President Tim Sands praises Hokies for resilience, research advancements at historic time
It’s a historic time for the Hokie Nation in more ways than one.
This year, Virginia Tech celebrates its 150th birthday and marks 52 years since it became a comprehensive university.
Meanwhile, the university’s endowment has doubled, it has surpassed and maintained its undergraduate enrollment goal, it is expanding into new research areas with announcements of several centers, and it broke ground on the Innovation Campus in Alexandria in September.
That’s all with the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, which the university continues to navigate successfully, said Virginia Tech President Tim Sands during his sixth State of the University address on Jan. 19 at the Moss Arts Center, which he delivered to university audiences in person and via live video. Sands highlighted achievements in the past year and the university’s goals for 2022.
He said he is encouraged that with 95 percent of the university community vaccinated for COVID-19, Hokies have not burdened the local health care system. Also, as a result of the pandemic, Virginia Tech has learned to strike the right balance between virtual and in-person learning and operations.
“Universities learn – that’s what we do – and we have never learned so much in such a short amount of time,” said Sands, who recognized Mike Mulhare, assistant vice president for emergency management, and his work to manage the university’s COVID-19 response over the last two years.
Virginia Tech relied on the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC in Roanoke to provide quick turnaround COVID-19 test results that allowed the university to remain open. The institute also helped health departments throughout the state.
The institute celebrated the opening of a new facility last fall, which is one of several new developments across Virginia Tech’s campuses. Sands highlighted other expansion plans in Blacksburg and in Washington, D.C., including the grand opening of a Virginia Tech research facility on the Children’s National Research and Innovation Campus.
In Blacksburg, construction soon will start on Hitt Hall, the future home of the Myers-Lawson School of Construction. Also, the new Data and Decision Sciences building is nearing completion as the first structure for the Global Business and Analytics complex.
A $35 million gift from Norris and Wendy Mitchell laid the groundwork for a new 284,000-square-foot facility for the College of Engineering, which will be the largest building in Blacksburg and will replace Randolph Hall.
Even so, “while facilities are important, their value comes from the programs and people they support,” Sands said.
A new Blacksburg center focused on quantum research is one of such programs. During his speech, Sands announced the launch of the Virginia Tech Center for Quantum Information Science and Engineering. Sophia Economou, founding director and professor, spoke via video about the center, which will focus on interdisciplinary education and research, bringing together faculty from many different departments.
“We are very excited about training the next generation of quantum scientists and engineers,” Economou said.
This new center comes just after global aerospace and defense company Northrop Grumman announced a $12.5 million gift to create the Center of Quantum Architecture and Software Development at Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus in Alexandria.
Quantum research is one of several areas that Dan Sui, senior vice president for research and innovation, has identified as a research frontier. Others are artificial intelligence and security, and Virginia Tech is making progress in both with the naming and expansion of the Sanghani Center for Artificial Intelligence and the formation of the National Security Institute.
All of these developments line up with Virginia Tech’s goal to become a top-100 global research university, Sands said.
“Our vision for the university’s future is comprehensive and wide-ranging and research is the field that will get us there,” he said. “I believe we stand on the cusp of our next great opportunity – to become a leading global research university with a highly integrated learning, discovery, and engagement mission.”
Virginia Tech is meeting and exceeding other goals, as well. Undergraduate enrollment is approximately 30,000, the university’s target. For 2022, applications were up 7 percent, compared with last year, a record breaking total of 45,185. Also, early decision applications rose 20 percent and applications for first generation students increased 19 percent, compared with last year.
“We have always taken great pride in the spirit and strength of this community,” Sands said. “Every Hokie - wherever you learn, work, teach, and serve - has an important role to play. That’s what we mean when we say ‘this is home.’”
Learn more about Virginia Tech's Sesquicentennial celebration here.