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Leadership Team

Lance Collins
Lance Collins was introduced as the executive director and vice president of the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus on Feb. 3.


Inaugural Vice President and Executive Director

Lance R. Collins is the inaugural vice president and executive director of the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus. Collins’ appointment culminated an international search for the leader of the Innovation Campus, which was announced by the university as part of the state’s successful effort to attract Amazon’s HQ2 to Northern Virginia. 

Collins joined Virginia Tech in August 2020 from Cornell University where he served as the Joseph Silbert Dean of Engineering for 10 years. He was also part of the leadership team that successfully bid to partner with New York City to build Cornell Tech, which opened its Roosevelt Island campus in 2017. As the engineering dean at Cornell, Collins led one of the largest capital campaigns in the college’s history. He also accelerated efforts to diversify the college’s faculty and student body: During his tenure, the proportion of underrepresented minority students increased from 8 to 19 percent and the undergraduate female enrollment from 33 to 50 percent.  

Prior to Cornell, Collins spent 11 years as an assistant professor, associate professor, and professor of chemical engineering at Penn State University. Collins earned a bachelor’s degree in 1981 at Princeton University and a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in 1987 at the University of Pennsylvania, all in chemical engineering.  

Ken Smith in the Innovation Campus headquaters

Ken Smith

Chief Operating Officer

Chief Operating Officer Ken Smith joined the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus team in October 2020.

Smith has worked at Virginia Tech since 1997. Prior to his appointment as COO, Smith worked in the provost’s office as vice provost for academic resource management and associate provost overseeing the budgetary and fiscal operations of the academic support units. Before coming to the provost’s office, Smith served as assistant director for budget operations in the Virginia Tech Office of Budget and Financial Planning and as a budget analyst in the Commerce, Resources and Trade section of the Virginia Department of Planning and Budget. He began his career as a budget analyst in the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.

Smith holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership and policy studies from Virginia Tech. He earned both a master’s degree in public administration and a bachelor’s degree in political science from Virginia Commonwealth University.

Charlie Phlegar

Charlie Phlegar

Vice President for Advancement

Charles Phlegar serves as vice president for Advancement at Virginia Tech. He assumed this role in July 2015, and he is the first individual to hold this position, overseeing the integration of alumni relations, university relations, and university development. Phlegar grew up in Blacksburg. He received a bachelor of science degree in business management in 1978 and master of science degree in education administration in 1987, both from Virginia Tech.

Phlegar has made his mark at major university fundraising operations throughout his career. He came to Virginia Tech from Cornell University, where he served as vice president for alumni affairs and development and was chief fundraiser for the institution’s successful $6 billion campaign. While part of Cornell’s executive leadership team, Phlegar served on the investment committee managing $6.3 billion in assets. He was a member of the Cornell Tech Steering Committee that secured the winning bid to build a new campus on New York City’s Roosevelt Island, which attracted interest from universities around the world.

Prior to his time at Cornell, he held positions of senior associate vice president and interim vice president for development and alumni relations at The Johns Hopkins Institutions, where he organized and implemented a $3.5 billion campaign. Also, as vice president for development at the University of South Carolina, he launched the university’s first capital campaign. Beginning with a $200 million goal, it concluded at more than $500 million.

He was campaign director for East Carolina University’s capital campaign, and while working at Virginia Tech from 1983 to 1987, Phlegar was assistant director of athletics for sports marketing and assistant director of the alumni association overseeing chapter operations.

Phlegar has served on the board of directors for the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), he was chair and founder of the CASE 50 Top 50 Fundraising Institutions in Higher Education, and he chaired the CASE 2014 national conference.

Brandy Salmon

Brandy Salmon

Managing Director of Virginia Tech Innovation Campus
Associate Vice President for Innovation and Partnerships

With over 20 years of experience at the intersection of research and business, Brandy Salmon serves as managing director of the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus. She leads a cross-functional delivery team to set the vision for the campus and launch key efforts. Salmon came to Virginia Tech to oversee a discovery-to-market approach to strengthen industry partnerships and innovation: LINK, the Center for Advancing Industry Partnerships, and LAUNCH, the Center for New Ventures.

Prior to Virginia Tech, Salmon served as director for RTI’s Innovation Advisors, where she led consulting engagements for federal, corporate, and foundation clients to implement best practices in innovation, identify and evaluate new technologies and products, and develop commercialization strategies and partnerships.

Salmon joined RTI in 2011 from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and Office of Licensing and Ventures, where she led a full spectrum of commercialization and technology transfer activities. She often lectures on topics of innovation and holds five issued patents. Salmon has a B.A. from the University of Virginia, a Ph.D. from Cornell University, and an MBA from Duke University, Fuqua School of Business.

Natalie Hart

Natalie Hart

Assistant Vice President of Advancement, D.C. area

Natalie Hart is a Virginia Tech leader in Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C., where she works with industry partners and develops future relationships. Hart is building an integrated approach to the university’s Advancement program in the greater Washington, D.C., metro area by coordinating programs to maximize support for and exposure of university initiatives. She also provides strategic oversight of communications and alumni activities in support of the university’s efforts to increase its prominence and impact in the region.

Since 2002, Hart has held positions of increasing strategic importance at Virginia Tech. She has served in the Office of the President as director of presidential initiatives, advising President Tim Sands on large-scale initiatives. Hart also has served as director of government affairs and deputy chief of staff.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in business management and a master’s degree in public and international affairs, both from Virginia Tech. Hart also earned a graduate certificate in nonprofit and nongovernmental organizational management from Virginia Tech.

David Baker is assistant director of government relations and community affairs.

David Baker

Assistant Director of Government and Community Affairs

David Baker, who is based in Alexandria, is assistant director of government and community affairs for the Innovation Campus. He is focused on supporting campus leadership as they work with Alexandria residents and key stakeholders to launch the new campus.

Baker joined Virginia Tech from George Washington University where he served as director of Virginia Government Relations since 2014. Baker developed the first GW in Virginia Economic Impact Study, quantifying the university’s investments across four communities in Virginia.  In addition, he partnered with the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences and Alexandria City Public Schools to develop the first public-private, dual-enrollment partnership in Virginia. The health sciences partnership was recognized as a Governor’s Health Sciences Academy in 2018.

Prior to that position, Baker worked in federal and state government affairs for several organizations in Northern Virginia, including the Northern Virginia Technology Council.

He graduated from The University of Mary Washington with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, and he earned his master’s degree of public policy from The George Washington University.

David Baker is assistant director of government relations and community affairs.

Danette gomez beane

Assistant Vice Provost for Enrollment Management for Strategic Initiatives


Dannette Gomez Beane serves as assistant vice provost for enrollment management for strategic initiatives. Her work focuses on graduate enrollment and degree goals for the Tech Talent Investment Program, which includes the Innovation Campus.  

Previously, Gomez Beane served as director of operations in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions at Virginia Tech. She has also worked as director of graduate recruiting and diversity initiatives for the Virginia Tech Graduate School and as career and outreach coordinator for the Virginia Tech College of Architecture and Urban Studies.

Gomez Beane has held several positions in public service such as a presidentially appointed university Inclusion Coordinator, community counselor and employment specialist for Total Action for Progress and the Department of Social Services, Assistant Director at College Summit, Inc. and program leader for the Boys and Girls Club of America. She began her career in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions at Hollins University.

She holds a bachelor’s degree from Hollins University and master’s degree and a doctorate in counselor education from Virginia Tech.

Franki Fitterer, Innovation Campus Headquarters

Franki Fitterer

Director, Communications and Marketing

Franki Fitterer, director of communications and marketing, brings more than two decades of experience in higher education external relations to the Innovation Campus. 

Fitterer came to Virginia Tech from American University, where she was director of public relations and marketing at AU’s Washington College of Law for 13 years. Her experience at AU included leading the implementation of a new school-wide brand strategy and directing communications and marketing for the law school’s move to a new 8.5 acre, three-building campus in Northwest Washington, DC. Fitterer’s work on the project started in 2013 with the promotion of the groundbreaking, and continued through the construction process, fundraising efforts, city-wide advertising campaign, final ribbon-cutting celebration, and promotion of the campus for student recruitment. 

Prior to AU, Fitterer was the associate director for marketing and communications at California Western School of Law in San Diego.  She has a B.A. in Communication (Journalism) from the University of San Francisco and an M.A. in Political Science from American University's School of Public Affairs.

David Baker is assistant director of government relations and community affairs.

Robin Jones

Assistant Vice President for Innovation Campus Student Services

Robin Jones serves as assistant vice president for Innovation Campus student services. Prior to joining the Innovation Campus, Jones worked as assistant provost for planning and resource management at Virginia Tech, and she held leadership positions within the Division of Student Affairs.

At the Innovation Campus, Jones collaborates with campus partners to expand and manage academic and student services for Virginia Tech students who are enrolled in the university’s graduate programs in the greater Washington, D.C., metro area. 

Prior to Virginia Tech, Jones was assistant to the vice president for administration, operations, and assessment at Humboldt State University. She also previously worked in student affairs at the University of South Alabama and Armstrong Atlantic State University (now Georgia Southern University). 

Jones received a B.S. from the University of North Georgia and has graduate degrees from both Texas A&M- Central Texas and Georgia Southern University. She earned a doctorate from The University of Alabama.