Many Hokies, especially those living in the greater Washington, D.C., area, head into 2019 exhilarated about last year’s historic announcement of Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus.

As the November announcement spread across the newswires, most Virginia Tech alumni responded with pride, recognizing the university’s role in luring Amazon to Northern Virginia and the future economic and educational opportunities it would inspire.

“It was an affirmation that Virginia Tech is a national university and that we have the capacity to help sway one of the world’s largest companies to locate in the commonwealth,” said Brent Blevins ’03, ’05, who serves on the Virginia Tech Alumni Association Board of Directors and is former president of the National Capital Region Alumni Chapter. “These are big days for the university, and it’s an exciting time to be an alumnus.”

The 1 million-square-foot graduate campus is the centerpiece of the state’s plan to drive technology and research, transform Virginia’s innovation economy, and accelerate the development of top-notch, work-ready talent.

It will be constructed in Alexandria, a few miles from Amazon’s new headquarters. The Innovation Campus will triple the university’s footprint in Northern Virginia, which already includes seven locations in the region. The campus community will bring together hundreds of new graduate students, dozens of new faculty members, and numerous industry partners.

“There were many factors that led Amazon to ultimately choose Arlington as its headquarters. Among them was certainly Virginia Tech’s commitment to creating the Innovation Campus,” said Senior Associate Vice President for Alumni Relations Matthew M. Winston Jr. “I believe the success and reputation of Hokie alumni contributed to the university’s decision to invest in the region in this significant way. As alumni, we have reason to be proud of such a game-changing development that will serve the commonwealth so well in the future.”

Tyler Liboro ’17, who is employed with Booz Allen and works in the area, said witnessing Virginia Tech’s university logo in places like coffee shops fueled feelings of excitement and pride.

Brent Blevins
Brent Blevins '03 and '05 (center) shares a laugh with former U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (right) and Virginia Tech President Tim Sands at a recent Hokies on the Hill reception. Blevins serves on the Virginia Tech Alumni Association Board of Directors and is former president of the National Capital Region Alumni Chapter.

“It reinforces the idea that Virginia Tech is going to be here,” Liboro said. “And it’s really everywhere you go [here].”

But the alumni excitement wasn’t confined to Washington, D.C., or the areas immediately surrounding the region.

For Brian Sullivan ’93, “Worldwide Exchange” anchor and senior national correspondent for CNBC, which is headquartered in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, the development offers “the opportunity for Virginia Tech to be involved in a cutting-edge partnership with one of the world’s most admired companies.

“As I’ve said before, Virginia Tech continues to transform from a great regional university to a great national and international university,” said Sullivan. “This helps speed that continued evolution.”

The Innovation Campus will expand Virginia Tech’s mission to serve and places the university in the national spotlight, which alums are excited to see reflected in the university’s growing global profile.

“Virginia Tech’s involvement in bringing Amazon to the National Capital Region clearly demonstrates that we are a technology thought leader and a leading educational institution. I always enjoy seeing Virginia Tech rise in its rankings, and I would suspect that the Amazon partnership will help us do that,” said Marvin Boyd ’00 and ’01, co-chair of the Freddie Mac Chapter of the Virginia Tech Alumni Association.

The first master’s degree students will enroll in either existing locations or temporary space. The campus will host a total of 500 master’s degree students within five years and, at scale, enroll 750 master’s degree candidates and train hundreds of doctoral students and post-doctoral fellows. The campus’s first buildings are anticipated to be complete within five years, with the buildout expected to continue over the next decade, positioning Virginia Tech to serve the commonwealth for the next millennium.

The campus’s accelerated timeline is another source of excitement among Hokies and has many already exploring the possibilities of involvement.

“I was really excited at how soon this is happening,” said Mahna Ghafori, who returned home to Fairfax after her May 2017 graduation.

“I had already had thoughts of doing grad school, but I didn’t know where,” Ghafori said. “When Virginia Tech announced they were doing this, I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s meant to be.’”

The Innovation Campus’s degree programs and research opportunities will focus on computer sciences and software engineering, while offering specializations in high-demand areas, including data sciences; analytics and collective decisions; security and the internet of things; and technology and policy. Programming will maintain an experiential-driven focus, producing Hokies poised to step out of the university setting and into the type of workforce that global giants like Amazon require.

“It's very exciting that Virginia Tech will be launching this kind of new concept of higher education and not only in Virginia, but nationally,” Blevins said. “We’re building something from scratch that I think has the potential to really reorient how universities will offer higher education concepts in the future.”

— Written by Mason Adams and Travis Williams