Paul Knox, University Distinguished Professor and founding dean of the Honors College at Virginia Tech, will take on the additional role as interim executive director of the Calhoun Discovery Program, the innovative learning platform that fosters teamwork among students and faculty from vastly different majors to find solutions to the world’s most complex and pressing issues.

Thanassis Rikakis, who has served as the executive director of the Calhoun Discovery Program since the program began in 2019, has accepted a new academic position at the University of Southern California.

“Paul Knox is a unique academic talent who, throughout his 35-year career, has provided remarkable service to our university by bringing energy and enthusiasm to learning and scholarship,” said Executive Vice President and Provost Cyril Clarke. “The Calhoun Discovery Program is one of our most powerful and transformative learning opportunities offered at Virginia Tech, and I am appreciative of Dr. Rikakis’ initiative reflected in the establishment of this program. Professor Knox’s leadership and vision for innovative learning will ensure its continued growth and success.”

“In just the first two years of the program, I have seen students engaged in this innovative learning model and how it has transformed their academic capabilities,” said Knox. “Students have selected topics ranging from the impact of artificial intelligence on the workforce, prison reform, and leveraging of social media for social justice. They have worked in full partnership with experts from both the university and industry to explore projects of mutual interest.”

This unique learning platform was made possible by alumnus David Calhoun’s $20 million gift to the Honors College.

Students in the program are tasked with solving real-world issues by harnessing their natural senses of both curiosity and discovery. They break common academic barriers by collaborating across disciplines and expedite the traditional timetable for hands-on experience by working alongside leaders in business and industry.

In addition to a full four-year scholarship and an experiential learning grant of $2,500 each academic year, Calhoun Discovery Program students have around the clock access to the Calhoun Discovery Studio in Hillcrest Hall. The studio, which includes its own prototype modeling area, serves as a headquarters for problem-solving through collaborative exploration.

A member of the faculty since 1985, Knox came to Virginia Tech from the United Kingdom to teach in the urban affairs program. He later served as dean of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies from 1997 to 2006 and as interim director of the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute from 2009 to 2010.

Following his tenure as dean, Knox was named Senior Fellow for International Advancement, reporting directly to the university president, and oversaw the Steger Center for International Scholarship in Riva San Vitale, Switzerland. He also led the planning process that produced the university’s 2013-2019 strategic plan and established Virginia Tech’s Global Forum on Urban and Regional Resilience.

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