Through fellows program, graduate students have voice in Innovation Campus plans
The Innovation Fellows offer input, share perspectives, act as advisors, and participate in events as the Innovation Campus plans move forward.
November 11, 2019
Fresh off of four years in Blacksburg earning a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering at Virginia Tech, Logan Eisenbeiser moved to Northern Virginia last year to pursue his master of computer engineering at the university’s Falls Church campus.
Little did he know that he would be helping to set the stage for future Hokies who also will study in Northern Virginia at Virginia Tech’s future Innovation Campus.
The Innovation Campus delivery team wanted input from the real experts – students – and Eisenbeiser is one of 10 graduate students selected as an Innovation Fellow. For the next year, the fellows will offer input, share perspectives, act as advisors, and participate in events as plans for the Innovation Campus move forward and classes begin next year.
“It’s a really cool project, and it’s a really exciting time,” said Eisenbeiser, who also is a graduate research assistant at the Hume Center in Arlington. “Even though I won’t be able to take classes there [at the Innovation Campus], I think it’s smart to ask for student input.”
The fellows, who all are pursuing masters or doctoral degrees in computer science, computer engineering, electrical and computer engineering, and business information technology, were chosen from more than two dozen applicants for the program. They are enrolled in existing Virginia Tech programs in Northern Virginia.
“The fellows will help us understand what is important to graduate students,” said Brandy Salmon, managing director for the Innovation Campus. “We are so excited to have them onboard, helping us stay connected to those who matter most – our students. With their fresh ideas and feedback, we will create a better educational experience for future Innovation Campus students.”
Eisenbeiser already has started giving feedback. Recently, he joined a meeting with Liza Morris, assistant vice president for planning and university architect, to discuss ideas for amenities surrounding the new campus.
Nearby restaurants with reasonable price points were his main suggestion. After all, graduate students have to eat but typically not at high-end establishments, he said.
“Often times students are looking for a more affordable place,” Eisenbeiser said.
Also, the fellows are invited to walk with Virginia Tech President Tim Sands and Laura Sands in the Scottish Christmas Walk Parade in Alexandria on Dec. 7. The Sands will be the grand marshals of the parade.
The Innovation Campus will offer graduate programs in computer science and engineering, withthe first classes planned for next fall. Its future location is set for a 15-acre site in the Potomac Yard area of Alexandria. Alongside classrooms and faculty offices, it will house space for start-up ventures and for companies to interact with students.
During the first fellows meeting last month in Arlington, Salmon, along with Kristie Caddick, project manager for the Innovation Campus, discussed the different work that has been involved in planning the new campus so far.
“There’s a lot that you can bring to us,” said Caddick, explaining that much of the communication with the fellows will happen electronically through email and virtual meetings.
Eisenbeiser said he applied for the fellows program to meet other Hokies who are studying in Northern Virginia.
“It seemed like a good opening to fill that gap in student life that I am missing here,” he said.
Pooja Algikar, another fellow who is enrolled in Virginia Tech’s master’s of engineering degree program in electrical and computer engineering, said she hopes that serving as a fellow will open doors for her career.
The program is “a good opportunity to learn and to work with people,” she said.
Algikar hopes to one day become a university professor of electrical engineering. She said a focus on sound research resources for graduate students is an essential ingredient for the new Innovation Campus.
Salmon reiterated to the students during the fellows meeting that plans for the Innovation Campus will continue to evolve. “We consider it transformational for Virginia Tech and for the nation,” she said. “It’s something so special we must be deliberate and purposeful in our actions, learning along the way, and adapting our plans as we go.”
Ronald “Angel” Cox, another fellow who is enrolled in the university’s master of business information technology program, said he’s excited about the opportunity to weigh in on the plans for the campus. He has a passion for business and technology, and he has launched several of his own ventures in the past.
“When I read about the campus, it was everything I wanted,” said Cox, who relocated to Arlington from North Carolina with his wife earlier this year. “The idea of a campus acting as an incubator for fostering ideas and partnering with private companies is a culmination of everything I have pursued in my own career.”
Written by Jenny Kincaid Boone