The long-range “visioning initiative,” first announced in May, kicks into high gear this week. Virginia Tech President Timothy D. Sands has appointed a broad-based steering committee of faculty to guide the effort to rethink the university of tomorrow. 

“We dubbed the initiative ‘Envisioning Virginia Tech - Beyond Boundaries’ because we must think beyond traditional timelines, mindsets, or paradigms," said Sands. "Times are good now for Virginia Tech, but there are stresses within the system – within many aspects of American higher education. So, now is the time to challenge ourselves in this visioning process – to look many years in the future.  

"I want this study to be somewhat unfettered, but primarily we will look at ways to advance our status as an internationally-recognized, global land-grant institution, and also to strategically address the challenges and opportunities presented by the changing landscape of higher education,” said Sands.

Sands has appointed many thought leaders throughout the university to serve under co-chairs Executive Vice President and Provost Thanassis Rikakis, Alumni Distinguished Professor and Associate Dean of the Graduate School Rosemary Blieszner, and Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Alan Grant.

They and a planning team led by staff and graduate students from the Office of the Senior Fellow for Resource Development, structured the year-long study effort to address four thematic areas central to the university’s advancement as a global land-grant leader:

  • Campus of the future, co-chaired by Kathryn Albright, professor of architecture; and Sanjay Raman, associate vice president for the National Capital Region
  • Preparing students for the world in which they will live and work, co-chaired by Jill Sible, assistant provost for undergraduate education; and Matthew Wisnioski, associate professor of science and technology in society
  • Discovering new funding models, co-chaired by Lara Khansa, associate professor of business information technology; and Tom Dingus, director of the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and Newport News Shipbuilding Professor of Civil Engineering
  • Advancing as a global land-grant university, co-chaired by Paul Knox, University Distinguished Professor and Senior Fellow for International Advancement; and Chris Barrett, professor and executive director of the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute

The membership for the steering committee can be seen at the Beyond Boundaries website.

Mary Sue Coleman, former president of the University of Michigan, formally launches the  Beyond Boundaries Speaker Series, on Sept. 24 at 10 a.m. at the Moss Arts Center with the first of several campus public lectures on the challenges and opportunities facing higher education. 

Coleman had a distinguished career leading Michigan for 12 years and as University of Iowa president for seven years. Time magazine named her one of the nation’s “10 best college presidents,” and the American Council on Education honored her with its Lifetime Achievement Award.  

She continues to be a recognized higher education leader at the national level. She co-chairs the Lincoln Project, an initiative of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences to preserve the strength and diversity of public research universities.

The visioning initiative will rely heavily on constituent input, primarily through the thematic sub-committees but also the website itself. 

“We have designed the site to be a resource center for people thinking creatively about higher education and to accept ideas from the greater university community. We encourage people to engage with us there and on social media channels,” said Kate Keeney, project director.

Keeney notes that the website will be often updated with new resource materials. Twitter feeds will carry commentary. Virginia Tech News will also periodically cover related campus events.

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