Virginia Tech®home

Provost's Update - November 2018

Since the announcement on November 13th that Amazon has selected northern Virginia as one of two sites for its second headquarters, a core team has been hard at work planning and implementing commitments made to the Commonwealth of Virginia to provide the talent, research, and partnerships necessary for diversification and expansion of the region’s economy. The following is a high level summary of areas of activity that relate to academic programs:

Graduate education. The goal is to enroll 750 one-year masters students (1:1 ratio of in-state versus out-of-state) in computer science by 2026-27. It is likely that this goal will be revised to reflect the anticipated interest of the Commonwealth in degree production rather than enrollment. This degree program will be focused less on research and more on experiential learning in a professional context. The immediate goal is to enroll 50 students for fall 2019 with these degrees ultimately being delivered from the new Innovation Campus. Obviously, this campus will take several years to develop so we will need to locate the program temporarily in an existing facility with the best option at this time being the Northern Virginia Center in Falls Church.

We recognize that achieving the enrollment/graduation goal entirely by means of a stand-alone one-year program will be challenging. For this reason, additional approaches are being considered such as 4+1 undergraduate-graduate programs. The business plan includes state funding for in-state enrollment, one-time support for faculty recruitment (including start-up expenses), and capital investment. An institutional match will be funded from non-state sources, including philanthropy, partnership investments, F&A recovery, and out-of-state tuition.

We are pleased to see that the higher education package includes start-up packages for faculty and we expect to recruit many outstanding faculty to support a range of research activities. While not part of the state commitment, we will have an opportunity to develop and deliver new doctoral and post-doctoral programs in conjunction with these research activities.

Undergraduate education. The goal is to double enrollment of computer science undergraduates at the Blacksburg campus by 2026-27, increasing enrollment by approximately 2,000 students (71:29 ratio of in-state versus out-of-state). Here again, it is likely that this goal will be revised to reflect the anticipated interest of the Commonwealth in degree production rather than enrollment. The immediate goal is to increase enrollment by 100 students in fall 2019, which is lower than the growth in computer science-focused majors in the College of Engineering in the recent past. Nevertheless, this will require review and redistribution of enrollment capacity across all colleges engaged in undergraduate education as the university remains committed to managing enrollment growth to a target of 30,000 undergraduates by 2023. The business plan is similar to that for graduate education with the exception that state and institutional investments will occur in Blacksburg.

In regard to academic space needs, these will be accommodated primarily in the data analytics and decision sciences building, which is part of the GBAC project. Anticipated capital funding from the state will allow Virginia Tech to accelerate this project timetable, but of course we will need to review building use with the goal of still preserving the transdisciplinary programs represented in the Data and Decisions destination area. We also recognize that recruitment of tenure-track faculty associated with growth in undergraduate enrollment is expected to increase enrollment of doctoral students.

Delivery Team. For the near term, planning and implementation of academic programs and other necessary functions are being coordinated by a Delivery Team under the leadership of Dr. Brandy Salmon, who is serving as a temporary chief operating officer. The Delivery Team serves as an operating unit to provide critical coordination around the many, varied and complex work streams that must be integrated to meet our goals. The team already has representation across many functions and units (on the core team and expanded teams) and attention will be given to ensuring that all stakeholders are involved, including units responsible for enrollment management, accreditation and academic program approval, resource management, undergraduate affairs, graduate affairs, student affairs, and the colleges most engaged at this time (College of Engineering, College of Science, and College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences).

At the same time, we will give careful consideration to the future organizational structure and staffing plan for the Innovation Campus. Near term plans include the recruitment of new leadership to oversee the establishment of the campus. In the meantime, Brandy has offered to serve on an interim basis to give us the time we need to expand our team.

Disciplinary focus of educational programs. Initially, emphasis will be placed on computer sciences and computer/software engineering. We expect, however, that the disciplinary emphasis will expand in the next few years to include the broader realm of data and decision sciences, and ultimately include the full breadth of interests represented in our comprehensive land grant mission.

University-wide resource management. This very exciting opportunity to expand Virginia Tech’s regional presence and national/international visibility will be funded from new sources of income including state support and incremental tuition revenue derived from enrollment expansion. To get us started, you will receive later this week a short-term critical needs request focused on immediate (current fiscal year) impacts of preparing for the new Innovation Campus.

Virginia Tech is committed to ensuring that the new Innovation Campus in Alexandria and associated enrollment expansion in Blacksburg do not negatively impact the many other unrelated academic programs necessary to support our comprehensive land grant mission.

Please understand that the information summarized above may change as planning continues. Nonetheless, I believe that you are best served by knowing the current status of planning and implementation, even though specific details are fairly fluid. I very much appreciate your commitment of time and effort to the success of the initiative, and to reinforcing the reputation of Virginia Tech – that we are a university that delivers.