Access and affordability and experiential learning were among the several strategically important topics addressed at the quarterly meeting of the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors held Sunday and today in Blacksburg.

At Sunday’s full-board information session, Matt Holt provided board members an update on the university’s access and affordability initiative, which both the board and President Tim Sands identified last fall as one of two leading strategic priorities of the university. Holt, professor and head of the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and Menah Pratt, vice president for strategic affairs and diversity, co-chair the initiative’s steering committee that has worked quickly to formalize the charge and enlist the input of a wide-ranging group of stakeholders.

Holt said the overarching goal is to provide more in-state students with support and to “close the gap” in aid programs relative to peer institutions. Efforts will be focused on student recruitment, first-year retention, and sustained support while students attend Virginia Tech, all of which is essential to help the greatest number of students. In addition, Holt said, the university will work to incorporate student voices and experiences to ensure this initiative is successful and that the resources needed to expand need-based programs will need to come from internal, state, and philanthropic sources.

At today’s Academic, Research, and Student Affairs Committee meeting, Kim Filer, associate vice provost for teaching and learning, led a panel discussion that brought student and faculty voices to the topic of experiential learning. Filer said Virginia Tech is committed to making it an integral part of the student academic experience at the university and how it can be a bridge between a student’s academic degree program and future career.

At the full board meeting held Monday afternoon, board members approved a resolution on a new master’s degree program in applied data science. If approved by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, the new degree program will prepare students to be data scientists who can analyze complex, large-scale data sources to confirm hypotheses, make predictions, and inform decision-making based on the interdisciplinary perspectives of applied statistics, computer science, mathematics, computational modeling, and data engineering and mining. It is anticipated the proposed degree program will be offered beginning the spring term of 2024.

In other actions, the board approved the 2024-30 Six-Year Capital Outlay Plan. The university prepares this plan every two years as part of its normal financial planning processes. It is a critical component of positioning the university for state support of Educational and General capital projects and for advancing priority projects that may be funded entirely with nongeneral fund resources.

The approved plan includes 33 projects for Agency 208 and Agency 229 and align to four strategic initiatives: the university’s aspiration to become a top-100 global research university, facility asset management and renewal, student experience and success, and state capital funding priorities.

Traditionally, the university brings a tuition and fee rate recommendation and a graduate assistant compensation recommendation to the board at the spring meeting, incorporating the impacts of the state budget process on the university’s operating budget. However, because the state budget process has significant impact on the potential magnitude of tuition and fee increases and the level of resources available to address university priorities, including graduate assistant compensation, the board has deferred the decision for the 2023-24 academic year until later this spring.  

To mitigate the elevated risk to the university from threats to its information technology (IT) infrastructure, data and other IT assets, the board approved a resolution directing university leadership to enhance monitoring of electronic communications and records whether stored on university technology resources, in the university’s cloud storage, or in transit on the university network, consistent with state policy. The resolution also directs the university to revise its policies to ensure transparency and full disclosure of IT-automated routine monitoring for security and risk mitigation purposes and make clear that monitoring of equipment and data will occur only for legitimate business or IT security compliance purposes.

At Sunday’s information session, Robin Queen, the Kevin P. Granata Faculty Fellow, professor of biomedical engineering and mechanics, and director of the Granata Biomechanics Lab in the College of Engineering, presented a report on the work by the Task Force on Freedom of Expression and Inquiry completed last fall. On Monday, the board approved a resolution accepting the report, endorsing the statement, and seeking periodic updates on the implementation of recommendations.

Also during the two-day meeting, board members received reports on College of Natural Resources and Environment facilities and programs, the utilities master plan, the student conduct process, and attended the dedication ceremony of the track and field/cross country head coach’s office in Cassell Coliseum for Virginia Tech alumnus Jerry Gaines ’71.

The board also announced the selection of the 2023-24 undergraduate and graduate student representatives. William Storey, a junior majoring in environmental science in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, will be the undergraduate student representative. Emily Tirrell, a doctoral candidate in the Translational Biology, Medicine, and Health program, will be the graduate/professional student representative.

Each will serve a one-year term beginning July 1. A story introducing the new student representatives to the community will be published in Virginia Tech News.

In addition, the board honored Professor Emerita Nikki Giovanni with the Ut Prosim Scholar Award, making her the fifth person to receive the honor. The board also approved resolutions appointing four faculty members to endowed professorships or fellowships; six individuals were honored with emerita or emeritus status; and 92 faculty research leaves were approved. Individual stories on Giovanni, the professorship and fellowship appointments, and emerita/emeritus honors will be published in Virginia Tech News.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors will be June 5-6 in Blacksburg. More information on the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors may be found online.

Share this story