From President Tim Sands: An update on university response to the COVID-19 virus
March 17, 2020
To the Virginia Tech community,
Those of my generation have experienced several national emergencies that were not widely anticipated. During such times of crisis, we were able to come together as families, friends, communities, and a nation to support each other. COVID-19 is different because coming together, in person, is not an option this time. In this important way, it is unlike anything we have experienced in generations.
Hokie Nation knows the value of assembling in large numbers to support our community. While the power of convening is extraordinary, today we can embrace our fellow Hokies and the members of our communities by respecting social distancing. This is a selfless act. It protects the vulnerable among us and helps ensure that our health care system is not overloaded. It is Ut Prosim at its finest.
Over the next several weeks, we will continue to follow guidance from state and national health officials and the governor’s office, adapting and updating our plan as needed. While we work through the worst of this pandemic, I ask every Hokie to give a virtual nod, flash a “VT” sign, or make eye contact as you pass, acknowledging that we are in this together for the greater good.
To our employees who keep the critical infrastructure on our campuses open and in service to those who need shelter, food, and technology, thank you! While we are working through policies and communications, I want you to know that we are aiming to limit financial hardship, enhance flexibility, and ensure that we utilize your efforts in creative ways that both respond to dynamic and emerging needs, and prepare our institution for the future. See a message from Vice President for Human Resources Bryan Garey.
To our students who are about to experience a completely virtual version of a Virginia Tech education, we know that the online experience is not identical to the in-person or hybrid experience most of you have enjoyed in the past. The VT-shaped experience that emerged from our Beyond Boundaries vision for Virginia Tech is dependent on being able to work on complex problems in diverse teams. While this is still possible online, it is a different experience, one that will take time and effort to develop. This crisis may accelerate our progress in employing technology to mimic, augment, and enhance the in-person experience, allowing students, faculty, and staff the flexibility to experience Virginia Tech wherever they are in the world – another generational aspiration of Beyond Boundaries.
Aspirations notwithstanding, we recognize that going entirely online abruptly will challenge each student in different ways. We are committed to making sure that you have every opportunity to make progress toward your degree, and we will solve problems as they arise. We ask that you work with your instructors to identify issues and resolve them as expeditiously as possible. Read a message from Byron Hughes, dean of students.
To our faculty, teaching assistants, and academic advisors: Thank you for taking on the extraordinary challenge of moving Virginia Tech online. For those of you who are already online or operating in multiple modalities, this will be a relatively straightforward transition. For others, this is building the plane while it is flying. We are mobilizing every resource possible to assist. We know, however, that you will face unforeseen obstacles, and your agility and common sense will be critical to meeting this challenge. We will come out of this experience as a stronger, more agile institution with the ability to serve students in more flexible and adaptable ways.
To our researchers: While maintaining continuity of our research operations is of paramount importance, this is also an opportunity to prepare for the post-COVID-19 world. Our science, technology, policy, and human experience research capabilities will become connected in new ways to address the global challenges that are now coming into focus. Knowing the assets we already have in place in our institutes, centers, colleges, and Destination Areas, I believe Virginia Tech will be even more important to the future of humanity.
And finally, to our graduating seniors: Your time at Virginia Tech is coming to an end in a manner that no one could have anticipated. You imagined a spring filled with the usual April community events, spring sports, gatherings with friends to talk about your paths forward – all of the experiences that make your time in Blacksburg memorable. As the picture becomes clearer, we will update you on University Commencement and summer opportunities to come back to campus. But know that, as Virginia Tech graduates, you will always be Hokies. Earning your first degree from Virginia Tech is just the beginning of your life as a member of an extended global community of Hokies.
Nothing can diminish the connection we share as a community dedicated to service and each other. I have the greatest confidence in all of you to be strong, resilient, responsible, and kind. As the path forward emerges, we are committed to keeping you informed and aware. I look forward to the time when we can once again come together as a community face-to-face.
In the spirit of Ut Prosim,