It is time for me to catch my breath and take a few minutes to report on what we have been up to at the Metropolitan Institute. Depending on how you count, I have been working in my role as the Director of the Metropolitan Institute for about 60 days, or since June of 2011 (when I began serving on the President’s Long Range Planning Task Force). As I do not want to bore you with all the details of what we have been up to at the Metropolitan Institute, I will give you the CliffsNotes version:
- I have had the pleasure to meet with leaders across Virginia Tech. These leaders have included the President, Provost, several Vice Provosts and Vice Presidents, heads of academic units (e.g. Electrical Engineering, Management, etc), Development Officers, directors of research institutes, faculty, staff, and graduate students. During these meetings, I spent time listening to their thoughts about the future of Virginia Tech, their impressions of the Institute, their ideas on how to grow the Institute, and exploring avenues for collaboration.
- Joe Schilling (Associate Director of the Metropolitan Institute) and I have met with leaders from various organizations including, among others, the US Green Building Council, IBM Center for the Business of Government, and IBM Smarter Cities Program, to explore collaborative research relationships.
- We have done a lot of work to build a viable infrastructure for the Institute. The faculty of the School of Public and International Affairs have been open and receptive to the new vision for the Institute. For the first time, we now have seven fellows of the Institute (Ralph Buehler, Margaret Cowell, Matt Dull, Ralph P. Hall, Derek S. Hyra, Paul Knox, and Kris Wernstedt). The Institute will work to support these researchers as they collaborate on projects, outreach efforts, and preparation of grants. We look forward to welcoming even more faculty to the Institute. Much effort has gone into envisioning the future of the Institute. One outcome of this effort is that we now have six research themes that bring researchers, practitioners, and students together to solve the most pressing problems facing metropolitans. These research themes are: Megacities and the New Metropolis, Resilience, Sustainability, Policy Informatics, Transportation, and Urban Regeneration. We also have a new website. While we still have more to do in terms of setting up an infrastructure, we are off to a wonderful start.
- Of course, we have submitted grant proposals and journal papers for publication. We also have been active participants in conferences and workshops (e.g. Second Conference on Community Resiliency) and a number of outreach activities.
- The Institute launched the Policy Informatics Initiative, which is gaining momentum. We are starting a few collaborative research projects, planning a workshop, forming a book proposal, and exploring funding opportunities.
One of my favorite quotes is by my football idol, Pelé who noted “Enthusiasm is everything. It must be taut and vibrating like a guitar string.” In my role as the Director, I have to be enthusiastic. Being enthusiastic is easy when you are surrounded by good people who work hard and bring positive energy. My staff has been wonderful. They have welcomed me to the Institute, have bought into the new vision and strategy, and have supported me in all endeavors. They deserve a lot of credit for the things we have accomplished to date. I will continue to count on them as we take the Institute to greater heights.
I guarantee you that things are not going to slow down in the near future. We are hoping to develop new research collaborations, select visiting fellows and postdoctoral associates, submit several research proposals, and build mutually beneficial academic-industry partnerships. I am looking forward to my upcoming visit to the Blacksburg, the main campus of Virginia Tech, later this month. I will be briefing the Urban Affairs and Planning faculty about the Institute, meeting with leaders of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies, collaborating with researchers on proposals, and participating in meetings as part of the President’s Long Range Planning Task Force.
I want to thank all of you. You are sources of enthusiasm, counsel, and friendship. I thank you for your patience, as well as your generosity with time and resources. You have been vital sources of energy that I have drawn upon (and I will continue to do so).
Tomorrow I am off to Paris to give several talks at IÉSEG School of Management. One is on designing innovation programs and the other is on building a capacity for interdisciplinary research.