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The Major and Minor

This week’s featured program is the major and minor in Smart and Sustainable Cities at Virginia Tech. From the website: 

The Smart and Sustainable Cities (SSC) major is one of the first majors of its kind in the United States. In the major, students will learn the dynamics of urban change across time, space, and place. Students will gain a deep understanding of sustainable urban development and how smart technology and urban analytics can be combined to create solutions for the cities of the future.

The core of the major consists of two parallel tracks. The first track focuses on urban analytics and decision-making. In this track, students will develop modeling and data visualization skills that can be applied to understand urban and regional systems in data-driven, quantitative, and computational ways.

The second track focuses on sustainable urbanization and the future of cities. Students in this track will study the process of urbanization. Specific attention is given to the interdependence of social, economic, environmental, and technological factors and how these evolve over time.

Both of these tracks are then integrated through a course on data and the art of decision-making and a fusion studio where students will apply their knowledge to real problems.

Students enrolled in the major complete the Public and Urban Affairs core courses (26 credits), six Smart and Sustainable Cities required courses (12 credits), and develop and complete their own concentration, choosing at least three courses (9 credits) from five different subject areas: Urban Policy and Decision-Making; GIS and Data; Cities, Culture, and Place; Economics, and International Development. Students enrolled in the minor take 18 credits’ worth of required coursework.

Two Interesting Courses

SPIA 4454: Future of Cities

Interdependence of social, economic, environmental, and technological components and how these change over time. Theories about city formation, structure, and change, with implications for sustainability, resilience, and globalization.

FREC 2134: Plants and Greenspaces in Urban Communities

Modern concepts of sustainability changing plant use in urban settings. Fundamentals of urban plant systems in the context of urban ecosystem management. Philosophy and critical analysis of sustainability related to green infrastructure, including urban forests, green roofs, urban soils, urban wildlife, urban agriculture, and innovations merging plant and ecosystem functions with building and site engineering. Multi-disciplinary emphasis at site, regional, and global, scales.Modern concepts of sustainability changing plant use in urban settings. Fundamentals of urban plant systems in the context of urban ecosystem management. Philosophy and critical analysis of sustainability related to green infrastructure, including urban forests, green roofs, urban soils, urban wildlife, urban agriculture, and innovations merging plant and ecosystem functions with building and site engineering. Multi-disciplinary emphasis at site, regional, and global scales.

Five Possible Complementary Majors/Minors at Virginia Tech

Unique Opportunities within the Major

Students can enhance their degree by participating in the Sustainable Policy Making & Planning in Europe travel course, which has four components:

  • Fundamentals of sustainability and environmental policy-making in modern Europe, online prior to trip, at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, and other locations;
  • Making urban transport sustainable, with a focus on how European cities promote walking, cycling, and public transport (Germany, Switzerland, and elsewhere);
  • Addressing Europe’s wicked sustainability challenges, from flood prevention in Venice, Italy, to heavy industry, cultural preservation, and employment in the Czech Republic; and
  • The roles for civil society in advancing sustainability, from energy policy in Hungary to Roma self-empowerment in the Czech Republic.

Sample Similar Programs