The DRRM-VT program offers two different options for training in disaster resilience and risk management.

The first option is the Graduate Certificate program, which is open to all graduate students at Virginia Tech, as well as to local professionals through Virginia Tech's Commonwealth Campus program. The requirement for earning the certificate is the successful completion of at least 12 credit hours of coursework from a list of approved core courses and electives.
The second option is the DRRM Scholar program, which is restricted to Virginia Tech doctoral students. DRRM Scholars typically complete all of the required coursework for the graduate certificate, but they also take additional interdisciplinary courses and they participate in a series of transdisciplinary seminars and workshops. Scholars join the program in partnership with their graduate advisors, and they have the opportunity for fellowships, internships, and travel scholarships.

Graduate Certificate program

The purpose of the Graduate Certificate in Disaster Resilience and Risk Management (DRRM) is to provide individuals with the trans-disciplinary learning that is needed to help manage disaster risks and improve society’s disaster resilience. By cross-cutting and uniting science, engineering, social science, business, and public policy, this certificate program teaches students the full complexity of disaster risk and resilience. We also envision that this certificate program will help the students overcome discipline-specific conceptualizations, and will generate new trans-disciplinary knowledge and solutions for achieving disaster resilience.

Students receiving a DRRM graduate certificate will achieve the following learning outcomes, enhancing their competiveness for DRRM jobs in both public and private sectors, by being able to:

  • Identify the weakness of disciplinary approaches to manage disaster and hazards risk
  • Integrate research, methods, and terminologies used across disciplines in disaster resilience and risk management
  • Analyze and evaluate disaster resilience and risk management case studies at different geographic scales --structural, neighborhood, community, regional, and national
  • Communicate disaster resilience and risk management-related concepts effectively using critical vocabularies appropriate to certain audience in both written and oral modalities
  • Demonstrate collaborative skills that allow them work effectively in multi-disciplinary teams


This certificate program is open to all graduate students at Virginia Tech. Our faculty come from Business Information Technology, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Engineering Education, Geosciences, and Urban Affairs and Planning, and we welcome students from across the university to join the conversation. In addition, the certificate is also open to local professionals, through Virginia Tech's Commonwealth Campus program, if they would like to enhance their disaster resilience and risk management credentials

Time to Complete

All students who want to take the certificate must be enrolled as either full-time or part-time graduate students in Virginia Tech or enrolled as Virginia Tech students in the Commonwealth Campus Program.

The program is flexible in that students are able to take courses towards the DRRM certificate as they complete their study in their degree program, or they may do so as a Commonwealth Campus student. Completion of the curriculum below will result in a DRRM certificate from the Graduate School. Students with the Commonwealth Campus status are expected to complete the certificate within two consecutive academic years.


The application form for the Graduate Certificate Program is available at the Virginia Tech Graduate School Website. The form needs to be reviewed and approved by the DRRM certificate program leaders before submission to the graduate school.

For applicants in part-time or full-time degree programs, the Graduate School requires completion of a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution with a GPA of 3.0 or better for admission to Certificate Status. Students pursuing a degree and a certificate simultaneously are classified within their degree program. Certificate credits may be used to meet degree requirements if they are appropriate for inclusion on the degree Plan of Study. For applicants with an undergraduate GPA <3.0 or other non-degree seeking applicants, they may obtain a Certificate Status with a Commonwealth Campus admission. The Graduate School opens the Commonwealth Campus status to an applicants who hold an earned bachelors or higher degree from a regionally accredited U.S. university.

Curriculum Requirements and Description:

Number of Credit Hours:

Students must take at least twelve credit hours. All courses must be completed with a grade of B or better. Courses completed with a pass/fail or audit option do not count toward the certificate. Transfer credits are not permitted. No more than three hours can be at the 4000 level. Students seeking to use equivalent courses to substitute for DRRM electives need to consult with the DRRM certificate program leaders for approval. No substitutions for the core requirements are allowed.

A brief description of each course is provided on the Graduate Courses webpage.

Core Required: 3 credits
GRAD 5134: Interdisciplinary Study: Principles of Disaster Risk Management (3H, 3C)
Core Cross-discipline Electives: 6 credits minimum
One course from the following list: (3 credits of core Technical electives)
BIT 5474: Computer-based Decision Support Systems (3H, 3C)
CEE 5854G: Advanced Coastal Engineering (3H, 3C)
GEOS 6204: Simulation and Modeling in Geosciences (3H, 3C)
- or an equivalent course approved by the certificate program faculty
One course from the following list: (3 credits of core Public Affairs electives)
UAP 5214: Natural Hazards Mitigation Planning (3H, 3C)
PAPA 5354: Homeland Security, Response & Recovery (3H, 3C)
UAP 5784: Economic Development Planning Topics (3H, 3C), when the course topic is Community Resilience
- or an equivalent course approved by the certificate program faculty
Electives: 3 credits minimum
At least one course from the following list:
BIT 5414: Production and Operations Management in a Global Environment (3H, 3C)
BIT 5494: International Operations and InfoTech (3H, 3C)
CEE 4554: Natural Disaster Mitigation & Recovery (3H, 3C)
CEE 5080: Infrastructure Asset Mgt. (3H, 3C)
CEE 5204: GIS Applications (3H, 3C)
CEE 5464: Structural Dynamics & Earthquake Eng. (3H, 3C)
CEE 5470: Structural. Design for Seismic Load Effects (3H, 3C)
CEE 5504: Risk Analysis in Geotechnical Engineering (3H, 3C)
CEE 5584: Geotechnical Aspects of Earthquake Eng. (3H, 3C)
CEE 5660: Trans Risk, Reliability & Security (3H, 3C)
CEE 5734: Urban Hydrology & Storm-water Management (3H, 3C)
CEE 5844: Ocean and Coastal Wave Mechanics (3H, 3C)
CEE 5864: Coastal and Estuarine Morphodynamics (3H, 3C)
GEOS 4154: Earthquake Seismology (3H, 3C)
GEOS 5154: Strong-Motion Seismology & Seismic Hazard Analysis (3H, 3C)
GEOS 5714G: Adv. Volcanic Processes (3H, 3C)
PAPA 5254: Homeland Security & Terrorist Threat (3H, 3C)
UAP 5084: Collaborative Planning And Community Involvement (3H, 3C)
UAP 5114: Computational Applications in Planning (3H, 3C)
UAP 5344G: Adv. Law for Critical Environmental Areas (3H, 3C)
UAP 5364: NGOs and International Development (3H, 3C)
UAP 5414: Natural Resources Planning Topics (3H, 3C), when the course topic is Urban Environmental Policy, Planning, and Management in Developing and Transitional Countries
UAP 5534: NGO Leadership and Governance (3H, 3C)
UAP 5854G: Advanced Urban Infrastructure Planning (3H, 3C)

DRRM Scholar program

The DRRM Scholar program builds on the certificate program by involving students in transdisciplinary research and education within and beyond the classroom. The curriculum is centered on a series of transdisciplinary courses that provide a continuous staged structure to build the DRRM Community of Practice (CoP) and support trainees as they develop from new scholars to peer mentors, and finally to scholars ready to enter the profession. A brief description of each of the Core and Elective courses is provided on the Graduate Courses webpage.

Transdisciplinary Thinking Seminar

The weekly one-hour DRRM Transdisciplinary Thinking Seminar, required for all trainees during the fall semester, provides a critical platform upon which to build a CoP that spans not only disciplines but also years. It offers an integrated space for newer trainees to work with those further along and to continually immerse all trainees in transdisciplinary collaboration around DRRM. Faculty and, increasingly, trainees, will share their research questions and lead the group in generating creative transdisciplinary approaches to those questions. The seminar transitions into a weekly Research Group meeting in the Spring semester, in order to strengthen research connections and provide additional professional development opportunities.

Principles of DRRM

Students will also take GRAD 5134 Interdisciplinary Study: Principles of DRRM in the fall of their first year in the program. This is a team-taught course that uses a scenario- and case-based learning approach, and a problem-focused curriculum. GRAD 5134 provides future DRRM leaders with a transdisciplinary experience in the environmental, social, and economic aspects of disasters, along with basic risk management principles. It also features a capstone team project to introduce how transdisciplinary teams collaborate in the real world. Building on the DRRM Transdisciplinary Thinking Seminar, this course emphasizes gaining familiarity with specific content knowledge and methods from additional disciplines. In particular, it ensures that STEM students understand key social and cultural influences that affect perception of and response to risk, while ensuring students from social sciences have basic risk analysis skills. Central to both courses will be instruction and practice in communication and collaboration skills as students develop problem statements, identify underlying social and ethical issues, and work across and beyond their traditional disciplinary comfort zones.

Sample plan of study

* Home departments vary in number of required and elective courses. Required transdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary courses are acceptable electives in all departments. Depending on major department, additional courses may be required. **Some students may participate in Year 1 or 3 instead, since workshops are not offered each year.

Collaborative Planning and Community Involvement

In the spring semester of their first year, all students will take UAP 5084 Collaborative Planning and Community Involvement, an established course emphasizing concepts and techniques of citizen participation in community development and planning. UAP 5084 features exercises in developing group communication skills, public meeting facilitation, and design of community involvement programs.

Stakeholder Engagement Seminar

In Spring of their second year, all students take the DRRM Stakeholder Engagement Seminar, where they will then collaboratively design and execute focus groups and/or semi-structured interviews to gather primary data and stakeholder insights.

Cross-disciplinary electives

In addition to the requirements above, DRRM students also take three cross-disciplinary elective credits (UAP students instead take six credits because UAP 5084 is a required disciplinary course for them), in order to foster development of both transdisciplinary capacity and inclusive interdisciplinary collaboration. The complementary disciplinary grounding results from coursework and training in the trainees’ home departments. All participating departments have DRRM-related courses, many of which are candidates for teaching opportunities.

Partial list of cross-disciplinary electives

Civil & Environmental Engineering Urban Planning & Public Admin and Policy
CEE 5594: Risk Analysis in Geotechnical Eng. UAP 5214: Natural Hazards Mitigation Planning
CEE 4554: Natural Disaster Mitig. & Recovery UAP 5364: NGO & International Development
CEE 5080: Infrastructure Asset Mgt. UAP 5784: Community Resilience
CEE 5204/UAP 5144: GIS Applications UAP 5114/CEE 5204: Comp. Apps. (GIS)
CEE 5464: Struct. Dynamics & Earthquake Eng. UAP 5344G: Adv. Law for Critical Environ. Areas
CEE 5470: Struct. Design for Seism. Load Effects UAP 5654: Environmental Risk Analysis
CEE 5584: Geotech. Aspects of Earthquake Eng. UAP 5854G: Adv. Urban Infrastructure Planning
CEE 5660: Transportation Risk, Reliab. & Secur. PAPA 5254: Homeland Security & Terrorist Threat
CEE 5734: Urban Hydrology & Stormwater Mgt. PAPA 5354: Homeland Sec., Response & Recov.
CEE 5854G: Advanced Coastal Engineering Business Information Technology
Geosciences BIT 5414: Prod. & Ops. Mgmt. in Glob. Environ.
GEOS 6204: Sim. & Modeling in Geosciences BIT 5474: Computer-based Decision Support Sys.
GEOS 4154: Earthquake Seismology BIT 5494: International Ops. & Info. Tech.
GEOS 5154: Strong-Motion Seis. & Haz. Analysis Diversity and Inclusion
GEOS 5374G: Adv. Remote Sensing & Phenology GRAD 5124: Diversity & Inclus. Glob. Soc.
GEOS 5714G: Adv. Volcanic Processes GRAD 5204: Citizen Scholar Sem.

Diversity and Ethics

The very nature of the DRRMVT positions ethics in an integral role both as a component of the transdisciplinary research and as an underlying foundation for trust in and dependence on collaborative work that crosses not only disciplines but contextual understanding and underlying bias. All trainees have the option to also choose either GRAD 5214: Diversity and Inclusion in a Global Society or GRAD 5204: Citizen Scholar as cross-disciplinary electives (see above). Both address the critical need for, and substantial benefits of, a deep understanding of the societal context in which researchers work. Unfortunately, disasters strike hardest those who are underprivileged (e.g., racial/ethnic minorities, disabled); yet these populations are underrepresented in the DRRM community. Closing this gap not only through recruitment and retention but also by removing communication barriers at sociocultural boundaries is essential for national and global disaster resilience.

Professional Development

Finally, in addition to the professional development opportunities inherent in the proposed research internships and stakeholder engagements, trainees will take either GRAD 5104: Preparing the Future Professoriate or GRAD 5304: Preparing the Future Professional, supporting professional development by providing understanding and contextual knowledge relevant to their chosen career path. Trainees interested in academia are encouraged and supported in pursuing several university-level opportunities through course work/faculty development training and teaching fellowships.