Northern Virginia faculty, staff get updates on strategies for future of Falls Church site
Opportunities for institutional growth and a vision for the future of Virginia Tech in northern Virginia were the themes of a Thursday afternoon discussion with more than 100 faculty and staff at the Northern Virginia Center in Falls Church. Led by Executive Vice President and Provost Cyril Clarke and Karen DePauw, vice president and dean of graduate education, the discussion focused on the status of proposed future development and potential expansion of the Falls Church location, opportunities for realigning and growing academic programs in the region, and the benefit of expanded partnerships resulting from the development of the site.
The potential of future expansion and development of the Falls Church location and its impact in the region is a critical strategy arising from Virginia Tech’s Beyond Boundaries vision. Growth and program enhancement in Northern Virginia will support and position Virginia Tech to achieve global reach and impact, differentiate its program offerings, provide experiential and personalized learning opportunities, and expand partnerships throughout the region.
“These goals and challenges are important and essential to our success whether we’re talking about Blacksburg or Northern Virginia,” said Clarke. “What we are doing here in Northern Virginia, we must do very well, and we must align with our Beyond Boundaries vision.”
During Thursday’s meeting, Clarke provided updates on recent events that led to new opportunities for Virginia Tech to reorganize and realign programs in Northern Virginia, which included the establishment of the Innovation Campus, leadership of the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative, and redevelopment of the Falls Church property adjacent to the Northern Virginia Center. The prospect for property redevelopment stems from an unsolicited proposal submitted by HITT Contracting through a process governed by the Public-Private Education Facilities and Infrastructure Act of 2002 (PPEA).
To date, the unsolicited PPEA proposal from HITT has passed through a preliminary analysis, a period of public comment, and a university review of a more detailed redevelopment proposal. Efforts to come to a comprehensive agreement on the detailed PPEA are underway and subject to state approval. Current plans for the Falls Church site redevelopment include a new and expanded Virginia Tech academic facility, a national center for smart design and construction, HITT Contracting headquarters, and a commercial and residential complex.
Clarke emphasized Thursday that the redevelopment of the Falls Church site includes a detailed business analysis. It’s important, he said, that the HITT proposal not limit Virginia Tech’s ability to fund other projects, including the Innovation Campus in Alexandria and the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC in Roanoke. The redeveloped site, as envisioned, will also comprise a strategically designed mix of academic, industry, commercial, and residential facilities.
“Though this proposed redevelopment process and its evolution, we will remain committed to and focused on looking after the interests of Virginia Tech and those we serve, and aligning with the goals of our strategic plan and vision for Beyond Boundaries,” Clarke said. “We need to create opportunities for students to interact with industry partners in a way that offers them substantive learning experiences.”
Clarke explained that irrespective of final outcome of the PPEA, most academic programs at the NVC will need to relocate to align with the university’s vision for and service to the region. Most programs are expected to fit well with the expected thematic program emphasis in human-cyber networks at the Innovation Campus while others align with the evolving national security emphasis at the Virginia Tech Research Center in Arlington. Preliminary discussions on the relocation of other Northern Virginia academic programs and facilities such as the Washington Alexandria Architecture Center (WAAC) are being considered and discussed with a focus on ensuring sustainability of operations, student enrollments and experiential learning opportunities.
“We will be informed and guided by a proposal process and feedback from our stakeholders in both Northern and Southwest Virginia,” said Clarke. “We will be establishing a steering committee that is comprehensive in its representation of academic leadership and the Faculty Senate, and who can inform the Provost’s Office by making strategic recommendations for moving the university forward in this region.”
As Virginia Tech pursues opportunities to bring together programs and faculty in Northern Virginia, DePauw held up the Graduate School’s Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Programs as a model.
“We have engaged in these interdisciplinary initiatives and programs for several years in the Graduate School, and I believe they serve as a strong model for how we can connect and collaborate among programs and with our colleagues throughout northern Virginia,” DePauw said.
Clarke expressed his appreciation to the group for their feedback and active engagement in this important process, and for taking time to think holistically about the opportunities the Falls Church redevelopment proposal offers.
“Coming together here today, committing our time and attention, will help us to make strong decisions for Virginia Tech,” Clarke said. “I recognize that change is difficult, and I hope everyone will embrace this as an opportunity to build upon what we’ve accomplished in this region and continue to actively participate in the process.”