Innovation Campus - A New Vision for Graduate Education
Technology meets diversity
Virginia Tech is creating a bold, new vision for graduate education in computer science and computer engineering. 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 emerging technologies influence society, driving a new era for the greater Washington D.C., metro area’s tech ecosystem.
The Innovation Campus – as both a place and a culture – will unlock the power of diverse people and ideas to solve the world’s most pressing problems through technology. As a cornerstone of the Innovation Campus, we have 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. Construction has begun on the 11-story first academic building for the Innovation Campus, which is set to open in 2024.
Read more in our Strategic Plan.
An immediate impact
The first Innovation Campus Class, about 75 students, started in the fall of 2020, and today the total number of Innovation Campus graduate students is approximately 250. Course instruction for 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 opened its Innovation Campus HQ on the ground level of 3000 Potomac Avenue, Alexandria, Virginia, in 2021. This new space – adjacent to the future campus location in North Potomac Yard – houses the campus executive offices and features a café-style area for student and community engagement.
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
Plans for the first academic building – a 300,000 square-foot structure currently under construction – earned rave reviews and unanimous approval from the Alexandria City Council for its architectural design and environmental sustainability features.
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. Faculty will pursue breakthrough technologies alongside corporate giants, public agencies, and innovative start-ups.
At its full build-out, the Innovation Campus will support about half a dozen research areas of excellence. Focus areas include artificial intelligence, wireless/next-gen technology, quantum software, and intelligent interfaces.
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%. At the same time, undergraduate enrollment by women increased from 33% to 50%.
Twelve highly accomplished Virginia Tech faculty experts in computer science and computer engineering formally affiliated with the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus in spring 2022. This first cohort of Innovation Campus faculty will play a vital role in shaping the new campus by helping to establish key research themes, enhancing the project-based curriculum, and developing the campus governance structure.
“This high-achieving faculty cohort will propel us to attract additional top talent from around the country to join in building a campus culture that is outward-facing, connected to the technology ecosystem, and impactful in identifying technology solutions to societal problems,” Collins said.
The Innovation Campus has also initiated national searches for faculty positions. By 2024, the campus plans to have more than 20 faculty members, and at full build out in 2028-29, that number will be 50.
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.
In spring 2021, Boeing was named as the first foundational partner of the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus. A $50 million, multiyear commitment from the company will help jump-start Virginia Tech’s effort to create the most diverse graduate technology campus in the United States. In fall 2021, Northrop Grumman became a key strategic partner of the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus by making a $12.5 million commitment to support research and teaching in quantum information science and engineering.
A new partnership program allows undergraduate students at James Madison University, Christopher Newport University, the University of Mary Washington, Roanoke College, Radford University, Hollins University, the Virginia Military Institution, and Virginia State 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.