Julie Ross, Virginia Tech’s Paul and Dorothea Torgersen Dean of Engineering, has been named a special advisor to President Tim Sands.

Ross will continue to lead Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering, a position where she’s excelled since joining the university in 2017, while adding universitywide responsibilities to support the president.

As a special advisor to Sands, Ross will lead a steering committee charged to review and guide Virginia Tech’s presence in the greater Washington, D.C., metro area. She also will serve as co-chair of the effort to update the Beyond Boundaries Vision.

“Dean Ross’ exceptional leadership ability is evident in her many accomplishments at the College of Engineering and significant contributions to the university’s mission,” Sands said. “Her expanded role will advance Virginia Tech’s research, scholarship, and community engagement in pursuit of our aspiration to be a top-100 global research university.”

Sands and Executive Vice President and Provost Cyril Clarke created the Northern Virginia Steering Committee this month, asking Ross to lead the group in assessing Virginia Tech’s programming and physical footprint, recommending adjustments as necessary, and charting a course for further development in the region. 

During her tenure, Ross has helped guide university expansion in the D.C. area. She served as chair of the search committee that hired Innovation Campus Executive Director and Vice President Lance Collins and has collaborated closely with him to launch the campus, share faculty, and define a new chapter of graduate education in the region.

“As we continue to develop the Innovation Campus, reimagine our presence in Falls Church, and position the research center in Arlington for sustained success, it is imperative that Virginia Tech update its vision, mission, and positioning strategy for the D.C. metro area,” Clarke said. “Dean Ross’ experience and her proven ability to reimagine how we educate students and attract faculty make her the right person to lead this effort.”

During his State of the University speech last month, Sands announced that Ross; Sylvester Johnson, founding director of the Virginia Tech Center for Humanities; and France Bélanger, the R.B. Pamplin Professor in the Pamplin College of Business and a University Distinguished Professor, will lead work to refresh Virginia Tech’s Beyond Boundaries vision. The president asked them to chair a steering committee that will build on Menah Pratt’s work as vice president for diversity, inclusion, and strategic affairs.

Ross said she’s energized by the opportunity to work as a special advisor to Sands but emphasized her commitment to continuing support College of Engineering faculty, staff, and students as they focus on meeting goals outlined in the college’s strategic plan.

“I see this as a great opportunity because our success in the College of Engineering is directly tied to the university’s growth efforts in the greater D.C. metro area and our ability to adapt and define our role as a top-100 global research university through our Beyond Boundaries strategic plan,” she said. “I’m honored and ready to begin collaborating across the university on this important work.”

While she plans to delegate some current responsibilities and increase the time she spends working in Northern Virginia, Ross stressed that she will remain actively engaged in the daily activities of leading the College of Engineering.

The Northern Virginia Steering Committee’s work will happen concurrently with the university implementing plans to reorganize administrative staffing and reporting lines in the greater D.C. area.

Ross, who holds tenured appointments in the departments of chemical engineering and engineering education, has led the College of Engineering to many notable milestones. Working closely with partners throughout Virginia Tech, Ross has also led growth for the College of Engineering in several key areas.

In the past five years, the college’s total enrollment has grown by 18 percent, led in part by the expansion of computer science and computer engineering in support of the state’s commitment to tech talent development.

Perhaps more important than overall growth, the combined percentage of underrepresented and underserved students entering the college has increased to 41 percent – slightly above the university’s overall target of 40 percent by the start of the fall 2022 semester. And for a discipline in which women are notoriously less present than men, the college now has a population consisting of about 25 percent female students.

Other noted College of Engineering achievements during Ross’ tenure: 

  • Research expenditures grew by 16 percent (to $264 million in fiscal year 2020). 
  • Endowment value increased by 31 percent (to $238 million). 
  • Alumni giving rate grew by 54 percent.  

Ross also helped secure the largest ever gift ($35 million) to Virginia Tech from an alumnus.

Ross came to Virginia Tech from University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where she was dean of engineering and information technology. She holds a bachelor's degree from Purdue University and a doctoral degree from Rice University, both in chemical engineering. 

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