Virginia Tech has been a globally engaged university for most of the past century. Now, it wants to become a leading global university.
It is on the right path, said President Tim Sands on Friday afternoon during his second State of the University address at the Moss Arts Center.
From the Anne and Ellen Fife Theatre and via a live-stream to Virginia Tech’s campuses in Roanoke and Northern Virginia, Sands delivered a fact-packed speech that outlined his ambitious vision for the university’s future.
His remarks came as Virginia Tech’s newest crop of Hokies represent the largest freshman class in university history. And there are plans to keep growing across all campuses, albeit moderately, Sands said.
By 2023, the university projects that there will be 30,000 undergraduates, up from 25,000 in 2015.
“We will have more moderate growth in the future to ensure that Virginia Tech maintains a small-campus feel with all of the advantages of scale,” he said, explaining that a master plan for the campus includes building new residence halls, student centers, and parking areas.
Additionally, as part of Virginia Tech’s Beyond Boundaries initiative, the university will hire more than 400 new faculty for its five Destination Areas and four Strategic Growth Areas in the next eight years. Beyond Boundaries is an initiative to envision the university’s future and position it to be a top global institution.
Virginia Tech’s mission to become more diverse is integral to its future. The newest class of students comprises about 30 percent who are from underrepresented and underserved groups, including minorities, first-generation college students and those from low-income households, Sands said.
That percentage is up from about 25 percent a few years ago, and Virginia Tech aims to reach 40 percent by 2022.
The university also hired 15 new underrepresented faculty this year, its most ever.
“Inclusion and diversity are core to our role as an engine for social and economic mobility, for attracting talent from the broadest pools possible, and for ensuring that all of our students have on-campus experiences that prepare them for the world they are about to enter,” he said.
As for growth in campus infrastructure, Sands highlighted a new drone facility, the tallest in the country, opening soon in Blacksburg, and expansion at the Health Sciences and Technology Campus in Roanoke, home of the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute. In July, the medical school will become the university’s ninth college.
During his address, Sands appeared at Virginia Tech’s Roanoke and Northern Virginia campuses via remote video.
From Roanoke, Deb Kelly, an associate professor at the research institute, spoke with the audience and Sands about her team’s research that has the potential to slow down or stop the recurrence of triple-negative breast cancer.
“This would be really huge if we can transform this into a new form of preventative medicine and cancer prevention,” she said.
This kind of research in Roanoke is important because it elevates Virginia Tech and its partnership with Carilion Clinic, Sands said.
“It has the potential to change people’s lives,” he said.
In his shout-out to the university’s Northern Virginia campus, known as the National Capital Region, Sands described the location’s many benefits - experiential learning opportunities for students, exposure to policy makers, and access to global partners.
Also, Virginia Tech is working to shorten the distance between Blacksburg, Roanoke, and Northern Virginia with a new door-to-door bus service. The expansion of passenger rail in Roanoke next month also will create a new connection to the National Capital Region, Sands said.
Ultimately, Virginia Tech’s mission is to be a leading global university, one that has a worldwide perspective, empowers graduates to solve world challenges, and is a top destination for global talent and innovation.
Getting there “will require sustained and intentional actions and resources,” Sands said.
Some action is underway, including efforts to hire employees from other cultures and nations, partnerships with institutions across the globe, and enhancing the impact of Virginia Tech research.
“Our vision honors the hard work of all who came before us, and it will be our legacy for the commonwealth. It makes me proud to be a Hokie,” Sands said.
Written by Jenny Kincaid Boone