In January 2008, the Virginia State Council of Higher Education approved a new Ph.D. at Virginia Tech in Social, Political, Ethical, and Cultural Thought. ASPECT is a theory based, interdisciplinary, and project centered research and teaching program that focuses on developing interdisciplinarity within the social and human sciences. ASPECT has been directed by Timothy Luke and Wolfgang Natter. François Debrix became the Director in Fall 2011.
Virginia State Council approval concluded a multi-year planning process at Virginia Tech, during which support levels for the program, as well as general design, infrastructure, and curriculum were established in deliberations between the director, department chairs and participating faculty from fifteen campus units, the dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences (where the program is administratively placed), the University’s central administration, as well as College, University, and Trustee level councils responsible for program approval. An on site visit with external evaluators, coordinated with the State Council, concluded a final round of program input.
Important initial decisions were the strategic decision of Virginia Tech’s administration – a University whose motto is “invent the Future” – to commit resources to enhance the University’s extant disciplinary based departmental degree offerings by creating an innovative, interdisciplinary and theory based Ph. D. program spanning the social and human sciences. Four core departments in the College of Human Sciences and Liberal Studies committed to lend support to the initiative; History, Interdisciplinary Studies ( a unit comprising programs such as Women’s Studies, Humanities, Religious Studies, and Appalachian Studies), Philosophy, and Political Science. A further key decision was to widen potential faculty affiliation to members of the broader University community, wherever their tenure homes are, so long as they, like those affiliated members from the core departments, wished to contribute to the program’s mission. Deliberations between the director and key administrators concluded with commitments made to attach 24 graduate TAships to the program, each of four year’s duration, phased in sequentially beginning in 2008. Additionally, new faculty lines were committed to contributing departments in support of the program.
Overseeing the development of the program, its curriculum, the program’s infrastructure, and most importantly, a scholarly community which now numbers over 70 affiliated faculty, were all elements of the exciting process leading to the formulation and approval of the Ph.D. program. Participating faculty and course offerings now come from three Colleges at Virginia Tech: among them, the core contributing departments of History, Interdisciplinary Studies, Philosophy, and Political Science, as well as from Africana Studies, Area Studies, Business and Economics, the Center for Public Administration and Policy, English, Foreign Languages and Literatures, Government and International Affairs, an emerging program in Public Humanities, Science and Technology Studies, Sociology, Urban Affairs and Planning. Building upon these elements, ASPECT faculty expect in the coming years to solidify a national and international reputation for social, political, ethical, and cultural thought.
ASPECT is most grateful to Amy Shuster and Holly Jordan for designing the ASPECT website.