates, and post docs toward the goal of broadening and strengthening engagement around resilience, response and recovery, urban challenges, and security and, at the same time, help identify and encourage research that will be strengthened by Metropolitan Institute and School of Public and International Affairs faculty partnership,” Khademian said.

Khademian also noted the contributions made by Joe Schilling, senior research fellow at the Metropolitan Institute and professor of practice in the Urban Affairs and Planning program. Schilling assumed the responsibilities as director of the institute for the past two years and will continue to lead its Sustainable Communities Initiative.

“Under his leadership we were able to establish a foundation for this new direction of a Metropolitan Institute/School of Public and International Affairs partnership,” said Khademian. 

Already in place are a jointly sponsored lecture series; a research management and support process; and a National Capital Region initiative launched by the Institute of Society, Culture and Environment to cultivate cross-disciplinary research that benefits the Washington, D.C., area and heighten awareness of Virginia Tech’s presence in the region.

“I am excited to join Virginia Tech’s vibrant scholarly community committed to fulfilling the land grant mission of the university as it pertains to today’s environment. I look forward to furthering the Metropolitan Institute and School of Public and International Affairs partnership not only by facilitating and integrating faculty research but by teaching as well,” said Sterett.

“Our students bring a rich diversity of experiences through their work, thereby enriching the classroom and positively influencing our academic pursuits,” she said.

Sterett received her bachelor's degree from the University of California, San Diego and a master's degree and Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. 

She has been a Fulbright scholar at the China University of Political Science and Law and at the Centre for Research on Ethnic Relations at the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom; a Fulbright senior specialist at Tongji University in Shanghai; and a fellow at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia.

Most recently, Sterett edited a collection on Disaster and Sociolegal Studies that resulted from a workshop held at the International Institute for the Sociology of Law in Oñati, Spain. 

She is the author of an article forthcoming in the journal Law and Policy and another in Studies in Law, Politics and Society, both on legal engagements after disaster. She has published “Public Pensions: Gender and Civic Service in the States, 1850-1937” (Cornell University Press, 2003) and "Creating Constitutionalism?: Legal Accountability and the Administrative State in England and Wales" (University of Michigan Press, 1997).