With everything in bloom and the return of warm weather, my spirit is buoyant as we near the end of this challenging, unconventional academic year. I know this year has been a struggle for many of you and I am deeply grateful for your hard work, dedication, and flexibility under these trying circumstances.

I am pleased to report that Virginia Tech is preparing for a Fall 2021 semester that more closely resembles regular classroom experiences and campus life. In partnership with local public health authorities, the university’s COVID vaccination efforts are proceeding well. You can learn about how to get a vaccine here. Please also complete the confidential voluntary vaccine reporting survey; this information is critical to Virginia Tech’s ability to move forward and ease public health restrictions.

In other news, in recent weeks, the university has announced a merit-based compensation adjustment program for faculty and staff that will go into effect on June 10. There have also been important changes to the voluntary transitional retirement program for tenured faculty.

Aiming to capitalize on positive lessons learned during the pandemic, task forces are currently considering long-term options for teleworking and improved options for caregivers.

As you likely know, in addition to the university’s virtual commencement ceremony on May 14, our college will be holding two in-person graduation ceremonies on May 15 at 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. in Lane Stadium. I am truly delighted to have the opportunity to share this milestone with our students and their families.

In the meantime, our college has much to celebrate. For the Fall 2021 semester, for example, our college received more than 5,000 applications, which represents an increase of 41 percent. Nearly 40 percent of the applications are from underserved and underrepresented students. In the fall, approximately 1,007 new undergraduates will join the college. Incoming students represent over 30 states and countries and 400 high schools.

Advancement work on behalf of the college successfully continued in our virtual world. At the end of February, our departments and schools made Giving Day fun and a bit competitive. Overall, the college had $190,236 in gifts from 1,332 donors, an average of $143 per donor.

University-wide, Virginia Tech had $6.3 million in gifts from 12,100 donors. The alignment of engagement, strategic communications, and fundraising is on track to produce another record-breaking year in philanthropy for the university.

Even during the pandemic, faculty sustained their remarkable research efforts, resulting in publications, presentations, papers, and performances aimed at general as well as scholarly audiences. These efforts demonstrated the value of bringing engaged perspectives from the liberal arts and human sciences to bear on urgent social problems, complex intellectual debates, and enduring questions related to identity, justice, and equity.

In a year that reinforced the urgency of the analysis of inequality, the college expanded the Juneteenth Scholars Program to include a second cohort of faculty scholars and two Juneteenth graduate scholars. We are also excited to announce the hiring of several faculty through our Future Faculty Diversity Program and look forward to welcoming these new colleagues in the fall.

I was only about six months into my deanship when the lockdown was imposed, and I’m incredibly eager to be able to interact with all of you face-to-face again. I look forward to being able to attend public lectures, performances, and events reflecting the rich intellectual and cultural life of our college.

The college is planning two large, in-person events this fall. We will have our Welcome Back celebration — complete with faculty and staff award presentations and the opportunity to meet new faculty joining our ranks — on Wednesday, September 1, from 3:30 to 6:00 p.m. in the Squires Commonwealth Ballroom. The second event, likely in October or November, will feature a State of the College Address followed by a reception. We have a great deal to celebrate and I hope to see you at both events.

After we complete the Spring 2021 semester, I hope you will have some time to rejuvenate and reconnect with loved ones. I look forward to a promising future together.

Be well,

Laura Belmonte
Dean, College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences