Governor Bob McDonnell has appointed Laura W. Fornash, former director of state government relations at Virginia Tech, as Virginia's new Secretary of Education. 

Fornash had been interim Secretary of Education since July, and prior to that was deputy secretary of education. She is also serving as the executive director of the Commission on Higher Education Reform, Innovation and Investment.

"We are thrilled to be able to appoint a consummate professional and well-respected advocate for higher education to be the next leader of Virginia's education system," McDonnell said. "We are especially pleased to have found the best candidate for this position right here in our ranks after a nationwide search. Laura has played a key role in our 'Top Jobs' initiatives, expanding access and affordability for higher education to all Virginians, and helping colleges and universities move closer to achieving our goal of adding 100,000 new degrees in the next 15 years. She is also working with the Department of Education to ensure students in our elementary, primary and high schools are thriving."

Before joining the Office of the Secretary of Education, Fornash spent 20 years with Virginia Tech in a number of different divisions including student affairs, continuing education, distance learning, and government relations. She was the school's restructuring project director with the responsibility of managing Virginia Tech's implementation of the 2005 Restructuring Act that created new levels of operational autonomy for all public higher education institutions in exchange for meeting certain academic performance measures. 

Fornash served as director of the Virginia Tech Richmond Center, an extended campus center, where credit and noncredit programs were offered to working professionals.

In 1998, as the director of information technology programs, Fornash launched an innovative web-based interdisciplinary master's degree program to help transition professionals into the information technology field as result of research conducted for the International Technology Association of America. 

Fornash received her undergraduate and master's degree from Virginia Tech.

This story was provided by Jeff Caldwell, press secretary to Gov. McDonnell.

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