In his first State of the University address, Virginia Tech President Tim Sands challenged the university community to advance as a national and global leader.
In front of a large audience at the Moss Arts Center and an online community watching the live stream, Sands invoked the university’s history of bold and successful moves, including the decision to create the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute more than 25 years ago, now a leader in autonomous vehicle research. He cited the redevelopment of the Hotel Roanoke, creation of the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute, and the work of the Flint Water Team as evidence of the university’s capacity for innovation in conjunction with its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve).
“It is in the Hokie DNA to be brave and bold and seize the opportunities that present themselves, especially when the opportunity involves strengthening our community and making the world a better place for people,” Sands said. “We look outward to see what great challenges are facing the world and then we apply our expertise to solving the problem. It is who we are”
Last year, Sands launched a visioning initiative called Beyond Boundaries to imagine the future of higher education and create a more dynamic university structure to allow faculty, students, staff, and partners to work on complex projects addressing society’s rapidly evolving needs and opportunities. The final report will be released later this year, but Sands said the vision is already developing on campus and has led to several recently announced initiatives.
Those initiatives include the development of the Virginia Tech Carilion Health Sciences and Technology campus within the Roanoke Innovation Corridor; a $75 million investment in Intelligent Infrastructure and Human-Centered Communities that will include the Virginia Tech campus in the National Capital Region; the development of a $225 million Global Business and Analytics Complex that will research Data Analytics and Decision Sciences and become the new home of the Pamplin College of Business; and a new Creativity and Innovation District in Blacksburg that will leverage existing arts programs and facilities, including the Moss Arts Center.
Sands also called on the university community to support the Beyond Boundaries vision by increasing focus on four specific areas; Experiential Learning, including more opportunities for internships and study abroad; Cross-Sector Partnerships, such as the partnership with Carilion Clinic; Philanthropy, the “lifeblood of a university”; and Inclusion and Diversity.
Sands said inclusion and diversity is being established as an integral part of the community through InclusiveVT with the goal of “a student population that is sufficiently diverse that every student organization, class project group, or research group includes individuals whose lived experiences are different than the majority, whether that is the product of race, ethnicity, nationality, gender identity, family income, or first-generation status. Diversity makes for deeper conversations and stronger solutions. The same can be said for faculty, staff, and administration.”
He closed his remarks by commenting to the students in the hall, “Ultimately this is all about you,” calling them powerful, smart, capable leaders and citizens who will make the world a better place as they live and lead in the spirit of Ut Prosim.
“The potential for Virginia Tech to advance as a national and global leader has never been greater,” Sands said. “We are as strong as we have ever been and growing stronger. We cannot afford to miss this window of opportunity during the short time it is open for us. This is our moment; this is our century.”