Fundraising for the construction of Virginia Tech’s proposed Global Business and Analytics Complex has taken another big step forward, with a $2.1 million grant from The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation.

The four-building complex is expected to include two academic buildings and two residential buildings for living-learning communities — and to serve as the new home for the Pamplin College of Business.

The Marriott Foundation grant, to be paid over five years, will be used to build the HOKIE Lab, a state-of-the-art hospitality food operations teaching and research lab for Pamplin’s nationally and internationally ranked Howard Feiertag Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management.

The HOKIE Lab will be located in what will be the high-traffic, high-visibility commons area of the first academic building. HOKIE stands for Hospitality Operations Kitchen and Interactive Experience.

Once construction is complete, this facility will be formally named the Marriott Foundation Hokie Lab in recognition of this grant. “In addition to being a teaching facility, the HOKIE lab will also be used for faculty research on high-tech activities like eye-tracking technology of menus and special event logistics,” said department head Nancy Gard McGehee.

“We expect to have a facility that will use state-of-the art digital supply-chain management and a variety of business analytics,” McGehee said. “It will also be an attractive location for alumni and corporate events, team-building opportunities, and exclusive chef’s table events. We’ll also feature restaurant concept development, including pop-up restaurants designed and implemented by students.”

“This grant supports the Marriott Foundation’s goals of fostering educational achievement, expanding opportunities for youth, and developing the next generation of hospitality leaders,” said Anne Gunsteens, executive director of The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation. 

“We are excited to be partnering with such an exceptional, internationally recognized hospitality program. We believe this grant will prepare students for the hospitality and tourism industry, which is one of the world’s most important drivers of economic growth, providing careers for more than 255 million people globally.”

Established in 1965, The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation is dedicated to supporting exceptional nonprofit organizations that provide civic and human services, foster educational achievement, expand opportunities for youth and adults, develop the next generation of hospitality leaders, and lead innovation in health and medicine.

“We are deeply appreciative of the generosity of the Marriott Foundation,” said Pamplin Dean Robert Sumichrast. “This grant will open up numerous opportunities for our hospitality and tourism management students and faculty and help ensure that future generations receive a high-caliber, life-changing education.”

“The HOKIE Lab and its programming will help us attract and retain highly sought-after hospitality students from diverse backgrounds, including women, persons of color, and first-generation college students,” McGehee said. “The hospitality and tourism industry has a long tradition of leading the way in employment of diverse populations; we want to provide a pipeline of these talented graduates for our industry partners.”

To support the department and its ability to translate research and best practices in hospitality management into applications for classroom teaching and learning, the Marriott Foundation previously endowed a professorship in the department.


Juan Luis Nicolau
Juan Luis Nicolau was named the Marriott Professor of Revenue Management in 2017.

Juan Luis Nicolau, an award-winning teacher and internationally top-ranked scholar whose research interests include individual choice behavior and firm market value, was named the Marriott Professor of Revenue Management in 2017.

Virginia Tech’s hospitality and tourism management program is ranked No. 3 in the United States and No. 10 in the world by QS World University Rankings for 2018. It has a 94 percent placement rate for its graduates, one of the highest placement rates on campus.

Known for its research excellence, industry-relevant teaching, and service to the industry worldwide, the program serves 250 hospitality and tourism majors and more than 4,400 Pamplin undergraduates.

“Demand for our graduates exceeds supply. A business degree coupled with hospitality and tourism specific skill development is an unbeatable combination,” McGehee said.

The HOKIE Lab reflects the ambitions of the $250-million Global Business and Analytics Complex, construction of which is a major priority for Virginia Tech.

As Virginia Tech aims to be a national model in transdisciplinary education, it is seeking to partner with business enterprises and other institutions to transform the educational experience for students, provide a pipeline of talent to meet employer needs, and promote economic development.

Planned with unique features for collaborative learning and problem solving, the complex is expected to accommodate a 20 percent increase in Pamplin enrollment and help Virginia Tech realize its goal of preparing students to thrive in a 21st century marketplace that requires knowledge of how to use and interpret data in ways that are smart, efficient, and effective.

The complex’s two academic buildings will have advanced visualization and connective technologies and high-performing computing to foster transdisciplinary research in data analytics and decision sciences.

In addition to serving the Pamplin College of Business, the complex will also bring together students and faculty from the College of Science, the College of Engineering, and related analytics disciplines from across the university, creating a team-oriented learning environment. 

It will also further advance Virginia Tech’s Destination Areas and Strategic Growth Areas, which are focused on enhancing transdisciplinary engagement and collaboration by capitalizing on the institution’s academic and research strengths.

The complex’s two living-learning communities for analytics, entrepreneurship, and international business will extend learning beyond the classroom, offering all Virginia Tech students opportunities to create and collaborate.

The Marriott Foundation grant is the latest in a series of private donations to support construction of the complex, for which fundraising is ongoing.

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