Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion
As a cornerstone of the Innovation Campus and consistent with InclusiveVT, we have set the goal to be the most diverse graduate tech program in the country. Numerous studies have shown that diverse teams (businesses, etc.) perform at a higher level than teams that are more homogeneous. The Innovation Campus requires faculty, students, and industry partners to bring their whole self to this work by raising concerns and providing perspectives that force critical assessment toward potential tech solutions. We seek to unlock the potential for all students by assembling them into diverse teams to work on challenging real-world projects. Students will gain the benefit of joining forces with others from different backgrounds and experiences, ensuring a richer set of potential solutions and a greater appreciation of different societal perspectives. In short, being intentional about achieving diversity will elevate the performance and experiences for all.
We will seek, monitor and achieve diversity for groups historically underrepresented in the tech industries, including women, underrepresented minorities (African Americans, Latinx, Native Americans, and Pacific Islanders), individuals from: underserved communities, first generation, veteran status, and different sexual orientations (LGBTQ). This will be achieved via a two-pronged approach. First, we will develop a progressive enrollment strategy that seeks qualified applicants from a broad range of sources (see Admissions and Enrollment Management below). Second, the culture of the Innovation Campus will support diversity and ensure the success of all students through inclusive pedagogy and student services.
Specific diversity programs and services are described below.
Faculty Lead for Diversity
The Vice President and Executive Director of the Innovation Campus will appoint a tenured faculty member to serve as the Faculty Lead for Diversity. In this role s/he will be responsible for:
- Overseeing all faculty searches on the Innovation Campus with the goal of ensuring that best practices for achieving diversity are routine.
- Developing creative strategies for identifying, recruiting, and retaining women and traditionally underrepresented minority faculty.
- Overseeing promotion and tenure cases on the Innovation Campus, in collaboration with the College of Engineering and participating departments.
- Representing the faculty voice to the Vice President and Executive Director and to the senior leadership of Virginia Tech.
- Overseeing the Admissions and Diversity Programs offices. Those directors will report to this individual.
Diversity Programs Office
The Director of Diversity Programs will develop and maintain a portfolio of programs to support the recruitment, development, retention and success of all students with an emphasis on those who come from backgrounds that historically have been underrepresented in the tech industries. The goal of the office is to achieve equity for all students regardless of their ethnic background, race, gender, sexual orientation, first generation status, socioeconomic status, and veteran status. This office will develop the means to monitor the success of students in various groups over time (including qualitative measures through regular surveys), and will be charged with developing programs to address any persistent gaps that are seen for any student. The office will also encourage the Innovation Campus faculty to participate in diversity training programs such as Inclusive Pedagogy. The goal is to create an environment where all students succeed.
Students will execute projects in teams that are assembled at the beginning of each academic semester. Each student will serve as the team leader for a period of time. The Leadership Program staff will assist the faculty in developing the students’ professional skills in: management, project management, conflict management and listening and communication. Students will take a self-assessment survey so they can appreciate their leadership style and how to maximize their effectiveness as leaders.
Admissions and Enrollment Management Office
Admissions for the Master’s degree programs will be overseen by Innovation Campus Admissions and Enrollment Management Office, in close collaboration with their counterparts in Computer Science and Computer Engineering, the Graduate School, and the Enrollment Management office in Blacksburg. Leadership will develop and pursue an enrollment management plan with specific diversity targets over time. The approach will be based on considering a variety of potential student sources through established programming described below.
The Virginia Tech Innovation Campus is committed to inspiring young people to pursue technology careers within the computational sciences. We will focus our attention initially on the Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS), with whom we have a signed memorandum of agreement, recognizing it is a diverse school district in close proximity to the Innovation Campus. We will partner with ACPS to develop programming within the elementary, middle, and high schools that will first motivate and inspire and then prepare students to major in STEM disciplines at a four-year college like Virginia Tech and pursue technology careers.
The Director of K-12 Programs will lead a comprehensive K-12 strategy to embed “computational thinking” in schools to prepare students for the modern workforce. The K-12 strategy will be informed, designed, implemented, and refined to meet the educational needs and opportunities of ACPS through internal and external means. The K-12 strategy will be rigorously documented with both qualitative and quantitative methodologies and outcomes for continuous program and quality improvement. This approach will allow for future replication of the ACPS programs in partnership with other K-12 school systems and ultimately scalability to the greater DC metro area and the world.