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Six-Year Plan: Academic Plan

Introduction

As Virginia’s senior land-grant university, Virginia Tech is a community of scholars committed to the creation, preservation, transmission, advancement, and use of knowledge by means of rigorous intellectual inquiry. The successful transmission of knowledge requires a commitment to the continuous personal growth of present and future generations of students at every level. Growth—intellectual, aesthetic, social, and moral—results from, contributes to, and persistently improves debate and conclusions in the academic arena. A commitment to lifelong learning and inquiry within and outside the university community guarantees continued growth and secures societal benefits of ever advancing knowledge. The application of this knowledge finds its ultimate and highest achievement in service to society.

A major goal for Virginia Tech is to achieve a standard of world class excellence emphasizing quality, innovation, and results. To be successful in enhancing its state, national, and international impact, the university will have a cluster of programs that are considered to be among the best in the world. Sustaining this level of excellence requires a high level of investment. Quality is as crucial as scale of activities. As such, one of Virginia Tech’s goals is to be among the top research universities in the nation. These institutions possess a critical mass of resources and have research programs growing at an above average rate. Universities with large-scale research programs are able to quickly take advantage of emerging opportunities. They also have the ability to assume greater risk and achieve a greater potential for substantial return on investment.

Virginia Tech is aggressively repositioning its research programs to align with major sources of funding in areas of special interest to the faculty and which address the special needs of Virginia. In addition, we are modifying our management and organizational structure to be more responsive to large-scale opportunities and to better interface with both the public and private sectors. One of the objective indicators of competitive research activity is annual sponsored research funding. Consequently, achieving Virginia Tech's goal will encompass significant increases in externally funded initiatives.

While growth in sponsored research is a critical component in achieving institutional goals, it is not sufficient in its own right. Virginia Tech expects and supports an overall increase in scholarly productivity in all departments in the three mission areas of teaching, research, and service. To move ahead, the university must strengthen core academic programs, develop innovative interdisciplinary research and degree programs, and attain a significant global presence. Moreover, our obligation remains to foster education of the whole student, to instill a set of ethics and values that provide a foundation for productive citizens in our democratic society. All of these goals require us to recruit, support, and retain faculty and staff members of the highest quality, and to recruit and educate a diverse and talented student body.

The Restructuring Plan will enable Virginia Tech to provide necessary resources for many of the university’s future initiatives. The institution’s financial plan is dependent upon the commitment of state resources through the base adequacy funding model.

A Vision for Virginia Tech

A Sense of Self

The complexities of modern society demand, more than ever, the enabling tools of a college education. Research universities such as Virginia Tech are connected to mainstream societal issues more than ever before. Indeed, the modern American university, especially a land-grant, public research university with its threefold mission of teaching, research, and outreach, represents a crucial thread in the fabric of American culture.

We are mindful of the key role the university plays in the development of productive citizens and future professionals in an increasingly diverse state, of the contributions of our faculty and students to the generation of new knowledge, and of our impact on multiple levels of community and society. In an era where information empowers and where ideas and innovation are the raw materials of the information economy, Virginia Tech's demonstrated capabilities indicate relevance and value of the highest order.

At the heart of our mission is the creation and dissemination of new knowledge that will benefit society. The distinction between basic and applied research has become more blurred and Virginia Tech recognizes its bias toward the beneficial use of knowledge. A “Putting Knowledge to Work” philosophy is manifested in the Cooperative Extension tradition of transforming campus discoveries into practice. Further, new areas of scientific investigation are interdisciplinary in nature and the processes of discovery, scientific inquiry, and scholarship inform all aspects of the educational enterprise.

The Virginia Tech Culture

In order to achieve a position of educational leadership, Virginia Tech fosters an atmosphere of intellectual excitement among faculty, staff, and the greater university community. We challenge students, including undergraduates, to pursue the discovery of new knowledge. We value the contribution of research and scholarship to the instructional process. We believe there is a linkage between the excitement of the classroom and the excitement of “Eureka.” We recognize that academic inquiry fuels creative scholarship, which in turn energizes the intellectual atmosphere of the classroom and the learning process.

We value the ability to educate the whole person. Through the undergraduate residential learning experience, students have opportunities for leadership and community service. They discover the value of responsibility, self-discipline, community service, and understanding of others. It exposes students to new cultures, social diversity, and new ways to see the world around them. We value heuristic education, which demands that students learn by doing in the classroom, on the job, or through service.

In recent years, outreach and public service have transitioned from simply providing off-campus coursework to our students. Virginia Tech now includes more robust student services as well as a dynamic exchange of knowledge that is used to strengthen individuals, communities, businesses, and even whole economies. Outreach programs enrich and expand the reach of our teaching, research, and public service programs. Today, Virginia Tech is an economic development catalyst. The university welcomes that responsibility. Virginia Tech aggressively pursues the commercialization of patents. Through the Corporate Research Center, we promote entrepreneurial activity either among faculty or those wishing to engage faculty. The university encourages faculty/industry relationships. Faculty members maintain sensitivity to real-world problems and advancements and develop networks for student opportunity. These activities address real-world problems, lead to major research advancements, and develop important networking for student opportunities.

A Vision for the Future--Transformation

While our vision of tomorrow is an extension and reflection of today’s vision, a major expansion of the research enterprise is necessary to become one of the nation’s leading universities. Our strategy for strengthening the academic enterprise and challenging inquiring minds is based on the notion of the relevant land-grant university. However, in order to grow and remain viable, we envision new ways of program delivery, innovative strategic partnerships, and creative financial support. Virginia Tech is in a period of transformation and welcomes the challenge.

This vision to become one of the leading world universities will be reached through:

  • Achieving greater eminence and international prominence in science, technology, engineering, and agriculture, while building recognition in the social sciences, business, education, arts, and humanities.
  • Developing an appreciation of other cultures by expanding global focus in and out of the classroom.
  • Achieving the highest level of technological literacy for our students and faculty through innovative and individualized, computer-based instruction and networking.
  • Fostering leadership and the notion of service among the entire university community.
  • Continuing to nurture the residential college experience within the greater university.

Recognizing that diversity of peoples enriches the learning experience. We will seek a campus climate welcoming to all. We will increase underrepresented groups among our students, faculty, and staff, and will embrace our recently enacted “Principles of Community” as a guiding light for progress.

Our vision for the future is simple: we will continue to do things that matter and that have a profound impact on our changing world – whether it is in the classroom, the laboratory, or a village in a developing country. Virginia Tech will strive for scholarly excellence in the domains of Undergraduate Education, Graduate Education, Research, and Outreach and International Programs. Each will serve as guides to a prosperous and sustainable future.

Scholarship of Undergraduate Education

Virginia Tech enrollment projections indicate an increase of approximately 1,000 in-state students by 2012 (base year 2004). Articulation agreements with all campuses of the Virginia Community College System (VCCS) will accommodate additional transfer students as the major pathway for growth. This approach is a cost-effective method to address enrollment demand in the Commonwealth. The enrollment projection includes the additional in-state freshman students necessary to sustain a freshman class of approximately 5,000 students diverse in gender, race/ethnicity and state geographic region. The current undergraduate mix of 70 percent in-state and 30 percent out-of-state students provides an excellent balance among academic competitiveness, student diversity, and financial necessity.

A significant challenge will be the need to obtain additional resources for student financial aid so that high quality students throughout the state will have access to Virginia Tech regardless of family income. Responding to that challenge, Virginia Tech’s financial plan includes significant financial aid to reduce the impact of annual tuition increases, especially for those students who come from families with incomes under $30,000. This plan, entitled “Funds for the Future,” will use both public and private sources to maintain the affordability of a Virginia Tech education to Virginia students from low and moderate income families. Over the six-year planning cycle, the university has budgeted approximately $14.4 million in additional financial aid to address the challenge of tuition increases.

The university’s core curriculum/general education program is under intense review by faculty and administration. Our aim is to provide a distinctive academic experience. Recent recommendations to the University Provost from the core curriculum steering committee will be implemented over the next six years. Among the recommendations is the development of a University Center for Undergraduate Education. The Center will combine existing departments of University Honors, University Studies, and the Center for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. Enhanced emphasis will be placed on learning outcomes assessment, academic program review, first-year student initiatives (e.g., Common Book initiative), academic support programs, university advising, eportfolios, and capstone undergraduate programs (e.g., undergraduate research, service learning, and international study).

Base adequacy funding and tuition increases will enable the replacement of 120 teaching faculty lost during past state budget revisions. The benefit to undergraduate and graduate education will be to restore previously reduced course offerings, to stabilize class sizes, and to respond to the need for new course offerings. New revenues will also enable us to support capital projects for improved instructional classrooms, to develop new academic programs in emerging areas and in critical, high demand areas (e.g. engineering), and to ensure timely graduation scenarios.

Scholarship of Graduate Education

Nationally, graduate education is in the throes of reinvention as it moves towards broader professional preparation for a variety of careers, seeks to admit larger numbers of qualified students from a diverse pool of applicants, and develops a model of inclusive practices that will attract the very best and brightest. Virginia Tech will remain in the forefront of a national movement to transform graduate education. In doing so, Virginia Tech will enhance the preparation and better equip its graduate students with knowledge and skills for meaningful and relevant contributions to 21st century education, health, social well-being and industry.

To achieve this goal, Virginia Tech has planned growth in PhD enrollment. The goal of adding 900 new doctoral students over the period of the next six years will be a function of resources from sponsored research, private support, and the university budget through base adequacy funding. Modest growth in off-campus graduate programs will be in response to meeting business and industry continuing education requests and doctoral degrees to support the educational needs of the Commonwealth’s K-12 faculty. These enrollment projections reflect some additional program majors, most of which are in line with current trends toward collaborative interdisciplinary research.

The foundation of graduate enrollment growth will be ongoing efforts to enhance financial resources in support of learning, personal growth and research. The centerpiece of this initiative will be the new Graduate Life Center at Donaldson Brown designed to foster a living and learning community. This unique center will provide residential living arrangements, house graduate school administrative and student organization offices, sponsor educational and social programming, and offer social spaces to encourage development of informal relationships. In total, the center will create a friendly environment to encourage an interdisciplinary graduate education community. Virginia Tech will also continue to advance support for graduate students through growth in assistantship opportunities, moving towards funding 90% of student health insurance premiums, and offering competitive stipends.

Research and Creative Scholarship

Virginia Tech is committed to grow as a major research institution. Achieving this goal and eventual recognition as a member of the Association of American Universities (AAU) requires the commitment to grow both our sponsored research activities and other indicators reflective of excellence in research scholarship across a broad spectrum of disciplines. In addition to the NSF-reported research dollar expenditures, the university will encourage the recruitment and development of increased numbers of faculty who are members of one of the National Academies, to increase numbers of national awards for research and scholarship, and to enhance both the numbers and quality of publications/presentations by our faculty. The research engine of the university must also play a role in outreach to industries of the commonwealth and assist in both regional and statewide economic development.

Virginia Tech is committed to develop new research programs which address national needs and present fertile grounds for expansion of extramural funding for the future. Two major institutes have been initiated in the past year and will represent significant new efforts over the coming five to seven years. First, the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science (ICTAS) will address the emerging needs in nanotechnology, computational sciences, biomedical engineering and other areas that build upon our core strengths in engineering and physical sciences. Second, the Institute for Biomedical and Public Health Sciences (IBPHS) will address the desire of the university to advance biomedical research with a focus on support from the National Institutes of Health. Initial areas of emphasis are infectious diseases, and food, nutrition and health. IBPHS provides a focal point for expanded research activity in agriculture, veterinary medicine, biomedical and life sciences. Both ICTAS and IBPHS complement established research institutes, such as the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. Each of these institutes is expected to generate more than $10M per year in sponsored research expenditures. A third institute, currently in development, will enhance scholarship in the fields of arts, humanities, and social sciences. This institute, organized around the theme of Society, Culture and Environment, will provide a venue to energize and support scholarship in areas where traditional extramural funding is not as abundant as science and engineering.

Success in these new initiatives, along with continued growth of our current research enterprise at a rate approaching 10% per year, will be required for Virginia Tech to reach its research aspirations in the coming 7 to 10 years. Base adequacy funding is essential to extending the research enterprise at Virginia Tech. The ability to offer competitive salaries to tenure-track faculty (using the 60th percentile of our SCHEV peer group as the goal) will enable us to attract and retain the best faculty to support both outstanding educations for our students and vigorous research programs which will focus the national spotlight on Virginia. High quality research faculty and the work they do fuel the educational missions through innovative instruction, advanced equipment, and cutting-edge knowledge to educate our students for the future. Base adequacy will also be essential for Virginia Tech to meet increased space and staff needs to support this research enterprise. Without rapid expansion of high quality research and educational facilities, Virginia Tech can not continue to compete with other major research universities for high quality faculty and students.

Scholarship of Outreach and International Programs

As a land-grant university, Virginia Tech has a unique role and responsibility to connect the discoveries of its classrooms and laboratories with the economic and social benefit of citizens of the Commonwealth and people around the world. Through the active engagement of faculty expertise in applied research, teaching, and service, the university will pursue the following Outreach and International Affairs priorities:

  • Develop and implement strategies that enhance Virginia Tech research activities as drivers for economic and community development throughout the state. The university will continue to support the Southside Virginia initiative and the outreach/research programs at the Institute for Advance Learning and Research in Danville, recently honored with a regional Innovator Award by the Southern Growth Policies Board. The university will also seek additional community partnerships to transport promising practices learned through the Southside initiative, especially centers of distributed research, to other areas of the Commonwealth, particularly regions experiencing economic distress.
  • Work with faculty, staff and students to expand continuing and professional education programs that shape a public agenda and/or respond to identified needs in business, industry, government, and communities. One example of the university’s commitment is the Virginia Tech Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (VT-STEM) initiative to strengthen K-12 education through a teaching enrichment program.
  • Facilitate greater service-learning elements in the undergraduate curriculum that enable students to work in communities as part of their for-credit courses and help faculty deliver a broader educational experience.
  • Implement the recently adopted Virginia Tech International Strategic Plan, which challenges the university to significantly increase the number of students and faculty annually participating in international research, teaching and outreach. Additionally, the strategic plan calls for enhancing global competencies with all members of the Virginia Tech community.

Conclusion

As we move through the next six years, Virginia Tech will remain committed to its mission and strategic plan, each reflecting our ongoing commitment to use instruction, research, and outreach to create and convey knowledge to expand personal growth; advance social and community development; foster economic development; and improve the quality of life. Our goal to be among the top thirty research universities provides an ambitious target. To be clear, this quest transcends the research enterprise. It is nothing less than the pursuit of pervasive excellence. If we are to continue to provide a quality education for a diverse student population, to ensure an atmosphere of robust research and scholarship, and to attract the best and brightest faculty and students, we must remain competitive with the best in the nation and indeed the world. Given this action agenda, Virginia Tech will remain true to its land grant heritage and remain accessible to qualified students regardless of financial means.