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Open letter from Executive Vice President and Provost Thanassis Rikakis

April 24, 2016

Thanassis Rikakis, Executive Vice President & Provost, Virginia Tech

The following is an open letter to the faculty from Executive Vice President and Provost Thanassis Rikakis:

Dear colleagues,

April and May are always exciting times on a college campus ­– and this is a particularly exciting time for Virginia Tech. President Sands and I are asking for you to be a part of the future success of our university by participating in the series of Destination Area Town Hall meetings we have scheduled over the next two weeks. We need your perspective as we focus and define the Destination Areas and implement this change across the campus.

As you know, our work began in earnest in in January with on-campus discovery (surveys) followed by the formation of faculty steering committees for each Destination Area that developed preliminary narratives for each Destination Area. This was followed by our external workshop in the (NCR) National Capitol Region. The combination of internal and external stakeholders gave us confidence and prepared us for this critical next step.  Please see the current versions of two-page Destination Area narratives as they emerged from this process.

Professor John McDowell, a member of the Resilient Earth Systems steering committee and the associate director of the Fralin Life Science Institute, recently shared with me how critical these workshops are, saying that "this is the stage where we really want to tap into the collective expertise of faculty.” 

Many of you have been involved – but we need all of you to play a part in this ground-up focus and implementation on campus. While the Destination Areas will serve only a portion of the teaching and research at Virginia Tech, they will impact our campus in a broad and systemic way. This new way of defining our teaching and research by looking externally first and working backward to determine our role in addressing the need is revolutionary for higher education. This Destination Area work will poise Virginia Tech as a leader among its peers, helping us to prepare our students to be the next generation of leaders and doers. This is at the core of our global land grant mission.

Each Town Hall will be led by faculty and facilitated by Theresa Mayer, vice president of research and innovation, Rachel Holloway, vice provost for undergraduate academic affairs, and Karen DePauw, vice president and dean of graduate education. There will be an overview of the Destination Areas in terms of curriculum and research, and how the process will evolve through the summer and into the fall. Once the descriptions are finalized we will announce an open call for faculty proposals for participation in Destination Areas over the summer. Details will be discussed at the Town Hall with more details to follow after commencement.

Each Town Hall will concentrate on one Destination Area and all will include an overview of our external stakeholder input and a discussion of the implementation plan for each area. There will be time for a discussion and input and you are welcome to attend any and all of the sessions. We hope that you will find a way to attend the Destination Area Town Hall where you see your teaching and research being most relevant.

To make sure we reach as broad a faculty group as possible we will WEBEX each Town Hall. We will build an online Destination Areas space for background and materials and build a FAQ section to share commonly asked questions.

The Town Halls will take place in the Graduate Life Center (GLC) and are scheduled as follows:

The feedback from the Town Hall meetings will be used to further refine and shape the Destination Areas. As we work towards the implementation of the Destination Areas, faculty will play a central role in determining, organizing, and effecting the themes and subthemes. Through the open proposal stage this summer faculty groups will align to create new innovative research ideas and courses to educate both graduate and undergraduate students. These groups will become the evolving cores of the destination areas.

In addition to the development of the five Destination Areas, over this summer we will also develop the five Strategic Growth Areas identified through the survey.  Faculty steering committees are being formed to develop descriptions and plans for the following Strategic Growth Areas:

  • Digital Arts Communication and Marketing  
  • Innovation and Entrepreneurship  
  • Materials  
  • Intersectional Diversity and Inclusion  
  • Policy  

The steering committees will be announcing preliminary plans and ways for faculty to engage in these areas in August.

Faculty participation in Destination Areas is not mandatory and the overall financial commitment will impact a small percentage of the teaching and research at Virginia Tech. This is an innovative way to prepare our students for the changing economy of tomorrow and I encourage you to come and hear more about why we are launching this initiative even if you do not imagine you will be involved in these ten areas.

We will create online discussion and networking sites to provide additional ways for faculty to participate in the next phases of the process. Updates will be sent to campus through the Virginia Tech Daily Email.

Submit your feedback on the proposed Destination Areas.

Thank you for your commitment to Virginia Tech and to this next step in developing Virginia Tech to become a leading 21st-century global land-grant institution. 

Contact: