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Destination Areas milestone reached; faculty to lead next phase of development

November 1, 2016

Destination Area discussion
Faculty discuss ideas for Destination Areas at the research and innovation town hall.

As part of President Tim Sands' Beyond Boundaries visioning process, the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost began an iterative process to define Destination Areas — the transdisciplinary academic domains that focus a portion of faculty teaching and research to position Virginia Tech as the university of choice for the best students and faculty globally and create areas of excellence to help solve the world’s most complicated problems.

Virginia Tech's groundbreaking Destination Areas initiative was launched in spring 2016, and the first design phase was completed in September 2016. The second design phase, which will take place over the next 18 months, will be driven by deep faculty engagement and stakeholder leadership to develop curriculum, build research proposals, and engage partners.

Destination Areas, along with related, smaller-scale Strategic Growth Areas, provide faculty and students with new frameworks to identify and solve complex, 21st-century problems and produce impacts of scale. They are one answer to the question posed by Sands in his recent State of the University Address, “What is the human condition we aspire to improve?”

The first phase of Destination Areas engaged faculty university wide and included town-hall meetings, collection of survey data, and continuous review and refinement of findings. In early fall 2016, faculty took a deep dive into the vision statements of the Destination Areas and further defined Strategic Growth Areas, which aim for regional or national leadership. This work and resulting vision will inform the next steps. The Destination Areas website now reflects the updated summaries of the vision statements and the new design timeline.

Destination Areas connect the full span of relevant knowledge necessary for addressing issues comprehensively. Humanistic, scientific, and technological perspectives are woven into the approach. The goal is to overcome traditional academic boundaries, such as those that separate science, technology, engineering, and mathematic (STEM) fields and liberal arts.

“Destination Areas express transdisciplinary aspirations of scale of our university that span research, education  and engagement and can involve all interested internal and external constituents," said Virginia Tech Provost Thanassis Rikakis. "They will provide tools and processes that can help integrate the disciplinary, transdisciplinary, and translational dimensions of our VT-shaped knowledge framework. Faculty across all colleges have stepped up and worked in new and inclusive teams and without a predetermined road map to define the areas where we already have significant strengths and can take a global leadership role. I am delighted with the solid work and the results that now position faculty teams to lead the next phase of development over the next year and a half.”

Sands and Rikakis have determined that successful implementation of Destination Areas is critical to Virginia Tech’s future and will position the university as the first choice for top national and global talent, including students, staff, faculty, and partners. They will be supported by large-scale partnerships with industry, government, and communities, advance large-scale funding opportunities, and diversify the university's resource portfolio. The result will allow Virginia Tech to fulfill its land-grant mission of graduating a 21st century workforce and meeting the economic, social, and technological needs of a rapidly changing world.

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