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Cyril Clarke named interim executive vice president and provost; Thanassis Rikakis to become Presidential Fellow for Academic Innovation

October 30, 2017

Thanassis Rikakis (left) and Cyril Clarke
Thanassis Rikakis (left) and Cyril Clarke

Virginia Tech President Tim Sands has named Cyril Clarke to be interim executive vice president and provost effective Nov. 1. Thanassis Rikakis will step down from his position as executive vice president and provost and will assist Clarke in this transition before becoming the Presidential Fellow for Academic Innovation to continue his research on innovation in academe.

“Virginia Tech has come to a pivotal moment in its history,” said Sands. “To continue our momentum, we must do the hard work and have the tough conversations necessary to make the aspirations of Beyond Boundaries a reality. Thanassis provided tremendous insight and energy that propelled us to the completion of the visioning phase and the development of the first academic initiatives under Beyond Boundaries. Thanassis suggested and I agreed that now is the time to make a change in leadership as we transition fully to planning and implementation. His role was essential to this process and I am deeply grateful for his many contributions to Virginia Tech.

“Over the past three years, the Virginia Tech community and our partners have developed a bold vision for what Virginia Tech could become a generation from now. Beyond Boundaries envisions Virginia Tech as a leading global university, deeply engaged with our partners in the spirit of the land-grant university to address the greatest challenges of the commonwealth, the nation, and the world,” Sands said. “As we move forward from completing the visioning stage to planning and implementation, we will engage our faculty, staff, students, alumni, and partners to build upon the initiatives now underway.

“In Cyril, we have a dedicated and inspirational leader — one with broad knowledge of Virginia Tech. Not only is he deeply committed to our shared vision, but he also has a unique understanding of the environment and culture we must navigate.”

Sands further expressed his gratitude for the transformative work accomplished by Rikakis.

“Thanassis prepared this university to evolve in order to remain at the forefront of higher education. Thanassis impressed upon us that Virginia Tech has to embrace a much more collaborative, transdisciplinary approach in its teaching and research, and to make strategic investments to support these changes.

“He saw how Virginia Tech could do this by leading the development of our Destination Areas and Strategic Growth Areas. He has championed and encouraged innovation and collaboration through the adoption of incentive-based budgeting and faculty cluster hiring,” said Sands. “And he was instrumental in transformational initiatives, including the Honors College, the Virginia Tech-Carilion Health Sciences and Technology Campus in Roanoke, and our growing presence in the National Capital Region.”

Clarke, who has served as the dean of the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech since 2013, has led the college to achieve several recent successes. The college plans to launch its first undergraduate degree program — in public health — in 2018. Together with the already successful master of public health degree program, the undergraduate program will be an integral component of the college’s One Health initiative, which recognizes the close linkages between animal health, human health, and the environment. This commitment to One Health is reflected also in the college’s engagement with the developing health sciences and technology program in Roanoke, in partnership with Carilion Clinic.

“As a member of this community the past four years, I can see that Virginia Tech is uniquely situated to move forward boldly in ways that will shape higher education and advance our university to even greater heights,” said Clarke. “To be relevant in a rapidly changing world, faculty and students must work together across disciplines to solve pressing issues. Our approach to developing Destination Areas and Strategic Growth Areas — our areas of transdisciplinary excellence — is our path forward. This is an exciting opportunity and challenge for me and our university.”

In 2017, more than 1,600 prospective students applied to enter the college’s doctor of veterinary medicine (DVM) program in the fall, representing the second largest applicant pool in North America for the third year in a row. The recently revised DVM curriculum is amongst the most innovative in the world, emphasizing integration of courses, team-based learning, and hands-on experience gained in teaching hospitals in Blacksburg and Leesburg.

Rikakis became executive vice president and provost at the start of the 2015-16 academic year after serving as vice provost for design, arts, and technology at Carnegie Mellon University. In addition to launching his innovative Beyond Boundaries initiatives during his time as provost, he hired deans in the colleges of science, engineering, liberal arts and human sciences, and architecture and urban studies.

“I have enjoyed being part of the Beyond Boundaries process, leading the implementation of key operational components, including the Destination Areas, the Partnership for an Incentive-Based Budget, VT-shaped learning, and contributing to expansive initiatives like the Honors College and the Health Sciences and Technology Campus in Roanoke,” said Rikakis. “Virginia Tech is poised for great success in the future, and I am grateful for the opportunity to have helped its growth and development.”

Rikakis will continue his joint faculty appointment as a tenured professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics in the College of Engineering and as a professor of music in the School of Performing Arts in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. In his faculty role, Rikakis plans to further his research and understanding of organizational change in higher education, looking specifically at concepts related to the Destination Areas and the Partnership for an Incentive-Based Budget and continue his long standing research in interactive neurorehabilitation.

Virginia Tech will launch an international search for a new executive vice president and provost next spring. Updates on the search will be reported through Virginia Tech News.

Gregory Daniel, professor and head of the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, will serve as interim dean of the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine when Clarke becomes interim executive vice president and provost Nov. 1.

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