In an effort to develop an institutional philosophy for advancing graduate education and a strategic approach to growing enrollment in degree and professional programs, the Graduate Strategic Enrollment Planning Committee has worked over the past several months to prepare and present recommendations for enhancing these opportunities at Virginia Tech and for university partners.

Under the leadership of the Division of Enrollment Management and through a charge from the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost, the committee developed a proposal document that details the current opportunity landscape for master's-level programs and helps Virginia Tech determine how best to fulfill its institutional commitments and address the growing need for talent in Virginia and across the nation.

The proposal also establishes the committee’s vision for advancing professionally oriented graduate programs and recommendations for integrating strategies with existing university enrollment and resource allocation plans and policies.

“The demand for more graduates in professionally oriented degrees and credentials is growing in Virginia and across the nation,” said Luisa Havens Gerardo, vice provost for Enrollment Management. “Virginia Tech is well positioned to increase enrollments in existing programs and develop new credentials that serve this demand well.”

According to Virginia Tech’s Beyond Boundaries strategic vision, the goal for master's-level enrollment is 4,550 by 2024. To date, enrollment is just over 3,900 — up from 3,400 in 2020 — with much of the growth coming from the professionally oriented Master of Engineering program in the Department of Computer Science. Companies across all industries are turning to Virginia Tech for talent to improve outcomes, solve societal problems, and create innovative systems and processes.

“Further development of professionally oriented graduate programs will contribute substantially to the workforce needed to grow our economy,” said Executive Vice President and Provost Cyril Clarke. “It will also expand access of students to valuable skills and knowledge and advance the global reputation of the university. I am grateful for the collaborative work of the committee members and their focus on aligning our program development and recruitment strategies with the professional interests of students and outcomes that enable them to grow and advance in their careers.”

Under Havens Gerardo’s leadership, individual working groups were formed to assess and report on marketing and recruitment strategies, academic program support and development, institutional data, enrollment systems and processes, and budget and funding. Since the fall of 2022, these groups have met regularly to analyze existing resources and activities and share insights in order to help the executive committee better understand the potential for growth of existing professionally oriented programs and the need to strategically expand the university’s graduate program portfolio.

Recommendations from the working groups and the executive committee have been forwarded to Clarke, and they establish the framework needed to create a centralized service unit to support growth in these degree programs and the development of new programs. Through best practices and strategic investments, the recommended structure engages expertise that already exists in units such as the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, Technology-enhanced Learning and Online Strategies, and Continuing and Professional Education.

With guidance from State Council of Higher Education for Virginia liaisons and the budget office, the Graduate Strategic Enrollment Planning Committee will continue its work throughout 2023 with input from deans, program directors, and university leadership.

“The core strategy of incremental growth in existing programs and development of new professionally oriented credentials will allow the academic portfolio of Virginia Tech to expand in a very deliberate manner,” said Havens Gerardo. “As a result, we will accelerate Virginia Tech’s ability to produce more market-ready professionals and meet the demand of employers everywhere.”

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