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Virginia Tech News / Articles / 2015 / 01 

Carnegie Foundation touts Virginia Tech's community engagement work

January 7, 2015

Two students perform landscaping at an elementary school
Hannah Perlman, left, a junior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences majoring in human nutrition, foods, and exercise; and Kristina Lundquist, a junior in the College of Engineering majoring in mechanical engineering, pull weeds in a landscaping project at an elementary school in Christiansburg. The project included moving garden beds to the playground for children to work on and clearing a space by a creek to hold science classes.

Renewing recognition first won in 2006, Virginia Tech has achieved community engagement classification from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

In a rigorous application process, the foundation required the university to prove that over the past several years Virginia Tech has practiced community engagement that is "deeper, more pervasive, better integrated, and sustained."

"Because of our scientists and extension specialists, food is safer and its supply is more secure, water is cleaner, grain is better able to withstand disease, and Virginia's farmers have better access to markets," wrote former Virginia Tech President Charles W. Steger in an opinion piece he co-authored for The Richmond Times-Dispatch in 2012, which was included in the Carnegie application. "Computers are faster and more energy efficient. Football players are better protected from head injuries. CHARLI, Virginia Tech's first untethered, autonomous, full-sized walking humanoid robot, takes mechanical engineering to new heights with each step."

Virginia Tech is one of 361 institutions that holds the classification, which affirms that the university's problem-solving partnerships with businesses and communities contribute to the public good and also imbue students with a sense of civic responsibility.

In building the application, Associate Vice President for Engagement Susan E. Short documented three places where Virginia Tech spells out its commitment to community engagement: the Principles of Community statement, the Outreach and International Affairs infrastructure that coordinates the university's engagement efforts, and the university's strategic plan in place through 2018.

Examples of community engagement cited in the application include:

  • The Office of International Research, Education, and Development leads projects that raise the standard of living in developing countries, partnering with more than 80 universities and institutions worldwide and managing a research portfolio totaling $100 million.
  • Virginia Cooperative Extension supports more than 100 local offices as well as half a dozen 4-H centers and 11 Agricultural Research and Extension Centers statewide devoted to agricultural research.
  • Get on the Bus, a program that VT Engage launched in 2012, entices faculty, staff, and students to volunteer through an easily accessible experience in which up to 30 people ride together to a destination such as a food bank for a day of service.
  • This past spring, Virginia Tech's research laboratory in India opened, and in its 6,000-square-foot lab dedicated to energy research, solar panels and small windmills are being refined to help improve life for 400 million Indians not connected to the grid. The research is also expected to help create low-cost, renewable energy worldwide.

"Positively transforming lives and communities – that's what university engagement is all about," said Guru Ghosh, vice president for outreach and international affairs. "Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) is our core value, and the exemplary way we breathe life into that value is through our engagement work. Everyone at Virginia Tech – students, faculty, staff, our research teams – all have a hand in demonstrating this core value."

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.

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