Anne Khademian, Professor and Director

Explore, prepare, engage and lead

VT SPIA prepares students for public service and policy leadership and scholarship, translates scholarship to practice to address challenging public problems, and engages with communities and organizations across Virginia and the world to work on questions of planning, policy, administration and governance, performance, security, sustainability, collaboration, resilience, economic development, and more. VT SPIA is strategically located in the Blacksburg main campus, the National Capital Region, and in the State Capital of Richmond, and offers six degree programs. The highlights of SPIA’s accomplishments for the 2016 calendar year are featured below, and summarized in this report.

SPIA Highlights

  • Ranked #34 overall by U.S. News and World Report for graduate public affairs programs out of 272 programs nationally (2016).
  • Ranked #22 by U.S. News for public management administration.
  • Ranked #15 nationally by Best Value Schools.
  • Ranked a Top 25 national program in Urban Planning by Planetizen.

SPIA is a major player in Virginia Tech’s drive to be a global leader in the destination areas of Integrated Security, Intelligent infrastructure, and Data Analytics and Decision Sciences. SPIA professors and students will be at the forefront of developing research and policies in these high-priority global destination areas, and SPIA is a leader in developing the Policy Strategic Growth Area.  

During the 2016 calendar year, the Board of Visitors approved SPIA’s proposed online Master’s degree in Nonprofit and NGO Management (MANGO), a unique online degree program that will meet a growing demand for leadership in the nonprofit world. The proposal is now under review by SCHEV.

SPIA’s new undergraduate programming continued to develop this year, including the approval of a new Pathways Minor in Community Systems and Engagement in partnership with VT Engage, with the new majors in Smart Sustainable Cities and Environmental Planning and Policy to launch in Spring 2018.

In partnership with the Virginia Tech Office of the President, SPIA convened two additional Capital Hill Round Tables lead by SPIA Professor of Practice, former Congressman Jim Moran, the first on security policy 15 years after 9-11, and the second on cyber security.

SPIA will lead a major leadership development initiative for the State of Virginia in Richmond beginning in Fall 2017, building on the educational partnerships and forums underway.

SPIA launched a small cities initiative with Hollins University and the Global Forum on Urban and Regional Resilience with the first combined studio course in Roanoke in Fall 2016.

We reached a major milestone in the Two Capitals, Two Degrees Master’s program with the University of Kent, as the first graduate of the program crossed the stage in May.

SPIA will welcome two new faculty members in Fall 2017: Raymund Zuniga in the Center for Public Administration and Policy, and Wenwen Zhang in Urban Affairs and Planning. Ray’s research interests include higher education policy and issues concerning Latinos in the United States, and Wenwen’s research focuses on the interaction between land use and transportation and the rise of shared autonomous vehicles.

SPIA expanded the Washington Semester to include a semester on Global Engagement in partnership with the International Studies program.

SPIA’s international educational programming in Europe and Malawi continued apace, and we initiated work for additional opportunities in China and in Dar es Saalam.

SPIA’s Todd Schenk led a university-wide Frenemies Day aimed at “communicating our differences of opinion through healthy, productive conversations.”

The Institute of Policy and Governance (IPG) and the Metropolitan Institute (MI) continued successful programs of research, engagement, and technical support focused on vulnerable populations and community engagement, and broad metropolitan issues of metrics, performance, and more. IPG’s Community Voices continued to provide an outstanding forum for forward thinking and engagement while the MI sponsored workshop on Collaboration as Big Data Ethics highlighted the range of expertise and breadth of knowledge around the governance and ethical dimensions of big data.

SPIA faculty contributed to a 2016 European Union and United Nations report on global sustainability and transportation best practices.

SPIA partnered with the Hume Center to launch Cyber 2020, a Hewlett Foundation sponsored program to emphasize the integration of policy and technology in educating the future leaders of cyber security.

The SPIA Advisory Board met for a video conference meeting in February and again in June of 2016 in Blacksburg, and SPIA continued to develop an alumni community through the work of the SPIA Alumni Council.

In April, SPIA hosted the annual awards ceremony with approximately 100 students, faculty and alumni in attendance in Owens banquet hall in Blacksburg, and SPIA announced the first inductees to the SPIA Alumni Hall of Fame: Ryan Eargle (PUA 2006) and William Murray (MPA 1991 and PAPA 1993).

Faculty and students traveled across the nation and the globe to present research at major conferences and workshops; students participated in hands-on studios from water and sanitation work in Malawi to the documentation of the history and culture of Vietnamese neighborhoods in Arlington; and SPIA is instrumental in supporting the development of a Policy Strategic Growth Area as a key component of the development of the global land grant university.

Faculty-student research on how role-playing exercises improve people’s ability to collaborate on divisive issues like politics and climate change drew national media attention throughout the 2016 presidential election.

Faculty, Staff, Student and Program Recognition

This year, SPIA’s faculty, students and staff have been recognized for excellence in scholarship and service.

Leigh Bower was recognized with the prestigious Elizabeth Roberson Award for Staff Excellence. Maggie Cowell was promoted to associate professor with tenure, and she was recognized by the American Planning Association for the Karen B. Smith Award for the 2015 diversity study (with APA Virginia) for Outstanding Outreach to the Community. Associate professor Ralph Hall was recognized with the Outstanding Dissertation Advisor Award in Social Sciences, Business, Education, and Humanities by the Graduate School.

Assistant professor Robin Lemaire was recognized with the CAUS Certificate for Excellence in Teaching, and Professor Max Stephenson was recognized with the CAUS Certificate for Excellence in Scholarship.

Professor Joyce Rothschild was recognized by the University for Excellence in Teaching. The Virginia Tech Real Estate Program recognized Associate Professor David Bieri as the Junior Faculty Fellow, an endowed 3-year appointment. Assistant Professor Steve Hankey received the 2016 Outstanding Paper Award from the Transportation Research Board – Committee on Pedestrians for his paper, “Facility-Demand Models of Peak-Period Pedestrian and Bicycle Traffic: A Comparison of Fully-Specified and Reduced-Form Models.” Associate Professor Patrick Roberts was recognized as the Wertheim Study Researcher-in-Residence, New York Public Library, and received the Visiting Scholar Award 2015-16, at Rutgers University – Newark. And Professor Anne Khademian was elected to the National Academy of Public Administration Board of Directors.

Among SPIA students, Planning Governance and Globalization (PGG) student Saul N’Jie was selected for the Bouchet Honor Society, and he presented a paper on micro-credit in Gambia at the induction ceremony at Yale University.

PGG student Marc Fialkoff was selected as a 2017 Eno Fellow for the cultivation of future leaders in transportation policy, and he was awarded the Charles William Koch Award recognizing exceptional academic achievement and leadership qualities evidenced by a student specializing in transportation operations.

PGG student Putu Desy Apriliani was recognized for the Graduate Citizen Scholar Award, and Master’s of Public and International Affairs student Heather Elizabeth Lyne was recognized for the same award. Masters of Urban and Regional Planning student Meliha ‘Lida’ Aljabar was recognized as outstanding Master’s student in CAUS.

Teaching and Learning

SPIA’s degree programs are led by outstanding faculty dedicated to the development of strong scholars and sophisticated public sector leaders. SPIA degree programs emphasize holistic, interdisciplinary approaches to critical thinking and problem solving, the sophisticated use of multiple forms of evidence in decision making, collaborative leadership and governance, and thoughtful consideration of the values and assumptions that drive policy, planning, and engagement. SPIA’s new undergraduate degree program will launch in Spring 2018 with majors in Smart Sustainable Cities and Environmental Planning and Policy.

Research and Discovery

SPIA faculty had a strong year in research and discovery.  SPIA faculty continue to build on the outstanding support from the Institute for Society Culture and Environment (ISCE) to develop successful proposals for external funding. This past academic year, ISCE funding supported Todd Schenk’s work on facilitating civil discourse, Steve Hankey’s work on mood state in transportation, Ariel Ahram’s Middle East initiative, Maggie Cowell’s leadership of the DC Initiative, and Patrick Robert’s work on nuclear governance.

Including external and internal support, total research expenditures for SPIA, including the Institute for Policy and Governance and the Metropolitan Institute, were $1,531,408.58. And SPIA faculty were the PI or co-PI on grant awards over $2,000,000.

SPIA faculty members continue to be leaders in the profession with editorial board service and significant presentations at conferences and workshops across Virginia, the U.S. and the globe.  We will continue to emphasize and support research conference travel for students and faculty as professional development and learning from the interaction of ideas and research in a broader audience.

The tables below highlight scholarship and research for SPIA faculty. Table 2 highlights publications, presentations, and editorial leadership with a comparison across five years.

Outreach and Engagement

It is the obligation of SPIA as a publicly funded school of public and international affairs to model the governance internally that we expect of government more generally, to offer insight and support for the most pressing problems of our time, and to be a voice for public service and the importance of research and knowledge in the policy making process. SPIA faculty and students and staff engage in Blacksburg and the Roanoke region, Alexandria and the National Capital Region, and across the globe through research, teaching, and service in multiple ways to strengthen communities, share knowledge, learn, collaborate and participate.

SPIA publishes Virginia Issues and Answers (VIA), an online publication providing insight and advice for policy makers and managers across Virginia. See the latest issue, here.



SPIA is continuously engaged in efforts to enhance the diversity of thought, race, nationality, experience, and gender among students, faculty and staff, in the curriculum, in our research topics, and in our outreach and engagement efforts.

Building on the report of the SPIA Diversity Task Force, disseminated in early FY 15-16, SPIA continued to develop programs and prioritize faculty and student recruitment to advance the diversity of the 

School, create a more inclusive learning environment, and explore the sources and implications of inequality in theory and practice. SPIA’s annual Ridenour Faculty Fellowship conference focused on rebuilding trust in government, with the keynote address by Virginia Tech Professor Marc Edwards, who helped lead the effort to bring clean and safe drinking water to the residents of Flint, Michigan through scientific testing and reporting. Professor Edwards will join a team of SPIA faculty, including Dr. Virgil Wood, our Ridenour Faculty Fellow and a veteran civil rights activist and former lieutenant to Dr. Martin Luther King, and Associate Professor Ralph Hall, to launch the Beloved Community Initiative, a long- term effort to examine race and inequality through the frames of inclusive economics, environmental justice, and political agency through the arts.