Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 72.78
Liaison Dennis Cochrane
Submission Date Feb. 18, 2021

STARS v2.2

Virginia Tech
AC-10: Support for Sustainability Research

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 4.00 / 4.00 Laurel Miner
Chief of Staff
Office of Vice President for Research and Innovation
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution have an ongoing program to encourage students in multiple disciplines or academic programs to conduct sustainability research?:

A brief description of the student sustainability research program:

Virginia Tech is ranked 44th nationally for undergraduate research and creative projects, with many efforts to promote research experiences for undergraduate students through the office of undergraduate research (https://www.research.undergraduate.vt.edu/). The recently launched Academy for Experiential Learning (https://teaching.vt.edu/experiential.html) will help promote experiential learning opportunities including undergraduate research and make these experiences available to every student in every department, as called for in the Virginia Tech Strategic Plan (https://strategicaffairs.vt.edu/StrategicPlanning/the-vt-difference-advancing-beyond-boundaries.html).

Students participate in sustainability research programs in several colleges and institutes both on and off campus. These programs are open to both undergraduate and graduate students with varying levels of support and focus. The following colleges have research opportunities specifically devoted to sustainability program:

- College of Agriculture and Life Sciences: https://www.cals.vt.edu/research.html
- College of Architecture & Urban Studies: https://www.caus.vt.edu/research/
- College of Engineering: http://www.eng.vt.edu/research
- College of Natural Resources and Environment: http://cnre.vt.edu/
- College of Science: https://www.science.vt.edu/research.html

Notable among these programs are:

The Sustainability Scholars Program (https://www.cals.vt.edu/academic-programs/sustainability-scholars-program.html). The Sustainability Scholars Program provides students with opportunities to solve complex problems in the context of real-world situations and provide opportunities for students to complete experiential learning projects, such as internships, undergraduate research, study abroad, and community-based service-learning projects.

Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science (ICTAS) Doctoral Scholars Program: (https://ictas.vt.edu/education/doctoralscholars.html) This program was established to attract and honor exceptional Ph.D. applicants with a Graduate Research Assistantship through the Ph.D. qualifying period. This program is a cooperative effort supported and coordinated primarily by ICTAS, with significant contributions from participating departments, colleges, and the graduate school. Students chosen to participate in this program are considered to be of the highest caliber and are expected to devote their efforts to pursuing research that supports a sustainable future. ICTAS Doctoral Scholars benefits include full graduate tuition funding, a graduate student stipend award, and associated benefits for the entire period of Ph.D. pursuit to a maximum of 4 years, partial travel support for professional development and external presentations, experience in interdisciplinary research, opportunity for cross pollination, and prestigious designation. This award is an investment in the university intellectual talent, creativity, and productivity, and complements the mission and strategic plan of the university. A number of scholars have worked on sustainability issues in the last three years.

The Virginia Tech Confluence and Extension Experience for Undergraduates (REEU) (https://vtconfluence-reeu.weebly.com/) REEU provides intellectually challenging, interdisciplinary research and extension experiences for diverse undergraduates from across the US, focused on water management. During the summer program our undergraduate fellows will: (1) Develop a detailed and nuanced understanding of the complexity of anthropogenic influences and stakeholder needs within mixed-use watersheds; (2) Gain appreciation for the disciplinary diversity required to address critical, complex water resource issues; (3) Improve their ability to communicate scientific findings to audiences of varying backgrounds in formal and informal situations; (4) Acquire a foundation in technical, social, and collaborative skills to help them succeed in future research and professional activities; and (5) Form a professional network that can support future careers in water management.

Roop and Kavita Mahajan Research Awards (https://www.research.undergraduate.vt.edu/content/dam/research_undergraduate_vt_edu/documents/research-opportunities/Mahajan-research-awards.pdf) Roop and Kavita Mahajan Research Awards have been established to provide small grants to current students or current student organizations in good standing at Virginia Tech to undertake projects that aim to break cycles of poverty and negligence in under-resourced communities around the world. Proposals may be submitted until December 3. Ideas are welcome from across a wide spectrum of areas including health, education, and infrastructure. Preference will be given to proposals that show a transdisciplinary approach and are broadly aligned with the missions of ICTAS.

Sustainable bio-materials degree (https://sbio.vt.edu/students/degrees/sbio-degree.html) is one of the most unique programs in the United States that focuses on creating better performing materials with less environmental impact. Graduate students receive funding support through local research programs.

The Academy of Food, Health, and Sustainability (https://www.cals.vt.edu/academic-programs/afhs.html) was created within the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) at Virginia Tech to serve as an interdisciplinary hub for scientific education, discovery, and outreach efforts across three of CALS Strategic Plan Priority Areas: Food, Nutrition, and Health; Agricultural Profitability and Environmental Sustainability; and Community Viability.

The Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability (http://cligs.vt.edu) This center offers graduate education, professional development and research opportunities. Students have an array of opportunities and can receive graduate assistantship. This program also creates further incentives by eliminating the out of state fees to capture a more diverse and international student body.

The Catawba Sustainability Center (http://www.cpe.vt.edu/sustainable/) This center serves as living laboratory for the research and demonstration of sustainable practices in land management, agriculture, energy production, and economics. This demonstration site enables graduate and undergraduate students space to conduct research in sustainable practices and a local to engage the local community in sustainable practices.

Additionally, many specialized research programs and projects are available. The Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation oversees many graduate and undergraduate research initiatives.

Does the institution have a program to encourage academic staff from multiple disciplines or academic programs to conduct sustainability research?:

A brief description of the faculty sustainability research program:

Three of Virginia Tech's institutes, the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science (ICTAS), the Institute for Society, Culture, and Environment (ISCE), and the Fralin Life Sciences Institute, incentivize research through investment in faculty projects in sustainability areas. Please see the links provided below for additional information about sustainability research at our investment institutes.

- ICTAS: http://www.ictas.vt.edu/research/index.html
- ISCE: http://www.isce.vt.edu/
- Fralin: https://fbri.vtc.vt.edu/research.html

These institutes also house and collaborate with research centers that bring together faculty from across campus to provide opportunities for multidisciplinary research focused on solving global sustainability challenges. Examples include:

- Center for Coastal Studies (https://coastal.fralinlifesci.vt.edu/): multidisciplinary, collaborative space that inspires societally relevant solutions to the complex challenges emerging in the coastal zone, especially related to climate change and sea level rise.
- Global Change Center (https://www.globalchange.vt.edu/): university-wide initiative performing interdisciplinary research necessary to tackle the new frontier of global environmental challenges; specifically associated with the interaction of climate change, pollution, invasive species, disease, and habitat loss.
- Translational Plant Sciences (https://fralinlifesci.vt.edu/Research/MolecularPlantSciences.html): Virginia Tech plant scientist use molecular biology skills, processes, and technologies to impact real world issues, including improvements in agricultural productivity, human health, and sustainable energy. With twenty faculty members from seven departments and three colleges devoted to work in this area, the program is truly multidisciplinary, with specialty in plant genomics, disease resistance, metabolic engineering, bio-production, bioprocessing, and forest biotechnology.

A broader list of research centers, including those related to sustainability, is available here: https://www.research.vt.edu/institutes/university-centers.html

Virginia Tech's Destination Areas, launched in 2016, promote inter-disciplinary research by providing seed funding and cluster hires in areas of expertise (http://provost.vt.edu/destination-areas.html). Two destination areas, Global Systems Science (https://www.provost.vt.edu/destination_areas/areas_of_focus/da_gss.html) and Economical and Sustainable Materials (https://www.provost.vt.edu/destination_areas/areas_of_focus/da_esm.html), have been forming communities and accelerating innovation in sustainability.

Virginia Tech's Executive Master of Natural Resources (XMNR) program in Leadership for Sustainability, part of the College of Natural Resources and Environment, incentivizes faculty to engage in interdisciplinary research on complex and emergent sustainability challenges facing local communities and global society by providing financial support for graduate students, faculty development funds, access to clients in the public and private sectors, and other forms of assistance such as preliminary peer review and editorial services. For more information regarding the XMNR program and student capstone projects on sustainability, please see: https://cnre.vt.edu/academics/degrees-majors.html.

Has the institution published written policies and procedures that give positive recognition to interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary, and multidisciplinary research during faculty promotion and/or tenure decisions?:

A copy of the promotion or tenure guidelines or policies:
The promotion or tenure guidelines or policies:

Please see the attached Promotion and Tenure Guidelines, which calls out interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary work on:

Page 6: F. For faculty who present significant interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary and collaborative...

Page 7: G. ...If the candidate is engaged in interdisciplinary work (e.g., Destination Areas or Strategic Growth Areas)...

Page 12: V. ...the establishment of relationships among disciplines...

Page 12: V. ...For multiauthored papers, interdisciplinary papers and other relevant works...

Page 16: C.1. Disciplinary or interdisciplinary efforts to attract underrepresented students to different majors and graduate programs.

Jack W. Finney, Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs, finney@vt.edu, (540) 231-6122

Does the institution have ongoing library support for sustainability research and learning?:

A brief description of the institution’s library support for sustainability research:

University Libraries provide all university community members with barrier free access to a network of studio spaces (https://lib.vt.edu/create-share/studios.html) that offer makerspace technologies and expertise. The Fusion Studio (https://lib.vt.edu/create-share/fusion-studio.html), which offers collaboration space for non-classroom based independent and transdisciplinary research, offers a $2,000 donor sponsored grant program specifically designed to support student research on sustainability topics.

Library liaisons (https://guides.lib.vt.edu/prf.php) Craig Arthur, Cathryn Copper, Kiri DeBose, Julia Feerrar, Inga Haugen, Alex Kinnaman, Edward Lener, Ginny Pannabecker, Bruce Pencek, and Larry Thompson maintain research guides (https://guides.lib.vt.edu/srch.php?q=sustainability), provide instruction, develop collections, and support research for sustainability programs and courses, and sustainable practices, in agriculture, architecture, engineering, the environment, health sciences, humanities, information sciences, natural resources, physical sciences, and social sciences.

Librarians serving on university curriculum committees, such as the Pathways Curriculum for Liberal Education Committee (https://www.pathways.prov.vt.edu/about.html), have the opportunity to support new and existing courses with an emphasis on sustainability.

Open repositories such as the university’s institutional scholarship repository, VTechWorks (https://vtechworks.lib.vt.edu/), data repository VTechData (https://data.lib.vt.edu/), and learning object repository Odyssey (https://odyssey.lib.vt.edu/s/home/page/about), provide archiving and access services to any sustainability content produced by members of the Virginia Tech community. University Libraries’ VT Publishing (https://publishing.vt.edu/) team also offers publishing services that have the potential to support the creation, production, and dissemination of research on sustainability.

A partnership group including University Libraries at Virginia Tech, Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and Virginia Cooperative Extension (including 4-H programs), Virginia Tech Climate Action Commitment Committee, Sustainable Blacksburg, and Virginia Organizing also just received a $500 stipend and additional supporting materials towards a proposal for ‘Partnering for Resilience - Amplifying Community Relationships,’ programming for community resilience that will focus on environmental and climate justice. We aim for this to grow into an ongoing partnership towards annual programming.

Website URL where information about the institution’s support for sustainability research is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:

Student Sustainability Research Incentives: Laurel Miner, Chief of Staff, Office of Vice President for Research and Innovation, laminer@vt.edu, 540-231-7110

Faculty Sustainability Research Incentives: Laurel Miner, Chief of Staff, Office of Vice President for Research and Innovation, laminer@vt.edu, 540-231-7110

Recognition of Inter-, Trans-, Multi-Disciplinary Research: Jack Finney, Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs, finney@vt.edu, (540) 231-6122

Library Support: Julie Griffin, Associate Dean for Research and Informatics, University Libraries, julieg@vt.edu, (540) 231-7193

The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution and complete the Data Inquiry Form.