Three Virginia Tech academic units have been recognized by the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost in partnership with the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning with the 2018 University Exemplary Department or Program Award.

The Chicago Studio in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies, Department of Materials Science and Engineering in the College of Engineering, and Department of Religion and Culture in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences each earned distinction for their efforts and achievement in maintaining exemplary teaching and learning environments for students and faculty. Specifically, the University Department or Program Award recognized the departments’ effectiveness in engaging students in collaborative instructional environments that work beyond boundaries to provide exceptional student learning opportunities.

The Chicago Studio exemplifies collaboration beyond boundaries for exceptional student learning through a comprehensive and unique pedagogical approach to relevant design content. A residency program and alternative to the traditional upper level integrated design studio, the Chicago Studio combines education and practice in a direct way for architecture students in tandem with urban living in the City of Chicago. The program consists of three academic courses and a three-week internship that provides a unique environment for learning wherein students engage in both academic and practicums work in an active architectural studio under the supervision of engaged mentors and professors.

Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) is a multi-faceted field of study, intersecting in fundamental ways with many engineering and natural science disciplines. Both undergraduate and graduate curriculum provide opportunities for students to pursue coursework and to develop research relationships with faculty in other departments. Many MSE courses are available to students from other fields, including highly subscribed introductory surveys for other engineering majors, but also courses ranging from foundry labs to advanced graduate lectures. Undergraduate research opportunities are similarly open to students from a variety of backgrounds. Faculty innovatively design courses to provide wider exposure to the world.

The Department of Religion and Culture demonstrates exemplary teaching and learning for both students and faculty in a variety of ways including a merger of technological innovation with the conceptual and ethical insights of the humanities, multifaceted engagement with Virginia Tech’s founding Land-Grant mission, and commitment to the rigorous study of cultural and religious diversity both locally and globally. Faculty and staff in the Department of Religion and Culture believe that collaboration is more than simply a means to an end; rather, these opportunities are viewed as exercises in collegiality, interdisciplinarity, and moments to generally enhance the Virginia Tech community.

Presented annually since 1994, the University Exemplary Department or Program Award was developed as a part of Virginia Tech's Faculty Rewards Project, which sought to clarify the expectations of faculty and define appropriate rewards for their accomplishments.  The annual awards program is presented by the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost through the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL).

Nominations for the recognition were submitted based on this year’s theme of "Collaborating Beyond Department/Program Boundaries for Exceptional Student Learning.” A reception hosted recently by the Provost’s Office and CETL honored the award recipients. The award selection committee has selected “Creating and Maintaining Inclusive Learning Environments” as the theme for the 2019 program.

For more information on CETL or the University Department or Program Awards, contact Leslie Williams at 540-231-3954 or

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