The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) recognized Virginia Tech's Charles E. Via Jr. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering’s Land Development Design Initiative during the department's recent Alumni Board meeting.

NCEES representative Wiley V. “Bif” Johnson of Hurt & Proffitt presented the award to the initiative’s coordinator, Randy Dymond, who is also an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering. The award honors the department’s award-winning submission in the 2009 NCEES engineering award competition.

The 2009 NCEES Engineering Award for Connecting Professional Practice and Education recognizes engineering programs that demonstrate meaningful partnerships between professional engineers and students. The 28 submissions were judged by NCEES members and representatives from academic institutions and professional engineering organizations. Virginia Tech’s Land Development Design Initiative is one of six university programs to receive an award.

With the reduction in the number of available jobs putting a premium on the skill sets that graduating students entering the workforce possess, “[The initiative] has definitely emerged as a national leader in providing these students with a distinct advantage,” states Kevin Young, Land Development Design Initiative assistant coordinator.

"The [civil and environmental engineering] department is especially proud of the recognition received by the [Land Development Design Initiative] program from NCEES. The hard work of Randy Dymond, Kevin Young, and the large number of individuals and firms from the land development design community could be appropriately characterized as a true labor of love within [the initiative],” said Bill Knocke, head of the civil and environmental engineering department at Virginia Tech. “Our students are clearly the beneficiaries of an excellent educational experience through [the Land Development Design Initiative], and I'm very happy that these efforts have been recognized by NCEES this year."

With the help of professional practitioners representing some of the nation’s best engineering firms, the initiative has created a curriculum oriented toward land development design as an integrated area of civil engineering. Practitioners are fully integrated into the curriculum as instructors and mentors in the courses.

One major benefit to professional practitioners is that they get an up-front and personal first look at the students. By spending time working on projects with these students, practitioners get a chance to see how these students perform in completing real world tasks.

Tommy Balzer, executive vice-president of Balzer and Associates, describes the value that these students bring, “We typically start at the same pay rate all our incoming engineers who have just graduated from college. However, if one of these graduates has participated in [the Land Development Design Initiative], we start them at the same rate that he or she could expect after working here one year.”

Dymond describes the vision looking forward, “We hope to reach out to other departments on campus to create a truly interdisciplinary effort in land development.” Dymond sees this expanding beyond Virginia Tech, fully engaging and collaborating with other universities to make this a truly national movement. “The field of civil engineering is changing in many ways,” he explains, “Developing land in a sustainable way takes skills that go beyond the traditional curriculum. We’re establishing land development design as a fundamental technical area, and one that, by design, cross pollinates our engineering students with students from other disciplines.”

The Land Development Design Initiative is expanding its curriculum to offer seven courses in the upcoming academic year. Student and practitioner involvement is very high.

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