Course Syllabus


Tripp Shealy, Ph.D. 

113 Patton Hall

Office Hours: Wednesdays 12:30pm -2:30pm

Or by appointment:


M, W: 2:30pm-3:45pm

Students may leave if the guest lecturer or I have not arrived after 5 minutes.

Syllabus Content:

  1. Description
  2. Goals
  3. Learning Objectives 
  4. Expectations
  5. Logistics
  6. Academic Integrity
  7. Disability Accommodations
  8. Course Grading

Course Description

This course investigates sustainability and systems thinking strategies for infrastructure. Students will draw connections between societal needs and infrastructure development by discussing challenges in energy (supply and demand), water availability, and mobility. Life cycle stages, from design and operation, to decommission, along with new technologies, materials, and design processes for sustainable infrastructure are presented. In the final project, students will explore one emerging field of sustainable engineering and explain how these new ideas have the power to change urban infrastructure and society. This course requires both individual and group work to maximize contributions to the growing body of knowledge in sustainable infrastructure.


Students will learn how infrastructure impacts people and identify scalable approaches to meet societal needs more efficiently.

Learning Objectives 

  1. Understand the current challenges and barriers to sustainable infrastructure;
  2. Recognize stakeholder perspectives and explore mutually beneficial solutions;
  3. Apply a systems thinking approach to central concepts, technologies, and practices of sustainable engineering;
  4. Critique and develop sustainability metrics;
  5. Communicate and persuade the need for sustainable infrastructure with a non-engineering audience;
  6. Develop skills for continued learning about sustainable infrastructure as the field evolves.


It is crucial that civil engineering graduates understand the magnitude of their decisions in the workforce, as their design decisions will affect the quality of life for many people. Such considerations will spur class dialogue about sustainability issues and help students communicate effectively to policymakers and the general public about sustainable infrastructure.

General Expectations

I promise to engage with activities that let me: connect learning to my world, see and share what’s around me, challenge myself and others, reflect on my learning, and create positive change.

I promise to continuously contribute information in multiple forms so that the learning outcomes are achieved. The more I contribute, the faster the positive evolution of the specialization.

I promise to use Google as a favor to each other (and to myself). I will Google my ideas and obstacles, and I will Google for more information on specific topics. I won’t ask a question before Googling it. If I don’t find the answer, at least I will have a better question.

I promise to share my perspective so that I’m not just consuming knowledge, I’m also helping to create it.


Discussion Posts

Posts to canvas should be less than 100 words; bulleted lists are ok; use a tone and level of professionalism you would use in an e-mail to a co-worker; Try to make the biggest statement with the fewest words. Mark Twain once began a letter apologizing for it's length because he didn't have enough time to make it shorter. 


Assignments are to be completed prior to the following class period. Expect at least one reading important for class participation (and part of your grade). Some assignments will include group work or individual research. Late assignments are deducted 5 points a day. 


In addition to the assigned reading, you should constantly use Google. You won't have to memorize as much, but I will expect you to have Googled everything. Google your project ideas, Google your obstacles, Google for more information on specific topics. Don't ask a question before you Google it. You'll either find the answer or come up with a better question.

Laptops/Tablets/ Smartphones 

Please bring your laptop/tablet/smartphone to class. We will use the Internet and Microsoft applications (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) regularly to search for examples related to class topics and communicate your findings with classmates. Please do not look at facebook, etc… (there’s lots of research on multitasking to support this policy).

Academic Integrity

I expect you to uphold the Virginia Tech Honor Code at all times.

This includes neither giving nor receiving unauthorized assistance on assignments and exams. If you have doubts about whether or how the Virginia Tech Honor Code applies to a particular assignment or examination please ask for more specific guidelines from the instructor before submitting the work for evaluation. This code embodies a spirit of mutual trust and intellectual honesty that is central to the very nature of the university and our shared values.

Disability Accommodations

If you need adaptations or accommodations because of a disability (e.g. learning, attention deficit disorder, psychological, physical, etc.), or if you have emergency medical information to share with me, or if you need special arrangements in case of the building must be evacuated, please notify me through email or discuss with me in person the first week of class.


  • 10% Participation
  • 30% Discussions and Assignments 
  • 30% Projects (5%, 10%, 15%) 
  • 30% Exams (10% each)

The learning and creating are the biggest rewards for the time you invest in this experience, but there are a few additional incentives.

Class attendance, participation and preparation are required. You will receive a grade for your class participation and preparation (just showing up does not guarantee full credit for a class period). Preparation includes completing discussion posts prior to class. You will receive 100% credit for “thoughtful effort.” If I don't think you've put in thoughtful effort, you will receive 50% credit for the discussion post. Unexcused absence from class will result in no credit for that class. Please email me or discuss with me in person to determine what constitutes an excused absence.

Participation (10%)

Participation is not the same as attendance. You are expected to participate in discussions during class about assigned readings and videos. 

Discussions and Assignments (30%)

Discussions and assignments are typically included after each module. You must turn them in prior to the following class period, unless otherwise noted in the instructions.  

Projects (30%)

You will have three projects throughout the semester. The purpose of these projects is to provide practice communicating the importance of sustainable infrastructure. The first project is to support practice in effect written communication (through an opinion editorial). The second project is meant to provide practice in oral communication (through a short video presentation using the SUCCESs framework in a Pecha Kucha format). The final project is to practice providing a product - something created/developed that demonstrates your ability to communicate through a deliverable. 

More detail about projects will be given in class time. Unexcused late projects will be deducted 10% for each day they are late (ex. 3 days late = 30% deduction). Project 1 (Resilience op-ed), Project 2 (Bright Spot), and Project 3 (Flow).  Projects 1 and 2 will be graded by your peers. Project 3 will be graded by the instructor. 

Exams (30%)

Exams will be designed as opportunities for you to show your ability to evaluate (Exam 1) and synthesize (Exam 2) using the course material. The final exam is a comprehensive oral exam during the assigned exam time by the university. Each exam is 10% of your total grade. All topics covered in class, assigned videos, and readings are "fair game" for the exam. If you regularly participate in class and complete the videos, readings, assignments and discussion questions the exams should be straight froward. 


A 94-100; A- 90-93; B+ 87-89; B 84-86; B- 80-83; C+ 77-79; C 74-76; C- 70-73; D 65-69; F 64 and below

Final grades are rounded up. Meaning, 93.1 = A and 92.9 = A-.  

Late Discussions and Assignments 

My goal is for you to focus on learning and not grades. Part of the learning process is being accountable for due dates. Because there are many opportunities to submit discussions, assignments, and quizzes and missing one of these will not likely affect your final grade I do not accept late discussions, assignments, or quizzes. If you plan to miss an exam please email me at least 48 hours prior to the exam date so we can set a time for you to take the exam. Not emailing me and after the exam date asking to retake the exam will result in minus ten points. 

Course Summary:

Date Details Due