Discussions on higher education issues, universitywide priorities frame quarterly board meeting; final design for Mitchell Hall approved
August 29, 2023
The Virginia Tech Board of Visitors held its latest quarterly full-board meeting Sunday through Tuesday at the W.E. Skelton 4-H Educational Conference Center in Wirtz and at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC in Roanoke.
Following an orientation session Sunday morning, board members engaged in a retreat to discuss issues facing Virginia Tech and higher education in general. To begin the retreat, three experts led a conversation on generative artificial intelligence (AI) and its impact on higher education and society more broadly: Naren Ramakrishnan, Virginia Tech’s Thomas L. Phillips Professor of Engineering and director of the Sanghani Center for AI and Data Analytics; Scott Hartley, co-founder and managing partner of Everywhere Ventures, a pre-seed venture capital firm, and best-selling author of “The Fuzzy and the Techie: Why the Liberal Arts Will Rule the Digital World”; and Rishi Jaitly, professor of practice and Distinguished Humanities Fellow at Virginia Tech, where he leads the Institute for Leadership in Technology.
Following that discussion, Executive Vice President and Provost Cyril Clarke, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Amy Sebring, and Senior Vice President for Research and Innovation Dan Sui spoke on Virginia Tech’s commitment and efforts to be a top 100 global research university and how the university’s current strategic plan, the Virginia Tech Difference: Advancing Beyond Boundaries, aligns with this university-level priority.
Becoming a top 100 global research university is the outcome of excellence in academic research, scholarship, and education. Institutional excellence makes a university a destination for global talent and partners, which strengthens the institution’s ability to act as a force for positive change.
Matt Holt, professor and head of the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; Menah Pratt, vice president for strategic affairs and diversity; Rachel Holloway, vice provost for undergraduate academic affairs; and Frances Keene, vice president for Student Affairs, updated the board on the Virginia Tech Advantage.
Launched last year, the Virginia Tech Advantage initiative is a universitywide, multiyear commitment to offer the broad educational experience to admitted undergraduate students from Virginia and reflects the university's commitment to serve the commonwealth. At scale, the program will remove barriers for more than 5,500 Virginia undergraduates with unmet financial needs and help enhance the value of their Virginia Tech degrees by providing opportunities for research, experiential learning, and discovery inside and outside of the classroom or lab.
During the three-day meeting, board members toured the W.E. Skelton 4-H Educational Conference Center in Wirtz and the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute and Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine in Roanoke.
During the information session held Monday, Michael Friedlander, vice president for health sciences and technology and executive director of the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC, shared with the board a presentation on the university’s commitment to the health and biomedical sciences and an update on the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine.
Also on Monday, Friedlander and Sui spoke on the Virginia Tech Cancer Research Alliance at the Academic, Research, and Student Affairs Committee meeting.
The Buildings and Grounds Committee approved the design review for Mitchell Hall, a new facility in Blacksburg that will replace the undersized and outdated Randolph Hall with a state-of-the-art engineering hub.
The new facility will primarily house the departments of aerospace and ocean engineering, mechanical engineering, and engineering education. It also will provide project space for student teams, supporting national team-based research and development competitions, and will provide student collaboration and general assignment classroom spaces serving the entire campus community. Construction activities will begin in early 2024 and are scheduled to conclude in late 2027.
During the Finance and Resource Management Committee meeting on Tuesday, Sebring updated board members on the progress of state budget deliberations. As announced on Aug. 25, House and Senate negotiators reached an agreement on the commonwealth’s 2022-24 biennial budget, including funding for higher education. As details become available, the university will analyze the impacts of the agreement on the university budget. If board-level action is required as a result of changes to the current fiscal year budget, the Executive Committee will meet prior to the next regular scheduled meeting of the full board. Sebring also outlined planning efforts to reallocate significant internal resources over the next several years to support the university's strategic priorities.
Senior Vice President for Advancement Charlie Phlegar provided highlights of the university’s fundraising and engagement efforts during the past fiscal year. Accomplishments included qualifying for CASE 50 designation as a top advancement organization, securing more than $200 million in new gifts and commitments for a third-straight year, and maintaining an undergraduate alumni giving rate of over 20 percent for a second-straight year.
The board announced that David Calhoun, president and chief executive officer of The Boeing Company, will serve as vice rector for the 2023-24 year.
During his remarks to the board on Tuesday, Sands presented four resolutions of appreciation to honor each of the board members who completed their term June 30. The resolutions honored Shelley Butler Barlow, Charles T. Hill, Sharon Brickhouse Martin, and Melissa Byrne Nelson for their dedicated service to the board and the university.
The board also approved resolutions honoring two emerita or emeritus faculty members and appointed 24 faculty members to an endowed fellowship, professorship or chair. Individual stories on each person will be published in Virginia Tech News in the coming weeks.
The next full Virginia Tech Board of Visitors meeting will be held Nov. 5-6 in Blacksburg. More information on the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors may be found online.