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Transcript: 2018 State of the University

Thank you Zo and Rachel!

Good afternoon and welcome to a great new year at Virginia Tech!   Thank you for taking some time out of your busy week to be here today.

I also want to welcome those joining us from our campuses in Roanoke, the National Capital Region and on-line from anywhere in the Commonwealth or around the world where Hokies reside.

Welcome to members of the Board of Visitors who are with us today.  C.T. Hill, and Robert Sebek, the staff representative to the board.

I also want to thank Dr. Laura Sands for being here today, and for her tireless support for Virginia Tech over the past four years.

We’re very pleased to welcome the Mayor of Blacksburg, Leslie Hager-Smith, and Vice Mayor, Susan Anderson.  Princeton Review just ranked us second in the nation for

town-gown relations, and Blacksburg’s leadership is a big reason for that. Please give them a round of applause.

Welcome to the Corps of Cadets, and thank you to the Highty Tighties for that outstanding opening performance.

The Corps is a living link to our founding principles of honor and service, and the quality of our students is evidenced by the fact that Virginia Tech is the highest producing unit for Air Force Officers for the past three years running.

We have been the top source of nuclear engineering officers for the Navy for the past 5 years.

And the top university for Navy SEAL candidates for the past 2 years.

 The Corps of Cadets’ commitment to service goes all the way back to our founding. More than a century

ago, they inaugurated the spirit of Ut Prosim, which is now a living motto for our entire campus.

General Fullhart - thank you for your inspiring commitment to developing the next generation of global ethical leaders.

And thanks to all of our veterans among our faculty, students and staff who have already served, as well as those among our Corps of Cadets who have made a commitment to place country above self, knowing they may be risking their lives.

That commitment brings to mind U.S Navy Ensign Sarah Mitchell who graduated from the Corps last year and, tragically, was killed in a training accident in the Red Sea over the summer.

Let’s all take a moment to quietly reflect on Ensign Mitchell’s all-to-brief life and the sacrifice that so many are willing to make for the rest of us.

It will be an honor to add Sarah’s name to the Ut Prosim Pylon later this year.

Every fall, we welcome nearly 9,000 new Hokies – students, faculty and staff – to our extended community. If you are still wondering, What’s a Hokie?, YOU ARE!

 I would like to single out one member of our new class of Hokies:  Dr. Dwayne Pinkney joined us last month as senior vice president for operations and administration. Welcome


And in about a week we’ll be welcoming Bryan Garey as our new vice president for human resources.

I want to offer a special welcome to the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine.  This past July, the school of medicine officially became Virginia Tech’s newest


This is a busy time for our medical students. The first and second year students are in clinical skills training this afternoon, and the third and fourth years are involved in hospital and clinic rotations.

Fortunately, fourth year class president Andrew Barr is able to join us this afternoon and represent VTC, along with Dr.

Aubrey Knight, Senior Dean for Student Affairs.

Andrew and Dr. Knight, welcome – please extend our greetings to the rest of the college.

Andrew, we’re proud that you and your classmates will be graduating as Hokies.  

I want to send a special welcome to the Virginia Tech class of 2022.  This is our sesquicentennial class.

Most of you will receive your degrees as we celebrate the university’s 150th year.

You are the most diverse entering class we’ve had to date, with more than one third coming from underrepresented or underserved populations.

You are also one of our most academically talented classes, representing some of the best students in Virginia, across the nation and around the world.

Embrace the Virginia Tech experience.  Be engaged inside and outside the classroom.

Get involved in research, find a mentor, run for student office, start a company, commit to an


I’m excited to see what the class of 2022 will accomplish – your ideas, your hard work, and the way you will serve this community.

I look forward to spotlighting your achievements as we celebrate 150 years of Virginia Tech excellence.  But… no pressure.

I know you’ll be outstanding, because you’re Hokies.

I also want to extend greetings to those who are in town for the Legacy Society meeting and the Alumni Association leadership conference this weekend.

And welcome to those who may be here for tomorrow’s first home game of the 2018 football season.

What a great weekend to be at Virginia Tech!  And what a great year to be a Hokie!



We are here today because our history has prepared us to lead higher education into the future.

Back in 1872, the Commonwealth of Virginia had the foresight and

commitment to create an institution under the Morrill Act charter to provide an affordable education in agriculture and engineering --- an education that supported the

commonwealth’s economic engine.

We can now be the land-grant for the 21st century, meeting the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s workforce.

The College of Engineering, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and Cooperative Extension are part of the foundation on which we build.

To our faculty and staff, I appreciate the hard work that all of you do. You are the backbone of this institution.

Faculty, you’ve dedicated your lives to the academy and are committed to teaching, research, scholarship and sharing knowledge with a purpose.

Starting with our founding faculty of three in 1872, and growing to more than 4,000 today, you continue to meet the evolving needs of the university and the commonwealth.

Members of our Faculty Senate are not able to be here because they have a meeting this afternoon, however I understand they are pausing the meeting to join us remotely, so welcome to all of you, and thank you for your service and leadership.

I want to especially thank those of you who are engaged in research.

Research is core to the mission of Virginia Tech and integral to our role as a land-grant institution.

Many of you have come to Virginia Tech to undertake and support the creation and dissemination of knowledge through research, scholarship, and creative expression.

There are few universities in this country that have a portfolio like ours, with deep strength in fundamental, discovery-driven research and a wide breadth of use-inspired research and technology development.

We work in and across traditional academic disciplines through colleges, institutes, and centers.

We partner with a diverse

network of companies.

We are currently ranked #22 in industry support, and we’re one of a select group of universities that supports strong partnerships with nearly all sectors of the federal government, from the Department of Health and Human Services to the Department of Agriculture to the Department of Defense.

Our partners come to us

because we have one-of-a-kind facilities, our researchers are leading experts that value our partners’ goals, and because they love our students.

Thanks to the hard work and persistence of many, our research environment is ahead of the curve in promoting and

investing in interdisciplinary discovery.

Research creates growth and impact, raises the university’s profile, and helps us recruit and retain the best talent - faculty, staff, post docs, graduate students, and undergraduates.

You are all a key part of the research engine, supporting scholarship and even philanthropy.  Many of the best things happening at Virginia Tech start with research.

It is the fuel that powers our aspiration to become a top global university and it is the catalyst for economic prosperity in the communities we serve.

And while we celebrate our research achievements, we know that groundbreaking moments aren’t always marked with grand speeches.

Alexander Graham Bell’s famous first words into the telephone mouthpiece on March 10, 1876 were not especially remarkable – “Mr. Watson, come here, I want to see you” –

but they signified a world-changing moment.

We don’t actually know what the first email said, because the inventor - Ray Tomlinson - who sent the test message to himself in 1971 can’t remember exactly what it was –

That's a reminder to our future inventors – take good notes!

The historical record may also note the words spoken by 2-year-old Jack Smith one month ago in Montgomery County, Virginia, “Airplane brought me a popsicle”— which marked the first long-distance residential drone delivery in the United States by Alphabet’s Wing and the Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership.

Jack’s words signify how far and how fast the digital revolution has advanced.

Our cyber-physical systems – all the distributed interconnected devices that make up the Internet of Things – are exploiting vast amounts of data, learning from experience, making and informing decisions, and changing the way we communicate, move, shop, work, and play.

The pace of change is unmatched by previous tech revolutions.

It took 142 years for Mr. Bell’s discovery to become the smart device in your hand today.  Things are moving a lot faster now.

Our systems of finance, education, healthcare, and transportation are straining to keep up, and our laws, regulations, and public policies are becoming unmoored from reality.

The truth is – the world’s not ready for Jack’s popsicle.  But like it or not, the popsicles are coming, and a whole lot more.

The complex interfaces between the semi-autonomous networks of machines and networks of humans –

“human-cyber networks” if you will - are enabling a sort of “collective autonomy” –

the interfacing of humans and machines at every scale,

from biochemical, to implants, to wearable devices, all the way to connected populations in rooms, neighborhoods, and even the entire planet.  

The most familiar example is GPS routing.

Applications of collective autonomy such as this have great potential to make our lives better, freeing up time and energy for the more human of pursuits.

But this new world also presents existential challenges, including the growing divide between those who are served by technology and those who are not.

Who better than Hokies to ensure that the world of intelligent machines and human-cyber networks improves the human condition and does not destroy it?


The arrival of collective autonomy brings an imperative for higher education, which has been expecting a “tsunami” for years, but has still remained largely unchanged.

We must prepare our students for the world they are entering.

The balance must shift from simply acquiring knowledge to developing skills and abilities that will endure in a society that is supercharged by intelligent machines.

Those skills & abilities include effective communication, empathy, intercultural competency, reducing data to actionable information, dedication to keeping abreast of

technology, and mastery of knowledge in one or more fields through continuous learning.

Higher Ed must also support the retooling and retraining of the workforce that will be displaced by collective autonomy.

This means careers in designing, building, training, and protecting autonomous systems, as well as careers that demand interpersonal and entrepreneurship skills that will support human needs and activities that are enabled as free time and resources increase.

Everything else is subject to massive disruption, and Higher Ed must be ready to adapt quickly.

Higher Ed must use the best of this revolution to create the right environment to teach and build the necessary skills.

Teamwork is moving to the core of the educational experience.

Students need the freedom to move and learn anywhere, while still feeling connected to their community.

Students want to learn collectively with others, and have the ability to use adaptive, individualized machine-assisted learning.

If all this sounds familiar, it’s because we’ve been talking about these things for the last four years.

Virginia Tech is adapting to meet these challenges and we’re in a position to lead.

This is what “Envisioning Virginia Tech -- Beyond Boundaries” was created to address.

We are at the forefront of the instruments of human-cyber networks and collective autonomy.

Our researchers lead the nation in autonomous vehicles on land, sea and air.

We helped deliver Jack’s popsicle!

We are modeling and simulating entire populations and global systems.

We are developing security for cyber-physical systems, and leading the exploration of human decision-making at the biomolecular level.

And we are taking a humanistic approach to understanding the impact of technology on individuals and communities.

Last week, I had the pleasure of participating in the official launch of the Center for Humanities – led by Professor Sylvester Johnson – which will support a human-centered approach to innovation and discovery across the university.

The shape of the university is evolving to meet these challenges and opportunities.

Rooted in our history & foundational principles, our Destination Areas are creating additional cross-cutting transdisciplinary structures to complement the Institutes and interdisciplinary programs.

Destination Areas and the Pathways general education

program allow students, faculty and staff to take on these grand challenges while remaining grounded in the disciplines.

Initiatives such as the Academy of Integrated Sciences in the College of Science, the Center for Humanities in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences and the Apex Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Pamplin, all live in Colleges but serve the entire university.

The Graduate School’s leadership in Interdisciplinary Graduate Programs (or IGEPS) ensures that we can attract top global talent in emerging interdisciplinary themes.

And the new Calhoun Honors Discovery Program will serve as an incubator for our Beyond Boundaries future in problem-based discovery and learning with highly engaged partners.

We are changing the physical structure of the university as well, to grow where our key partners are located,

including Blacksburg and the Corporate Research Center, the Virginia Tech Carilion Health Science & Technology campus in the Roanoke Innovation Corridor, the Tech Center in Newport News, the Global Center for Automotive Performance Simulation in Southside, the Agricultural Research and Experiment Stations distributed across the Commonwealth, the Steger Center in Ticino, Switzerland, V-T India, research programs in Botswana, and of course our urban living laboratory of the National Capital Region.

The Binary Star model for our university, with a major presence in Blacksburg and Roanoke, connected to our growing engagement in the National Capital Region, represents a unique opportunity for Virginia Tech to address the challenges and bridge the divides created by collective autonomy – which will touch every aspect of our lives.


With those thoughts as a backdrop, I want to take a few minutes to talk about:

* Our remarkable progress in Research

* The transformative power of advancement

* Our commitment to InclusiveVT

* New heights for Athletics

* And the growing impact of our presence in Roanoke and the National Capital Region.

I will finish by highlighting challenges and opportunities of the coming year, and our commitments for the future.

Earlier I mentioned research – we’re proud to be a top-25 public research institution with more than $500 million in research expenditures annually.

Our position today

honors the vision and drive of the late Dr. Charles Steger, who worked tirelessly to elevate our standing among research universities.

During the first decade of this century, we doubled our research enterprise as measured by expenditures, growing faster than every other research institution in the country.

In fact, we grew so fast, we outstripped our ability to support that large portfolio.

Over the past two years, the Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation under the direction of Dr. Theresa Mayer has set out to enhance the infrastructure to support the next doubling of our portfolio and its impact.  And we are already seeing the early indicators of success:

This past fiscal year was the best in Virginia Tech’s history in terms of sponsored research expenditures.

Overall, they increased 6% or $15M over last year. Some units made remarkable progress this year:

The College of Engineering is up 9% or $7M. The College of Science is up 13% or $3M. And the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute is up 9% or about $3M over last year.

Congratulations to our faculty, students and staff and all of those who support them.

This year Virginia Tech also had a record number of faculty receiving the National Science Foundation CAREER Award to fund their research.

This is considered the NSF’s most prestigious early-career award.

It is given to faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models and leaders in research and education.

In recent years we’ve typically had about 7 faculty receive the award.  In 2018 we have 16, for a total of more than $4.4 million dollars in grant funding.

By the way, Virginia Tech has the highest total number of active NSF CAREER awards in Virginia, with 41.  The runner-up has 23.

Their research projects include coastal erosion and sea-level rise, cyber security, and developing computers that work like our brains.

At Virginia Tech we’re developing the research leaders of tomorrow, who are taking on the challenges and opportunities of the future.

The NSF also has a research initiative underway to develop Smart & Connected Communities.  One of our researchers has received nearly a million dollars to develop

resilient water systems.  

Dr. Cayelan Carey, who studies freshwater ecosystem science, joins us from the Carey Lab in Derring Hall. Welcome Dr. Carey!

I’m particularly interested in the work you’re doing at the Falling Creek Reservoir in the Roanoke Valley region. Can you describe this research?

How has water science evolved into a leading multidisciplinary focus at Virginia Tech?

Where does it fit into the big picture of our Global System Science Destination Area?

Thank you Dr. Carey.                                          

Dr. Carey’s work is an example of how Destination Areas and Strategic Growth Areas are combining VT-shaped learning and discovery, with disciplinary strength and the land-grant mission.

Global Systems Science is an example of a Destination Area that exists at the convergence of public health, animal health, and environmental health.

We are now in the second year of implementing our initial Destination Areas and faculty recruitment is proceeding well.

I want to thank interim Provost Cyril Clarke for leading this work as we continue to advance the development and implementation of the Beyond Boundaries vision,

which also includes our Research Institutes, Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Programs, and the university’s commitment to community engagement and experiential learning.


Talent and innovation are essential -- but if you want to make a difference in the world, you need resources.

That’s why the work of our division of Advancement is so important, and they’re doing an incredible job.

Donations to Virginia Tech have surpassed $150 million dollars for the second year in a row.

More than 33,000 individual donors, corporations, and foundations made new gifts or commitments to the university.

Several colleges and programs saw their gifts and commitments increase.  Donations to the Pamplin College of Business more than doubled.

Donations to Virginia Tech Athletics rose nearly 60 percent.

Major gifts over the past year included $20 million dollars to launch the Calhoun Honors Discovery Program,

$15 million dollars for a new student athlete performance center,

and $5 million dollars to establish the May Family Foundation Pathway for 1st Generation Students.

We are collaborating with Block One, a global leader in blockchain technology, and their CEO, Dan Larimer, who is a Virginia Tech computer science alumnus.

Block One has committed three million dollars to hire faculty and staff and develop courses that will lead to an undergraduate minor or concentration in blockchain development.

Our alumni giving participation rate rose to 13%, up from 12 % in 2017.

And we’re working hard to increase our alumni giving rate to 22% by 2022.

Thanks to the work of our Advancement Team, the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) recognized Virginia Tech with a national award for Overall Improvement

this year.

We are incredibly fortunate to have such a generous community, and your gifts are making a difference.

Our Beyond Boundaries Scholars program, for example, is currently supporting the success of more than 200 underrepresented and high achieving students.

The Beyond Boundaries Scholars program is part of our goal through Inclusive VT to increase our undergraduate population of underrepresented and underserved students.

This will broaden our pool of talent, and expand opportunities for those who are historically underserved in the spirit of our land-grant charter.

In 2016, we committed to include, as 40% of our 2022 entering class, those who are underrepresented or underserved, including first-generation students and those from low-income families.

We’re making good progress in that direction.

 The entering class this fall includes over 2,000 underrepresented and underserved students – that’s 34 percent, up five percentage points from last year.

In 2017 we were very proud to announce that we hired fifteen faculty members from underrepresented communities.

This year we’re twice as proud, because we’re welcoming 30 new underrepresented faculty members to campus.

And we need to recognize individuals such as Irving Peddrew, Charlie Yates, Marguerite Harper,

Linda Edmonds Turner, and others who had the courage to be the first black men and women to come to Virginia Tech and pave the way.  

We can now attract diverse faculty, staff and students from all over the world and welcome our most diverse class in our history.

And we’re continuing to work to remove barriers for both students and faculty, and create a more diverse and inclusive environment.

That includes developing more childcare options. Two years ago, Virginia Tech partnered with Blacksburg and Christiansburg, Montgomery County, New River Community

College, Carilion Clinic, the Corporate Research Center, and several businesses to form the Alliance for Better Childcare Strategies, also known as ABCs.

The goal is to increase the availability of high-quality childcare, increase the quality of current childcare centers, and enhance accessibility.

We will have increased the availability of childcare by 20% this November with the addition of two new centers. We are increasing the quality of our childcare work force

with scholarships for individuals seeking Child Development Associate credentials.

We began fundraising for these scholarships this past spring.

And last month, our Board of Visitors approved paid parental leave.

We’re doing all of this because it is essential to our mission.

We need to attract and retain the best students, faculty and staff from the broadest possible talent pool if we are going to deliver the diverse, high-quality experience our students need, and that employers expect.  

Thank you for continuing to support InclusiveVT.

Our second Gallup survey, conducted last fall among undergraduate students, affirms the value of the Virginia Tech experience and the importance of improving inclusion and diversity.

Overall, Virginia Tech students are more likely than their peers to be engaged with school, involved in co-curricular activities, and thriving in all elements of well-being.

The percentage of Virginia Tech students who strongly agree that their fellow-students look out for one another, is more than double that of college students nationally.

That being said, black and LGBTQ students were less likely to say this is a good place for them.

We need to change that experience, and InclusiveVT is actively engaged to make sure all Hokies feel that “this is home”.

Speaking of thriving, congratulations to Virginia Tech Athletics for achieving their highest ever finish in the Learfield Director’s Cup competition.

The competition measures overall success in collegiate athletics.

This year we finished 28th in the nation, the first time we’ve made the top 30.

I’m proud, but not surprised to see coach Justin Fuente on the watch list for the Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year award in 2018. And after last Monday’s win at Florida State, no one else should be surprised either.

Congratulations to the Women’s Golf team, Coach Carol Robertson, and their first NCAA tournament appearance.

And a special thanks to Coach Buzz Williams for keeping us motivated and grounded with his tweets – and for encouraging us to Get Better – in every way possible.

Earlier I mentioned the new student athlete performance center, and we’re looking forward to seeing our new studio on the air when the ACC Network launches in about a year.

Whit Babcock and his team are doing a superb job.

In fact, Whit was one of four athletic directors honored as AD of the Year by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics.

Congratulation Whit, we’re looking forward to another great year.

Earlier I mentioned our partnership with Carilion Clinic and the developing Health Science and Technology Campus in Roanoke.

Carilion CEO Nancy Agee is watching this afternoon with a group at VTCRI – welcome Nancy, and thank you for your ongoing leadership.

We’re excited about our growth there, including the new, 139,000-square-foot

building that will support the expansion of the Research Institute.

According to a report from the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, the addition of that building will create more than 800 jobs and inject $150 million dollars annually into the local economy over the next eight years.

Overall, our Roanoke Campus and partnership with Carilion Clinic will contribute nearly a half a billion dollars per year to the commonwealth’s economy by 2026.

That growth is fueled by the innovation and creativity of researchers like Carissa James, a 5th year grad student who has invited us to visit her today in the Smyth Lab at VTCRI.

Hello Carissa!

Carissa, I know the Smyth Lab is focused on health, and your research is currently aimed at heart disease, which has been the nation’s number one killer for almost a century.

Tell us how your work is going to change that.

From your perspective, how is VTCRI unique – why did you decide it was the place for you to try and make a difference?

Thank you Carissa, we look forward to seeing the results of your work.

We will also continue to increase and leverage our presence in the National Capital Region, which offers a unique urban living laboratory and close proximity to key partners, talent, and resources.

Our growth there is supported by LINK, our Center for Advancing Industry Partnerships. LINK is a joint effort by Advancement and Research, and their work has led to several recent announcements:

We have a partnership between the Calhoun Honors Discovery Program and Boeing, which will contribute $3 million dollars to support student scholarships, experiential-learning grants, and faculty salaries.

And we have an agreement with the Arlington-based company Deepsig to develop artificial intelligence technology created by Virginia Tech to protect wireless devices –

essentially an element of collective autonomy that I spoke about earlier.

Earlier this year, Virginia Tech was selected to lead the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative, or CCI.

CCI will build an ecosystem of cyber-related research, education, and

engagement to position Virginia as a world leader in cyber security at the nexus of data, security and autonomy.  

We were ready for this opportunity because of the work of people like Dr. Charles Clancy, the director of the Hume Center.

Dr. Clancy joins us from the NCR to tell us a little more about the work underway there.  Welcome Charles!

Could you describe briefly the Hume Center’s progression from a mission to develop leaders in national security, to its role today as part of the Integrated Security

Destination Area.

What are some of the outcomes you seen so far?

What can we expect to see as the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative develops?

Thank you Charles.


It’s remarkable to think that these advancements lead all the way back to the founders of Virginia Tech, who had the wisdom to know that education was the key to progress.

As I mentioned earlier, in 2022 we will mark 150 years since Virginia Tech was founded and this is a milestone to celebrate.

I’ve asked Vice President Charlie Phlegar to identify a campus-wide team to guide the planning for a year-long celebration of our Sesquicentennial and our proud history of serving the Commonwealth of Virginia.

We celebrated our 125th anniversary with a giant cake that was shaped like War Memorial Court and weighed 3,400 pounds. Charlie let’s see what we can do to top that.

As we plan to celebrate our anniversary – we also need to think about our aspirations for the university in 2022.

What kind of university do we envision in four years -- when today’s sesquicentennial class graduates?

Or we could ask – what kind of university will best serve the commonwealth?

A university that is affordable and accessible.

We need to manage the cost curve and bring down undergraduate debt.

About half our students graduate with debt – the average amount is about $30,000.  While their default rate is very low, we need to do better.

Part of the solution is embedded in partnerships with employers.

Every Hokie should graduate having completed a substantive experiential learning program.

Correctly designed, these experiences eliminate debt, develop professional skills and open the door to multiple career or postgraduate educational options.

I am committed to ensuring that Virginia Tech takes a national leadership role in breaking down the barriers between college and career in a manner that is scalable to the entire university.  

For our research impact to grow, we need to compete successfully to attract and retain talent.

Our faculty salaries have ranked in the 35th percentile of our peers, up from 17th percentile but far from where they need to be.

We must correct this competitive disadvantage that threatens our ability to retain the talent that we attract and develop.

We also need to transform our research support infrastructure.

As we grew the research enterprise over the first decade of this century, we outstripped our capacity to support this mission-central enterprise.

Vice President Mayer, Provost Clarke, the deans and the institute directors have started the process of enhancing our infrastructure to support the next wave of growth.

As I mentioned earlier, LINK, our center for industry partnerships, is up and running under the expert direction of Brandy Salmon.

LINK will be joined by a new initiative called LAUNCH, which is spinning up as we speak.

LAUNCH will provide support for new ventures, including faculty-led start-ups, working together with Virginia Tech Intellectual Properties, which continues to manage our intellectual property assets.

We are enhancing our scholarly integrity, research compliance, and sponsored-programs-functions, to support one of the most comprehensive research programs in the nation, and align with our growth in health sciences and technology.

We just announced a new proposal support team known as VT-FAST.

The role of VT-FAST is to provide support that reduces the burden of proposal preparation on our faculty investigators.

Last year, we started the VTC Innovation Fund with Carilion Clinic, which invests in rapidly growing companies to create long term value within the Virginia Tech and Carilion Clinic ecosystem.

And the Apex Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation is serving our student innovators and entrepreneurs and engaging our alumni to collaborate with future generations of Hokie leaders.

I know all of this change can be disruptive and confusing, but hard work and bold changes will create the foundation for doubling the size and impact of our discovery and innovation enterprise.

This is core to our mission as a research university, and critical to the economic health of the Commonwealth.  

How do we get there?

Public funding for higher education is not our entitlement.

State appropriations per student have plateaued. Virginia is 42nd out of 50 states in funding-per-student.

Our In-state/out-of-state mix is constrained.

Changing government policies may further impact enrollment, especially for international students.

You may ask, if public funding and government regulation is so challenging, then why is Virginia Tech doing so well?

We have to remember that quality and affordability are lagging indicators.

Complacency about public support will eventually drag all of our institutions down.

We must continue to make the case that what we do matters: to our communities, to the nation, and the world.

And we must heed the collective wisdom that is clearly demanding change.  

And while we are doing well now, just being “good” is not enough to accomplish our mission.

We must commit to being exceptional.

Our forbearers had a bold vision for this university, and so do we.

Our future is in our own hands, and if we have the same grit and determination as those who came before us (and I know that we do) – we will succeed.

We commit to becoming the leading global land-grant research institution, prepared to address tomorrow’s challenges and the commonwealth’s needs by attracting talent to

Virginia, and distinguishing our approach through deep partnerships and a commitment to complementing disciplinary expertise with a transdisciplinary framework for discovery, learning and engagement.

We commit to supporting our faculty and staff talent through competitive compensation, providing an intellectually stimulating environment, attention to wellness and

assuring opportunities for professional development.

We commit to continuous advancement toward an inclusive, accessible and affordable university that lives by our Principles of Community so that all feel that “this is home.”

We commit to expanding our footprint, within Virginia and beyond, so that our impact on the Commonwealth and the world can be magnified, and the experiences of our

students, faculty and staff can be enriched.  

And we AFFIRM and STRENGTHEN our commitment to our motto, Ut Prosim because this is who we are, and how Virginia Tech distinguishes itself.

This fall we will continue a conversation started by Dr. Menah Pratt-Clarke, about the “Ut Prosim Difference” and the opportunity it creates for diverse views, ideas and perspectives to enhance and promote excellence.

This conversation is central to our strategic planning process. You’ll be hearing more from Dr Pratt-Clarke, and the Strategic Planning Steering Committee in the coming weeks.

We need to make these commitments, because 2-year-old Jack Smith is growing up in a world where airplanes bring you popsicles.

What else will be possible in the world of Collective Autonomy?

Will we be ready for the opportunities, and the challenges?

We’re already seeing early examples of those challenges, including security threats, widening socio-economic disparities, incivility and unethical behavior.

However, thanks to our history, and those who came before us, we have the capability – and the responsibility to address those challenges, and make Jack’s world – our world – a better place.

So let’s get started, and LETS GO….