Three academic units in three colleges are being recognized by the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost in partnership with the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning with the 2020 University Exemplary Department or Program Award (UEDPA).

The Department of Geography in the College of Natural Resources and Environment, School of Public and International Affairs in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies, and Presidential Global Scholars in the Honors College earned the UEDPA for excellence in teaching and learning, and effectiveness in developing and sustaining effective approaches to teaching with a global perspective at the graduate or undergraduate levels.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 UEDPA honorees will be officially recognized along with the 2021 winners during a reception planned for early 2022. The university expects to open the event to the campus community, but registration will be required to attend. Further information will be provided at a later date.

The Department of Geography is the home to geography and meteorology programs and participates strongly in the interdisciplinary geospatial and environmental analysis Ph.D. program. The department has developed a strong teaching ethic in both undergraduate and graduate programs, and by allowing faculty to experiment with innovative teaching strategies, has strengthened their students’ global geographic knowledge. Faculty clearly recognize that passionate teaching helps to create a globally informed and engaged citizenry, and they leverage global perspectives within course and curriculum themes to help students understand global and international topics.

Developing and sustaining effective approaches to teaching with a global perspective is at the core of the School of Public and International Affairs’ (SPIA) values. The school supports and closely aligns with Virginia Tech’s vision to become a global land-grant institution and its strategic goal of being recognized among the top 100 universities in world rankings. As a public policy school, SPIA’s primary role is to study the impact of government on people’s lives at local, state, national, and international levels. For SPIA faculty, a “global perspective” means addressing global topics, cultural values, and customs as well as wrestling with the notion of global citizenship or the ramifications of world events (i.e., a global pandemic) through interdisciplinary approaches.

Like all Honors College programming, Presidential Global Scholars (PGS) encourages and supports students’ efforts to go beyond their normal levels of undergraduate academic engagement and achievement in every college and major across campus. A semester-long study abroad experience operating each spring semester out of the Steger Center for International Scholarship in Riva San Vitale, Switzerland, PGS aligns carefully with what the Honors College considers to be critical experiences or “pillars” of exceptional teaching and learning. Those pillars include close student-faculty interactions and mentoring, a collective student and faculty focus on engaging in and supporting undergraduate research, and collaborative and transdisciplinary teamwork.

In addition to the three official 2020 UEDPA honorees, the award selection committee is offering special recognition to the Department of Marketing in the Pamplin College of Business and its Linking Lives study abroad program, which has made a significant impact on the student experience in the global context, specifically in Lugano, Switzerland, and East Africa. Through taking coursework in situ (“on site”), students are gaining direct and applied access to a new range of fieldwork and research. The Linking Lives program and the Department of Marketing will also be recognized at the UEDPA reception in 2022.

Presented annually since 1994, the University Exemplary Department or Program Award was developed as a part of Virginia Tech's Faculty Rewards Project, which sought to clarify the expectations of faculty and define appropriate rewards for their accomplishments. The annual awards program is presented by the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost through the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning.

Nominations were submitted based on this year’s theme of "developing and sustaining effective approaches to teaching with a global perspective at the graduate or undergraduate levels.” The award selection committee has selected “developing and sustaining academic community-engagement activities for student well-being and a sense of belonging” as the theme for the 2021 program.

For more information on the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) or the University Department or Program Awards, visit the CETL website or contact teaching@vt.edu.