Mission and Vision

Our mission is to foster coastal resilience and prosperity through transdisciplinary research, education, and engagement. 

Our vision is to be a catalyst for finding innovative solutions to sustain development of coastal built and natural environments through diversity and inclusion in research, education, and engagement. 

Support generously provided by the Institute for Society, Culture, and Environment.

The coastal zone hosts more than half of the world’s human population, large port facilities vital to the global economy, and military installations important to national and global security. Accelerating sea-level rise, coastal hazards, ocean acidification, population growth, and rapid economic development threaten livelihoods, tourism, health, fish and wildlife species, and ecosystem services in this area.

The cascading impacts of these stressors represent a complex and formidable problem that can only be addressed by coordinated investment in research, teaching, outreach and inclusive engagement efforts, bringing together academia, industry, foundations, non-governmental organizations, governments, and local stakeholders.

The focus of the Coastal Systems concept team includes research, teaching, outreach, and innovation, and is characterized by disciplinary strength and excellence, and by strong interdisciplinary links among the different disciplines.

These interdisciplinary linkages, developed through research and education programs, are institutionally manifested through the Destination Areas, such as Data Analytics and Decision Sciences, Intelligent Infrastructure for Human-centered Communities, and Integrated Security and Global Systems Science themes in food, infectious diseases, and water. Collaboration across these Destination Areas will be vital to the development of new methodologies, such as advanced quantitative techniques and scenario planning, new technologies, and new virtual interactive tools, in order to communicate more effectively about hazards, risk, adaptation and resilience to stakeholders in coastal areas.

Coastal Systems will serve as an incubator for advancing technology, policy innovation and knowledge exchange, as well as for forging sustained and long lasting partnerships with industry and other organizations that work to make coastal zones more resilient and capable of adapting to rapidly changing environments.

Population growth and urbanization represent real threats to the human condition by diminishing critical natural resources, challenging sustainable food production, and favoring the emergence and re-emergence of both infectious and environmentally induced disease states.

Global Systems Science is the study of such dynamic interplay among natural and social systems. Virginia Tech has launched a Global Systems Science Destination Area that is focused on understanding and finding solutions to critical problems associated with human activity and environmental change that, together, affects disease states, water quality, and food production. The Destination Area emphasizes a trans-disciplinary approach involving the integration and coordination of research, education, and public engagement.

Goals of the Destination Area will be accomplished by integrating theoretical and empirical inquiry with relevant curriculum development. Synergistic interaction among faculty and student teams within the Destination Area, as well as their coordination with other related campus-wide initiatives, such as those focused on Data Analytics, Cyber-security, and Policy, will be catalyzed by participants with expertise in systems science approaches. The effort will also be augmented by the aggressive recruitment of faculty and students interested in the development and application of systems approaches towards solving complex problems. A particular ambition of the Destination Area is to assemble faculty and student teams having the cultural and ethnic diversity necessary to develop innovative solutions to social and environmental problems associated with global systems. 

The traditional discipline-centered approach to education creates inertia against developing holistic understandings of and solutions to the unprecedented challenges related to coastal systems. We require a common language, set of objectives, and new ways of thinking to address coastal risk and improve resilience.

This requires a dynamic, adaptable, transdisciplinary educational approach that transcends the confines of disciplinary boundaries. Educating students with a holistic understanding of coastal systems is also a basic duty of a global and comprehensive land grant university with a twenty-first century vision of scholarship, teaching, and public service.

We envision that the new Transdisciplinary Coastal Systems curriculum will be open to all undergraduates at Virginia Tech, and become a distinguishing trademark of Virginia Tech’s undergraduate education. Students participating in this destination area will gain competency in the concepts, perspectives, and innovative tools needed to increase coastal disaster resilience via informed, sustainable decisions and actions.

The curriculum will teach students to holistically consider environmental, social, and economic drivers and their complex impacts on coastal systems, culminating in a field-based capstone experience. This knowledge will enable students to work more collaboratively with each other, as well as with local stakeholders and decision-makers in a problem-based environment. Further, students will have an opportunity to work with coastal partners and communities in a real-world context and participate in transdisciplinary problem-solving activities using novel technologies and innovative research methods.

The proposed curriculum builds from several established Pathways courses. As the undergraduate public health degree develops, additional courses on emerging public health issues and environmental justice could be added.

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Associate Professor, Geosciences 



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Research Assistant Professor, Geography 



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Associate Professor, Fish & Wildlife Conservation 



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Professor, Fish & Wildlife Conservation 



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Associate Professor, Graduate Program Coordinator, Assistant Department Head, Fish & Wildlife Conservation 


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Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering 



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Associate Professor, Urban Affairs and Planning 



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Pamplin Professor of Business Information Technology 



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Research Assistant Professor, Fish & Wildlife Conservation 



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Assistant Professor, Geography, Virginia Water Resources Research Center 



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Professor, Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation



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Associate Professor, Population Health Sciences 



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Director, Program in Real Estate, Professor 



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Assistant Professor, Biological Systems Engineering 



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David H. Burrows Professor of Construction Engineering, Civil & Environmental Engineering 


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Anderson Professor of Business Information Technology 



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Associate Professor, Associate Chair of Urban Affairs & Planning 



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Assistant Professor UAP, School of Public & International Affairs 



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Assistant Professor, Political Science 



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Professor, Engineering Education 



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As GSS DA Stakeholder Committee Chair, Dr. Dennis Dean, in conjunction with the Stakeholder Committee, is responsible for setting the strategic direction and resource investment decisions of the DA. He is available to assist groups with any questions or problems they have. 


An NSF-sponsored Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Program
in Disaster Resilience and Risk Management. Click here to learn more.


Robert Weiss
Associate Professor Geosciences

Anamaria Bukvic
Research Assistant Professor Geography