The Land Development Design Initiative (LDDI) is a collaborative effort between the Via Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering at Virginia Tech and professionals across all sectors of the land development industry. While it may be impossible to identify a singular start date for LDDI, the program’s origins are traced to late 2005 when then CEE Department Head Dr. Bill Knocke and Dr. Randy Dymond had a conversation to discuss the creation of an emphasis area in land development design within the undergraduate CEE curriculum at Virginia Tech. The catalyst for this conversation was repeated calls from industry to better prepare CEE graduates to work in the land development industry. Dymond’s own contemporaneous research of university placement statistics revealed that as many as one third of CEE graduates were entering the land development field, while at the time only a single, elective course covering the subject matter was offered to students. Further, that course was taught by an adjunct instructor, thus precluding expansion into a broader, more comprehensive curriculum.
To begin advancing this effort, Knocke and Dymond resourcefully tapped into the large network of Virginia Tech CEE alumni, specifically focusing on those who had achieved a level of prominence and notoriety in the land development industry. The two held outreach “Road Shows” in Northern Virginia, Richmond, Hampton Roads, and Roanoke to communicate what the department hoped to accomplish, and to solicit alumni support to help achieve those goals. Through these and other outreach efforts, Dymond soon identified a core group of professionals whose willingness to give back in service to their alma mater helped launch LDDI and establish the foundation for the growth and success enjoyed over the past 16+ years. LDDI continues to embrace this “organic” model that relies on the time, professional expertise, and resources of its members.
LDDI’s primary objectives are:
- Improving land development design education, including increasing student awareness of land development design as a career path
- Increasing interaction between practitioners and undergraduate civil engineering students at Virginia Tech
- Enhancing research efforts in the land development area
Since its inception, the Initiative has made significant strides to improve land development design education at Virginia Tech and to increase student awareness of land development design as a career path. The LDDI curriculum is comprised of five individual courses: Introduction to Land Development Design, Land Development Design, Municipal Engineering, Sustainable Land Development, and Advanced Land Development.
The Initiative also promotes the interaction between students and practitioners. The LDDI membership now includes nearly 800 individuals representing nearly 100 different organizations, with many of these organizations providing financial support through corporate sponsorships and municipal memberships.
The past 16+ years have seen LDDI grow to become a nationally recognized leader in undergraduate land development design education and the 2021-22 academic year featured the debut of a new affiliated master’s degree program. There are nearly 800 individuals currently in the LDDI database, with many attending LDDI General Meetings and other LDDI functions. During these meetings, these professionals contribute ideas for curriculum improvements, practitioner engagement with students, and other suggestions for improving the program. If you are not already on our email list, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org in order to receive invitations to future events, as well as eUpdates, newsletters, and other program news. LDDI also has an active Linkedin page and we encourage you to follow us there by searching “LDDI at Virginia Tech”.
There are many ways for individuals to become involved with LDDI, including joining the Industry Advisory and/or Young Members Groups. Each member of the Industry Advisory Group is assigned to one of the committees described below. We encourage you to review the respective summaries of each committee to see what best aligns with your own interests and professional expertise. Each committee provides its own unique opportunities to become active in the program.
Practitioner/Technical and Research Committee
The Practitioner/Technical and Research Committee assists the Via Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in providing a strong and sustainable land development design undergraduate and graduate curriculum. The committee is also a resource for research as part of the sustainable land development graduate program. This committee identifies opportunities for practitioner involvement both inside and outside of the classroom, which is a cornerstone of LDDI.
Special Events and Fundraising Committee
The Special Events and Fundraising Committee is responsible for organizing fundraising events that include the annual golf tournament as well as splash events to roll out new programs or initiatives. This committee is also involved with the annual sponsorship drive, annual VT Giving Day, ongoing endowment efforts, and the summer 2022 celebration and recognition event.
The Membership Committee provides assistance with planning and organizing LDDI’s General Meetings. The committee also assists with recruiting new members to the LDDI network as well as regularly reviewing corporate sponsorship and municipal membership benefits.
Brand Awareness Committee
The Brand Awareness Committee is responsible for expanding the footprint of LDDI through outreach events (“Road Shows”) in new geographic markets, and for overseeing LDDI’s social media presence and website. This committee is also responsible for future updates to the LDDI name and logo. This committee is further tasked with LDDI’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives.
Young Members Group
The new LDDI organizational model provides numerous opportunities for alumni of the program to become involved! The Young Members Group is intended for recent graduates (generally one to seven years post-graduation) and provides a forum for them to collaborate and reconnect with their peers. Young Members are assigned to participate in one of the IAG committees describe above.
Corporate Sponsorship, Municipal Membership, and Individual Giving
In 2021, LDDI enjoyed the support of 40 corporate sponsors and municipal members, and more than 140 individual donors. There are four levels of annual corporate sponsorship which afford varying levels of student access and interaction. Two levels of membership are offered for municipalities and other government agencies. Individual donations may be made to LDDI through the Virginia Tech Foundation.
For the past 12 years, LDDI has hosted “Land Development Career Night” – a professional networking event typically held on the eve of the Civil & Environmental Engineering Career Fair. These mixers have long provided an opportunity for students to meet and mingle with prospective employers in a relaxed environment prior to the stressful and sometimes even chaotic atmosphere of the career fair, and employers often cite the event’s value in helping them to identify and distinguish students interested in land development design from the larger pool of CEE candidates.
Each spring, LDDI students are provided an opportunity to participate in a field trip to visit interesting and unique land development projects. Design enginers from LDDI sponsoring firms host these site visits, and over the years these field trips have been both local to campus as well as to desitnations in Northern Virginia, Richmond, and Hampton Roads. At each site, the design engineer (from an LDDI sponsoring firm) hosts the tour.
On-Campus Product Exhibitions
LDDI has long recognized the value of getting students out of the classroom and into the field to observe and gain an appreciation for the size and scale, installation, and maintenance of the infrastructure that they will ultimately design. While field trips certainly serve as an effective means to achieving this educational goal, the logistics of getting multiple sections of a junior-level course, each with potentially as many as 65 students, out on a traditional field trip are daunting. Similarly, group design projects and job interviews place demands on senior students that are often prohibitive for “destination” field trips. Beginning in the 2018-19 academic year, LDDI, with the help of its Dymond-level sponsors Advanced Drainage Systems (ADS) and Concrete Pipe & Precast (CP&P), took this challenge head on and brought the field trip to the students in the form of on-campus product exhibitions.
Led by Dewberry’s Skip Notte, LDDI’s annual spring semester Design Charrette has student teams competing against one another on a site design challenge. The format of this annual event finds Skip first introducing the students to the site, the development goal(s), and any unique caveats or restrictions on the site or their design. Following this introduction, student teams are given one hour to work toward a design that meets the development objective while also adhering to relevant codes and sound engineering design principles. Dinner is then provided to the student participants while their designs are judged by Skip, CEE faculty members, and volunteers drawn from the LDDI professional network.
The key goals of the Design Charrette and Competition are to encourage group collaboration among student teams and to create a supportive but competitive atmosphere where limited time forces students to work under pressure to prioritize site layout and other design decisions. The event also provides another opportunity for practitioner-student engagement as Skip and the judges share their own insight and professional expertise on the project.
Young Professionals Panels
During the 2021-22 academic year, and for the third consecutive year, LDDI hosted a “Young Professionals Panel.” For many graduates, the transition from college to the professional world represents an abrupt lifestyle change that can be challenging to navigate. Students are sometimes understandably overwhelmed by these questions and challenges, and with a panel comprised of graduates of the LDDI program, this event seeks to help current students benefit from the experience and advice of those who have gone before them. Student feedback on the event remains overwhelmingly positive and, similarly, the former LDDI students serving as panelists greatly enjoy giving back and speaking with current students.
Industry Professionals Panels
Land development is a diverse industry, and even what appear to be the simplest projects often require the coordinated effort of a multitude of professional disciplines. While the LDDI program is centered around the engineering and design aspects of land development, a fundamental program objective has always been to make students aware of the other career opportunities in the land development industry, including those of developer, home builder, municipal engineer, surveyor, architect/landscape architect, contractor, wetlands specialist, product suppliers, and many others. Further, it is a firmly held belief that even though a substantial majority of LDDI students will enter the land development industry as site design engineers, it is critical that the curriculum acquaint those students with the other professional disciplines with whom they will ultimately work and collaborate. To help better achieve these outcomes, during the fall 2020 semester, LDDI debuted a new practitioner involvement event, Industry Professionals Panels, where representatives from various professional disciplines shared their perspectives on the land development industry. Student attendance for these after-hours events has fantastic, with more than 70 students attending at least one of the panels during the 2021-22 academic year.
Resume Review Workshop
LDDI hosts a resume review workshop approximately two weeks ahead of Virginia Tech’s CEE Career Fairs with the intent to provide land development students with an opportunity to update their resumes and get some timely advice from recruiters. Representatives from LDDI sponsoring firms begin the session by providing an overview of resume dos and don’ts, interview dos and don’ts, and what to do once you receive a job offer. Students were then placed into breakout rooms with one of the three recruiters to have an opportunity for a smaller group discussion and review of their current resumes. Of the event, Julia Mork offered, “The LDDI resume review was a great event to connect with students. The students asked thoughtful questions and I enjoyed sharing tips and tricks to creating a strong resume. I am looking forward to being part of the event next year!”