Virginia Tech faculty have expertise in virtually every corner of the academic landscape, and that breadth of talent has fueled a bold slate of initiatives to reshape higher education.

Among the most visible of those projects has been the identification of transdisciplinary focus areas to organize and motivate research and teaching.  

Divided into Destination Areas centered on Virginia Tech’s existing strengths and Strategic Growth Areas mapping out promising new research directions, the nine focus areas have provided a scaffold for collaboration and guided research and curriculum development. Now, new seed funding and curricular programs will help support faculty as they pursue these activities.

To reflect on that process, celebrate the collaborations that have been launched, and share more about new opportunities, the Office of the Vice Provost for Learning Systems Innovation and Effectiveness is hosting an event on Sept. 24 titled “Building Transdisciplinary Communities.”

Open to the Virginia Tech community, the event will run from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the Latham Ballroom at the Inn at Virginia Tech. Lunch and light refreshments will be provided; register by Sept. 20.

G. Don Taylor, the vice provost for learning systems innovation and effectiveness, and Interim Provost Cyril Clarke will offer the event’s opening remarks.

“The talent and commitment of our faculty are what has enabled us to launch and advance this ambitious vision for redefining the way we tackle complex global and societal problems,” Clarke said. “As our Destination Areas and Strategic Growth Areas continue to mature, the framework that we’ve built around these focus areas will yield more and more opportunities for faculty to invest in collaborative projects and pursue new lines of research. These faculty have already had a positive impact on our vision for Beyond Boundaries, and we’re excited to encourage development of transdisciplinary programs that are enabled by their work.”

The event will feature panel discussions and roundtables exploring how the Destination Areas and Strategic Growth Areas have influenced research and education, highlighting successes as well as challenges. Participants can share their experiences and talk through practical issues like managing atypical class structures and effectively advising students with interdisciplinary majors.

The new seed-funding programs will be a key item on the agenda. These programs add another dimension to existing interdisciplinary collaborations by targeting thorny, multilayered problems — like infectious disease and rural health — that unite multiple focus areas. (For example, applications for infectious-disease seed funds must include themes from two or more of the four focus areas — Data and Decisions, Economical and Sustainable Materials, Equity and Social Disparity in the Human Condition, and Global Systems Science.) 

The immediate outcome of these programs, which are supported by the Destination Areas, Strategic Growth Areas, and research institutes, will be innovative new collaborations. But the longer-term goal is to build robust, transdisciplinary research teams with creative approaches that can compete effectively for external funding.

Being a land-grant university in the 21st century requires equipping students and researchers to bring their diverse talents and complementary perspectives to bear on the complicated and significant challenges society faces. Forging new communities of scholarship is the first step.  

The agenda for the Sept. 24 event is available here; use this link to register

More information about the transdisciplinary communities formed through the Destination Areas and Strategic Growth Areas can be found on the provost's website

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