To leverage its growing international programs and broadening inclusiveness of global sustainability, the college established the Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability in the National Capital Region this past summer. “Sustainability has emerged as a brand theme for the college,” said Dean Paul Winistorfer. “This new center will help us establish a stronger presence in the Washington, D.C., area, as well as globally, for our excellent existing and emerging educational, discovery, and engagement programs.”

The center brings faculty and students together with partners from corporate, government, non-governmental, and other educational institutions to provide leadership to navigate a rapidly changing world. It is dedicated to exploring and facilitating interdisciplinary and collaborative approaches to sustainable development strategies in globally interconnected ecological, economic, and social environments.

“There is room at the table for everyone in the sustainability conversation, and our college has a tremendous amount of knowledge and expertise at the foundations of sustainability — our natural world, the environment, and people’s interaction with natural resources,” Winistorfer emphasized. “Leadership will be needed, and we can make a difference.”

The center’s name better describes the direction in which the college’s National Capital Region program has been moving since 2008. “We began focusing on the themes of urbanization, policy and institutions, and international issues about four years ago,” said Center Director Michael Mortimer. “The center is a natural outgrowth of that strategy and will allow us to move more aggressively and effectively into the future while providing the educational and professional services we believe are in demand.”

Education programs offered through the Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability bring together the quality and reputation of Virginia Tech with a nimble and innovative structure to best prepare students and participants with the knowledge and skills to face the dynamic environmental and sustainability challenges of tomorrow. With close proximity to the nexus of national and international policy decisions and influence, the center’s programs draw on a wealth of expert faculty and partners to provide interdisciplinary, inter-sectoral, and real-time perspectives on a range of cutting-edge topics.

The center’s current and in-development offerings include a series of graduate, certificate, and professional programs, clinics and workshops, and international programs, including the Master of Natural Resources, the Executive Master of Natural Resources, a forthcoming Global Master of Natural Resources, a series of leadership clinics, and international opportunities under the center’s Global Sustainability Initiative. More than 30 graduate courses are offered annually, leveraging a roster of 30 adjunct faculty who serve more than 100 graduate students.

Through its Global Sustainability Initiative, the center offers graduate study abroad, research and consulting opportunities, and network building. This program area is dedicated to integrating education and outreach in international settings around the world, focusing on emergent sustainable development challenges and solutions. Working with institutions at all scales, the initiative provides opportunities for graduate students, working professionals, partners, and faculty to build networks and gain international perspective from organizations working on sustainable development issues in some of the world’s most rapidly developing nations — Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa — often referred to as the BRICS.

The next few decades promise to introduce several variables into the way society and the planet operate. Researchers predict that the human population will grow to 9 billion, the proportion of people living in cities will reach close to 75 percent, and the middle class will rise exponentially, bringing with it dramatic shifts in consumer demand.

“It’s an exciting time that stands to close the poverty gap, improve quality of life, and provide opportunities never imaginable a century ago,” said David Robertson, the center’s associate director and a Senior Fellow. However, this world will be characterized by accelerating urbanization, interdependency, resource scarcity, climate stress, and the rise of new powers in the developing world (multipolar geopolitics). Consequently, the center’s mission is to empower individuals and their respective organizations for leading change to meet the challenges the world of 2050 will present.

Professor Bruce Hull, a center Senior Fellow, summed up the situation: “The challenges and opportunities of sustainable development are enormous — too complex to be solved by any single profession, discipline, business, government agency, or nation state. Sustainable development requires boundary-spanning leadership. This center is developing innovative programs to meet those challenges.”