Virginia Tech’s Doctoral Program in Disaster Resilience and Risk Management (DRRMVT) builds on the DRRMVT Graduate Certificate by involving students in transdisciplinary research and education within and beyond the classroom. It is not a separate degree-granting program, but instead offers the opportunity for doctoral students in other, DRRM-related degree programs at Virginia Tech to significantly enhance their training experience. The DRRMVT Doctoral Program 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. All students in the Doctoral Program take at least 6 credits of transdisciplinary coursework, 6 credits of cross-disciplinary coursework, and 3 credits of professional development coursework. A brief description of the courses discussed below is provided on the Graduate Courses webpage.

Transdisciplinary Thinking Seminar

The weekly one-hour DRRM Transdisciplinary Thinking Seminar, required for all DRRMVT doctoral students during each 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 students to work with those further along and to continually immerse all students in transdisciplinary collaboration around DRRM. Faculty and, increasingly, students, 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 each Spring semester, in order to strengthen research connections and provide additional professional development opportunities.

Principles of DRRM

Students will also take GRAD 5034: Interdisciplinary Foundations of Disaster Resilience 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 5034 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 is 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.

* 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 SPIA 5124: Policy and Decision-Making in STEM-H Domains, an established course emphasizing concepts and techniques of citizen participation in community development and planning. SPIA 5124 features exercises in developing group communication skills, public meeting facilitation, and design of community involvement programs.

Stakeholder Engagement Seminar

In the 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, students in the DRRMVT Doctoral Program also take three cross-disciplinary elective credits 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, and for most students in the DRRMVT Doctoral Program the DRRMVT Graduate Certificate’s Core Cross-discipline Elective and Elective courses will satisfy this cross-disciplinary requirement. Students select their cross-disciplinary elective credits in consultation with their DRRMVT dissertation or thesis committee members.

Diversity and Ethics

The very nature of the DRRMVT program positions diversity and ethics in integral roles both as components of transdisciplinary research and as underlying foundations for trust in and dependence on collaborative work that crosses not only disciplines but contextual understanding and underlying bias. All students have the option to choose either GRAD 5214: Diversity and Inclusion in a Global Society or GRAD 5204: Citizen Scholar as a cross-disciplinary elective (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 culturally or economically marginalized (e.g., racial/ethnic minorities, persons with disabilities, etc.); 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, students may 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. Students interested in academia are encouraged and supported in pursuing several university-level opportunities through course work/faculty development training and teaching fellowships.


Admission to the DRRMVT Doctoral Program is open to all prospective and current students who:

  • Have or will apply to, or are currently enrolled in, a Virginia Tech doctoral degree program
  • Are conducting, or planning to conduct, research leading to a doctoral dissertation related to disaster resilience and risk management.

Application and Admission

The following criteria are used to determine admission to the DRRMVT Doctoral Program:

  • Applicant’s academic and professional qualifications
  • Applicant’s expression of interest in DRRM
  • Applicant’s admission to a Virginia Tech doctoral degree program
  • Commitment from the applicant’s faculty advisor within their degree program to advise the applicant and engage in the DRRMVT Program
  • Diversity of the DRRMVT doctoral student cohort

The DRRMVT Doctoral Program application process includes two application requirements*:

  1. Apply for admission to a doctoral program at Virginia Tech: All DRRMVT Doctoral Program students must be admitted to a doctoral degree-granting program at Virginia Tech by adhering to the admissions requirements and deadlines for that department or program. The Graduate School’s application information is available here. During the application process, if available, check the box "Disaster Resilience and Risk Management" in the "Supplemental Application" section in order to assist the DRRMVT Program Manager in tracking your application status.
  2. Apply for admission to the DRRMVT Doctoral Program: Using the following online application form, enter the applicant's basic information and a 1000-character expression of interest in DRRM:

  3. Apply to the
    DRRMVT Doctoral Program

    *Current Virginia Tech doctoral students need only submit the DRRMVT Doctoral Program application in step 2.

Applications are accepted at any time. For prospective students applying for Fall admission, a wait-list decision is typically made by early February for DRRMVT Doctoral Program applications received by January 15th, and typically made within one month for applications received after January 15th. Final acceptance of wait-listed applicants is based on acceptance to the degree-granting program and the faculty advisor’s commitment to advise the applicant and participate in the DRRMVT Doctoral Program. For current students, admissions decisions are typically made within one month of receiving the application; the semester of admittance is typically considered the semester immediately following acceptance.

Requirements and Commitments

DRRMVT doctoral student commitments:

Students in the DRRMVT Doctoral Program commit to participating in all facets of the program from the semester of admittance until graduation, including the following:

  • Completing the DRRMVT Doctoral Program curriculum, to include the DRRMVT Graduate Certificate
  • Including at least two DRRMVT faculty as dissertation or thesis committee members (faculty advisor is considered DRRMVT faculty)
  • Engaging in at least one DRRMVT Stakeholder Workshop
  • Engaging in DRRMVT Student Mentoring activities
  • Engaging in at least one DRRMVT Community of Practice Workshop

DRRMVT Faculty Advisor commitments:

Virginia Tech faculty are welcome to participate in any DRRMVT Program element. At a minimum, faculty advising a DRRMVT Doctoral Program student commit to serving as that student’s academic advisor, participating in DRRMVT Student Mentoring activities, and enriching the DRRMVT Program through participation in the following DRRMVT Program elements:

  • Leading a discussion in the team-taught course GRAD 5134: Interdisciplinary Study: Principles of Disaster Risk Management
  • Leading a discussion in one of the DRRMVT Transdisciplinary Thinking Seminars
  • Participating in at least one DRRMVT Community of Practice Workshop