The Virginia Tech Board of Visitors held a strategic planning retreat in conjunction with its regular quarterly meeting held Monday. Ensconced in the high tech environs of the new Virginia Tech Research Center -- Arlington, the board grappled with key issues and factors essential to future university goals and operations.

Dealing with many of the same topics under consideration by the Presidential Task Force on Long Range Planning, the key question before the board, future enrollment growth, garnered the most discussion.

Should the university grow enrollment? If yes, what is the optimal ratio between undergraduate and graduate students? In what programs or disciplines or programs should growth occur?

While not reaching firm conclusions knowing the campus community is also mulling these "key framing questions," the board indicated a preference toward some enrollment growth of both graduate and undergraduate students. Tempered by a sober understanding of the human and infrastructure demands created by such a strategic position, the board asked for a report to scope the costs and impacts of enrollment growth for its November meeting.

The board also reaffirmed its support for the expansion of research goals first adopted in the 2001-2006 university strategic plan and considered implications of diminished state support for higher education, future tuition policy, and challenges of funding large-scale research endeavors.

In other business, the board approved a resolution to support the acquisition of property near the Tidewater Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Suffolk, Va. The owner of the Wyne Farm, the property adjacent to the center, has offered to sell a portion of the property to the university. The land is critical to the ongoing field crop research program, and losing access to the land would compromise significant research programs.

The board approved a resolution to affirm changes to Faculty Handbook. The 2011 handbook contains a reordering of existing material to improve readability and reflects policies approved by the committee in the previous year.

A resolution authorizing the university to purchase and manage a comprehensive travel insurance coverage program administered through the Education Abroad office was approved. All Virginia Tech students participating in education abroad programs including bilateral exchange or direct enroll programs are required to carry insurance.

The board approved resolutions to demolish two university structures—the parking control station located at the cage lot parking entry on the site where the Human and Agricultural Biosciences Building I (HABBI) will be built; and the former visitors center located at 1325 Southgate Drive. The later facility was vacated when the new Visitors and Undergraduate Admissions Center opened in July 2011.

The Buildings and Grounds Committee approved the design of the proposed Multi-Modal Transit Facility which involves moving the current transit hub from the front of Burruss Hall to a future transit hub located in the vicinity of Perry Street, north of the academic core. The committee also approved the design of a new cattle handling facility located at the Southern Piedmont Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Blackstone, Va. The facility will be used in the newly developed grazing systems research program and will allow for the safe handling of livestock.

The committee also discussed the 2011 Annual Report on Campus Sustainability. The university continues to be recognized for its sustainability leadership, receiving a Campus Sustainability Report Card 2011 overall grade of "B+" from the Sustainable Endowments Institute, a Silver Rating for STARS (Sustainability, Tracking Assessment, and Rating System), and the 2011 Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award.

The Research Committee received a report on the Virginia Tech Applied Research Corporation. The corporation was established as a private non-stock Virginia corporation in December 2009. For the first three years, the primary research focus of the VT-ARC will be intelligence, cyber, and national security. Health and energy will be added as thrust areas in years four and five.

The committee also received a report on Virginia Tech Intelligence and Defense Executive Alumni. An affiliate of the Virginia Tech Alumni Association, the program was formed to develop synergies among senior government and industry executive-level alumni who work in or support national security. Its mission is to encourage individual and organizational enrichment through interaction of its members, to act as a resource and advocate for current and prospective students and alumni, and, to be a resource by helping the university become more engaged in national security.

The board honored four current faculty members with appointments to endowed professorships, and it approved nine resolutions honoring retired faculty with emeritus status. Complete stories on each of the 10 individuals honored will appear in Virginia Tech News beginning Wednesday, Aug. 31.

The next full Virginia Tech Board of Visitors meeting will be held Nov. 6-7 in Blacksburg. More information on the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors may be found online.

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