Technology meets diversity

 Virginia Tech is partnering with the Commonwealth of Virginia to create a bold, new vision for graduate education in computer science and computer engineering that will unlock the power of diverse people and ideas to solve the world’s most pressing problems through technology.

Located adjacent to the nation’s capital in Alexandria, Virginia, the Innovation Campus will unite industry, government, and academia in dynamic project-based learning and research to shape the way knowledge and emerging technologies influence society, driving a new era for the greater Washington D.C., metro area’s innovation economy.

As a cornerstone of the campus, Vice President and Executive Director Lance Collins has set the goal to create the most diverse graduate tech program in the country.

Plans for the Innovation Campus were announced in November 2018 as part of the Commonwealth of Virginia’s successful bid to attract Amazon’s HQ2 to Northern Virginia.

 An immediate impact

 The first Innovation Campus Class, about 75 students, started in the fall of 2020. Classes are currently online because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Course instruction for the Innovation Campus students will be based out of Virginia Tech’s existing location in Falls Church while the new campus is being built in Alexandria.

Virginia Tech recently opened its Innovation Campus HQ on the ground level of 3000 Potomac Avenue. This new space – adjacent to the future campus location in North Potomac Yard – houses the campus executive offices and features a café-style area where student workgroups, seminars, and community engagement will happen after the pandemic.

Prime Location

 The Innovation Campus will eventually make its home on 3.5 acres in the first phase of a new mixed-use development and innovation district JBG Smith is developing near the future Potomac Yard Metrorail Station.

This strategic location, just south of Reagan National Airport, positions Virginia Tech and its future partners near the nation’s capital, diverse industries, and leading tech companies, including Amazon’s HQ2.

A look Ahead

 The first academic building planned for the campus earned rave reviews and unanimous approval from Alexandria City Council for its architectural design and environmental sustainability features.

Construction of the 11-story, 300,000 square-foot structure is on track to start this summer and open to students in 2024.

Campus plans call for Virginia Tech to build two additional buildings, each about 150,000 square feet, as the campus grows. At its full build-out, the Innovation Campus will host approximately 750 master’s and 200 doctoral students and graduate 550 master’s and 50 doctoral candidates annually. 

Purpose Driven Research

 The best innovations occur when talented people from disparate fields focus their skills on difficult problems that matter. Our research will assemble around big ideas and broad themes and, in so doing, encourage creativity, risk-taking, and collaboration.

At its full build-out, the Innovation Campus will support about half a dozen broad research areas of excellence. Potential focus areas include cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, next-generation wireless, and quantum information science and technology.

Attracting top talent

In August 2020, Lance R. Collins joined the university as vice president and executive director of the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus. Prior to coming to Virginia Tech, he served as dean of Cornell University’s College of Engineering for a decade. He was a key member of the leadership team that successfully bid to partner with New York City to build Cornell Tech, which opened in 2017.

Collins has earned national recognition for his commitment to increasing diversity in higher education. At Cornell, he significantly increased the diversity of the faculty and student body in Cornell engineering. From 2010-2020, Cornell Engineering more than doubled the proportion of students from underrepresented communities, from 8 to 19 percent. At the same time, undergraduate enrollment by women increased from 33 to 50 percent.

World-class advisory board

An advisory board of global business and industry leaders is providing strategic direction to Collins and the Innovation Campus Leadership Team. The Innovation Campus Advisory Board includes top executives from Qualcomm, Boeing, KPMG, Northrop Grumman, and Hunch Analytics, along with several tech pioneers and entrepreneurs.

Sanju Bansal, founder and CEO of Hunch Analytics, serves as chair of the Advisory Board. “This is an incredible group of leaders who will help shape and lead the campus,” he said. “Virginia Tech is making exciting progress on the construction plan for its new campus and ramping up with its first class of Innovation Campus students. We look forward to working with the leadership team to build on this momentum.”

Building pathways and partnerships

Virginia Tech is committed to creating new pathways that will drive interest in STEM fields and increase access to the Innovation Campus.

A new partnership program allows undergraduate students at James Madison University, Christopher Newport University, the University of Mary Washington, Radford University, and Hollins University to apply early and earn graduate credits in master’s degree programs based at the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus. 

Virginia Tech is partnering with Alexandria City Public Schools to enhance science, technology, engineering, and math opportunities for students and create potential pathways to higher education.