Virginia Tech’s newest building is a testament to holistic education
Abundant natural light, impressive classrooms and lab spaces, and the work of students’ creativity and passion on display everywhere. All this and more greets visitors the moment they step inside the Creativity and Innovation District Living-Learning Program (CID LLP).
Student Affairs at Virginia Tech recently hosted a grand opening event to celebrate the completion of the 232,000 gross-square-foot facility. Students, faculty, staff, and other key stakeholders attended.
“If you listen carefully to speeches at Virginia Tech, you’ll hear what we believe about learning and student success," said Vice President for Student Affairs Frank Shushok Jr. "But if you look at the CID, you’ll see it.”
The building stands as a testament to the university's vision for holistic education, breaking down barriers between academic pursuit and residential life.
Shushok identified three things that visitors to the CID LLP would witness.
“[First, you’ll see] that the integration of the whole life of a student matters immensely, and that you can’t segment heart and mind and spirit from the educational endeavour," he said. "Two, that the diversity of people, disciplines, and activity, gathered intentionally together, brings about a collective brilliance. Three, that life is both art and science, and that learning is about technical competence but also character formation, and that living and learning belong together.”
During the event, attendees witnessed all three of these values in action. The event showcased the work of students living in the CID LLP, including animation, artwork, and videos curated specifically for the occasion.
Mary Arevalo, an industrial design student and resident in the Studio 72 Living-Learning Community, contributed an animation of the community’s identity mark. Maxwell Mandell, a cinema major and fellow resident of Studio 72, contributed this video showcasing the community. The event also featured an exhibit of a work-in-progress art piece, Illuminous Buoys, created by Tanner Upthegrove, Thomas Tucker, Hannah Tucker, David Franusich, Eric Schoenborn, Holly Riley, and Brandon Hale.
Event attendees heard directly from student leaders in the community. Resident Advisor Johan Alfaro welcomed attendees and opened the program with a land acknowledgement and labor recognition. Hall Council President Daniel Zak spoke directly to the students he serves, addressing his remarks to “the freshmen who are experiencing college for the first time, the students searching for friends, and the people looking for opportunities to learn and grow as individuals.” The message? “This is your space. This is your community. To me, at least, that is CID.”
Following the program, attendees were invited to take a self-guided tour of the building. The tour offered many opportunities, including the chance to hear the Virginia Tech Philharmonic Orchestra rehearse in the first-floor performance hall and to see artwork on display from students enrolled in Principles of 3D Art and Design in the first-floor assembly workroom.
Planning for the event was guided by the building’s heraldry crests, a set of six values that are carved into the exterior of the building. As Shushok explained, “the heraldry of the building tells a very important story… we want the CID to produce in our students knowledge, community, and well-being. All of those things are shepherded by values that are also represented around the building: friendship, hope, artistry, creativity, learning, and service."
The launch of the Creativity and Innovation District Living-Learning Program also ushers in development of the new Creativity and Innovation District, envisioned as a part of President Tim Sands’ Beyond Boundaries campaign and described on page 218 of Virginia Tech’s Master Plan.
“This cornerstone building is the first building in a region that is designed to be right here on the edge of campus and on the edge of Blacksburg, to actually be a part of the fusion between our university and the vibrancy of Main Street here in Blacksburg,” said Executive Vice President and Provost Cyril Clarke.
The vision statement for the district states: “The Creativity and Innovation District at Virginia Tech engages local and global communities in a new discourse around the relationship between the arts and technology. The District will showcase indoor and outdoor space for the arts, performance, education, demonstration, and research. It will also represent a new, forward-looking mindset that crosses traditional academic boundaries to promote creativity and innovation.”
Crossing traditional academic boundaries and bridging the divide between living and learning is a strategic imperative for Student Affairs, and this year has seen tremendous progress through the recent establishment of the Office of Living-Learning Programs and the implementation of four new Living-Learning Programs this fall. Program offerings will continue to expand with two new communities, Lavender House and Impact, opening for student enrollment in fall of 2022, as well as an invitation for proposals for new Living-Learning Programs that is open now, giving faculty and staff the opportunity to engage in the process of creating new communities.
These new communities will complement Virginia Tech’s current robust lineup of 20 Living-Learning Programs, three of which are housed within the CID LLP: Innovate, Rhizome, and Studio 72. The building also houses a large population of student athletes, who lend their vibrancy and energy to the community. Virginia Tech Athletics has been a valuable partner and strong supporter throughout the construction of the building.
Students enrolled in MGT 1064: Entrepreneurship Residential Experience, a required course for students in the Innovate Living-Learning Community, were asked to reflect on their experience during the event. Many students described the experience as “inspiring” and expressed appreciation for the clear vision that drove creation of the community. One student, in particular, said that “I want to make sure that whatever I produce in this building is worthy of the legacy it already embodies.”
The Creativity and Innovation District Living-Learning Program answers a central question posed by Shushok in his remarks during the event: “Are faculty responsible for the head, and is Student Affairs responsible for the heart? Or, are all of us responsible for the whole student? I hope that you see that everyone here is invested in the whole life and being of the student. I want to say thank you for this community that is willing to take risks and challenge the status quo of pedagogy, of the student experience, and of who is responsible for what happens to students when they come to Virginia Tech.”