The review of current architectural designs of the proposed Signature Engineering Building and the approval of two new University Distinguished Professors and two new Alumni Distinguished Professors were among the agenda items that today’s Virginia Tech Board of Visitors meeting held today.

To be built on the northeast corner of the Commuter Parking Lot between Price’s Fork Road and Stanger Street, the Signature Engineering Building will be approximately a 160,000 gross-square-foot facility to include classrooms, instructional laboratories, research laboratories, and offices for multiple departments and programs for the College of Engineering. Construction could start as early as next summer.

Design plans for the construction of a new veterinary medicine instruction wing at the Virginia Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine were also reviewed.

On Monday, the Finance and Audit Committee received a report on university support for student financial aid. Dwight Shelton, vice president for finance and chief financial officer, noted financial assistant to students consists of scholarships and grants, employment, loans and payment options. In the past two years, the amount of aid received by students grew from $285.5 million to $359 million. The most significant increase was seen in grants, scholarship, and tuition waivers, which grew from $119.2 million to $155.7 million.

Shelton noted that the university continues to increase support to institutional aid programs Virginia Tech has increased university funded financial aid from $1.1 million in 2001-02 to $11.8 million in 2010-11. As part of the strategic planning process, the university has committed to a goal of increasing support for undergraduate need-based-aid by, on average, $1 million annually to help offset increases in the cost of education.

The board honored Dennis Dean, the J.B. Stroobants Professor of Biochemistry and director of the Fralin Life Sciences Institute, and Roe-Hoan Yoon, the Nicholas T. Camicia Professor of Mining and Minerals Engineering in the College of Engineering and director of the Center for Advanced Separation Technologies, with the title, University Distinguished Professor, the pre-eminent faculty rank that is bestowed on no more than one percent of the faculty at Virginia Tech.

In addition, Thomas Gardner, professor of English in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, and John Seiler, the Shelton H. Short, Jr. Professor of Forestry in the College of Natural Resources and Environment, were honored as Alumni Distinguished Professors in recognition of their “extraordinary academic citizenship and distinguished service within the Virginia Tech community.”

In-depth stories on Dean, Gardner, Seiler, and Yoon will be published in Virginia Tech News over the next two weeks.

The board approved a resolution that all new buildings and expansion projects within the academic core and life sciences precincts on Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus use Hokie Stone as the predominant building material on all building facades unless special circumstances exist.

The board also approved a resolution supporting the campus fiber optic improvement project. The approximately $2 million capital project will improve the university’s network and communications infrastructure over several years.  The installation of a fiber-optic core on campus will consist of five segments connecting to the five campus switching centers and connections from the core to several buildings. Pathway improvements will increase capacity and ensure diversity, both of which are needed to provide abundant and reliable network connectivity to the university.

A resolution creating the University Building Official Office Policy was also approved. Earlier this fall, William “Rick” Hinson was named University Building Official to oversee the program to enforce the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code (VUSBC) in all future university construction projects. The policy describes how the Office of the University Building Official will review plans for new construction and renovation projects, and will perform inspections required by the VUSBC.

Board members approved the appointments of James R. Smith and George Nolen to serve on the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine Board of Directors. Each will serve four-year terms.

On Sunday, the board received an update on the 2006–2012 University Strategic Plan. In 2009, a review of the academic components of the plan resulted in a report outlining progress on initiatives within each of the university’s scholarship domains: learning, discovery, and engagement.

Also on Sunday, William Knocke, associate vice president for research programs, gave the Research Committee a report on current efforts to review and update university policies related to university, college, and department research centers. Knocke noted that initial policies, written in the early 1990s when the concept of interdisciplinary work was relatively new, focused primarily on university-level research centers. Now, Virginia Tech is focusing its high-level research initiatives through the six Research Institutes of Virginia Tech and smaller college or department research centers.

Also on Sunday, Yoon provided board members with a report on the university’s involvement in National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) – Regional University Alliance. NETL, part of the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) national laboratory system, conducts research in coal, natural gas, and oil technologies, and analyzes energy systems and international energy issues for the DOE Office of Fossil Energy, and performs contract and project management for other DOE offices. Carnegie Mellon University, Pennsylvania State University, University of Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech, and West Virginia University form the five university alliance.

The board also approved seven resolutions to honor retiring faculty and staff with emeritus status.

The next full Virginia Tech Board of Visitors meeting will be held March 27-28 on the Blacksburg campus. More information on the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors may be found online.

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