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Virginia Tech News / Articles / 2015 / 02 

Senior Vice President and Provost Mark G. McNamee announces future plans

February 3, 2015

Mark G. McNamee
Mark G. McNamee

Virginia Tech Senior Vice President and Provost Mark G. McNamee has announced his plans to step down from his position later this year.

McNamee, a professor of biochemistry and biological sciences who has served as Virginia Tech’s chief academic officer since 2001, will remain with the university and continue to serve as provost until a replacement assumes the role.

“Mark’s inclusive leadership style and unwavering commitment to undergraduate and graduate education and research across all disciplines has been the cornerstone of a period of unprecedented growth at Virginia Tech during his 14 years as provost,” said Virginia Tech President Timothy Sands. “During his tenure, Mark has played a pivotal role as our research enterprise has expanded in terms of size, quality, breadth, and impact. He has led recruitment and retention efforts that have brought world-class scholars to our university, thus enhancing the quality and scope of graduate education programs, particularly Ph.D. programs in emerging areas of interdisciplinary opportunity.

“And as our core strengths have developed and our new strengths emerged, Mark has been especially supportive of efforts to enhance the undergraduate curriculum in innovative ways,” added Sands. “Our current work on the new general education framework, once adopted, will be his lasting legacy to current and future Virginia Tech students.”

“My responsibilities as provost are providing me with an unprecedented opportunity to work with many talented colleagues to advance Virginia Tech’s missions of learning, discovery, and engagement,” said McNamee. “When I arrived in 2001, former President Charles Steger had laid out a vision and ambitious goals for the university. He gave me the freedom, support, and guidance to help implement this vision and achieve our aspirations.

“Now, President Sands is building upon the momentum we have achieved and is expanding the vision,” said McNamee. “The future of Virginia Tech is in good hands. I would like to see a new provost have the same special opportunity to work closely with the president for an extended period of time, and now feels like the right time to begin the transition process.”

Early in his years as provost, McNamee led a university-wide reorganization effort to align academic units with institutional priorities. As a result, several programs were consolidated, academic departments were realigned, and the College of Arts and Sciences was recast to the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences and the College of Science.

Recognizing that top research universities had dominant programs in health and life science, McNamee made a series of investments in those areas across the university, fostering new partnerships and initiatives and strengthening existing programs. From 2000 to 2014, annual funding to Virginia Tech from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which includes the National Institutes of Health, increased from approximately $3 million to $40 million.

The completion of several major capital projects—including Virginia Bioinformatics Institute (two phases), the Life Sciences I Building, the Integrated Life Sciences Building, Kelly Hall, the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science Building (ICTAS II), the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute in Roanoke, the Human Agricultural and Biosciences Building, the Veterinary Medicine Research Building—as well as the teaching and research programs housed in those new buildings—further illustrates the growth in the health and life science disciplines during McNamee’s tenure.

McNamee also encouraged the creation of new Ph.D. programs including Genetics, Bioinformatics, and Computational Biology; Translational Biology, Medicine and Health; and undergraduate degree programs in Microbiology, Neuroscience, and Systems Biology.

At the same time, McNamee worked to strengthen established signature programs in engineering, architecture, agriculture, natural resources, business, and veterinary medicine, and catalyzed the expansion of fundamental science, humanities, social sciences, arts, and education programs.

The emergence of engineering as a leading national program speaks to the importance of investing in core strengths while developing new areas of excellence.

To fuel growth in academic and research programs, McNamee leveraged “faculty cluster hiring” to build capacity in emerging research areas through coordinated search processes within and across departments and colleges.

The cluster hiring strategy attracted a larger, more diverse candidate pool, and built lasting synergy among programs. Cluster hires in areas including vector-borne diseases, obesity, computational sciences, materials sciences, nanoscience, human development through the life cycle, water, and information technology has had a major impact on research and teaching strengths at Virginia Tech today.

In parallel with faculty recruitment strategies, McNamee supported the development of university research institutes. The seven that exist today have unique histories and specific organization structures and missions, but collectively receive substantial university investments that have led to high quality, high impact research, teaching, and outreach outcomes.

As provost, McNamee led several university-wide initiatives to improve campus climate and advance inclusion and diversity within the community. Among those was AdvanceVT, a National Science Foundation-sponsored program designed to improve the recruitment and retention of women faculty in science and engineering through institutional transformation. A variety of high-impact initiatives continue today across the university.

McNamee also formed the Race and the Institution Task Force to examine issues of race at Virginia Tech and to develop specific recommendations to improve campus climate. The report led to an implementation plan and an investment of almost $1 million in new programs, faculty and staff, and increased support for many existing programs.

More recently, InclusiveVT was launched as a new approach to stimulate even better inclusion and diversity efforts. The model assigns greater responsibility to senior managers to develop, implement, and take responsibility for initiatives and programs that will have a clear and convincing impact on campus climate and diversity.

During McNamee’s tenure, Virginia Tech dramatically expanded the presence and practice of the arts. The long-held desire to build a world-class performance hall was achieved with the opening of the Moss Arts Center in 2013.

Throughout the planning for arts expansion, McNamee stressed the integration of academic programs in the arts with new facilities and external events. The Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology links the arts with research, education, and outreach across disciplines with a special connection to engineering and computer science programs.

McNamee’s support for the creation of the Graduate Life Center at Donaldson-Brown and the Transformative Graduate Education program have further strengthened Virginia Tech’s reputation as a leader in graduate education.

Following the tragic events of April 16, 2007, McNamee helped lead many university recovery and support efforts for both the university community and the families of the victims. He chaired the committees charged with determining the future use of Norris Hall and the planning of university observances of the Day of Remembrance.

McNamee cultivated partnerships among colleagues in student affairs and those in academic affairs. The creation of the residential colleges and the expansion of living-learning communities, for example, have helped to attract the very best students from around the world with attention to the education of the whole person.

An advocate of strategic planning, McNamee institutionalized a process of setting academic priorities that had a major influence on how the overall university budget was developed. Enrollment strategies, tuition policy, incentives, new revenue generation, overhead policies, and other aspects of academic administration have benefited from the planning process.

McNamee received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1968 and his Ph.D. in physical chemistry from Stanford University in 1973.

Following a two year postdoctoral fellowship at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, McNamee joined the faculty at the University of California at Davis as an assistant professor of biochemistry in 1975.

Following promotions to associate professor in 1980 and full professor in 1985, McNamee became chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics in 1990. Following a two-year appointment as interim dean, McNamee became dean of the Division of Biological Sciences in 1995, a post he held until his arrival at Virginia Tech in 2001.

McNamee has received research funding totaling approximately $10 million throughout his career for his work on acetylcholine receptors. He has chaired 16 doctoral dissertation committees and has supervised more than 25 undergraduate student research projects.

He is a member of the Society of Neuroscience, Biophysical Society, American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, American Chemical Society, and Sigma Xi.

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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