Provost Cyril Clarke at the town hall conversation

An April 4 campus town hall was the first opportunity for members of the Virginia Tech community to talk with university leaders publicly about the progress of the university’s new Innovation Campus.

During the town hall, an audience member asked the panel of four Virginia Tech leaders how the Innovation Campus, with its focus on technology and computer science-related learning, will benefit students who study the liberal arts. Cyril Clarke, executive vice president and provost, answered. He said that providing a comprehensive education that traverses many disciplines is in Virginia Tech’s DNA and paramount to its land-grant mission. He used a smartphone to illustrate his answer.

“Most of us, I think appreciate how these instruments have transformed our lives,” Clarke said, holding up his mobile phone. “There’s a lot of computer science in this thing. There’s a lot of engineering as well. It changes our behavior in positive and sometimes negative ways, and it raises interesting questions about privacy and policy issues.”

“The ability to really have impact as a land-grant institution means we need to continually look for opportunities to engage this broad disciplinary context. It turns out that computer science and computer engineering is not a bad place to start, because it creates a really good scaffolding around which and upon which you can engage a whole variety of disciplines across the institution.”

“That’s our philosophy. As we move forward we fully acknowledge the commitment that we have and will make in terms of advancing computer science and computer engineering, but we’re really thinking about how that particular disciplinary context can engage the other exciting things that we do here.”

The Alexandria campus, which will offer graduate courses and research opportunities in computer science and computer engineering, is expected to open in the fall of 2020, as part of a state higher education package that also will lead to growth in Blacksburg.