To the Virginia Tech community,

Welcome to fall semester 2023! Laura and I enjoy seeing the university come alive again every August. While many Hokies were away, our research, engagement and instructional activities continued, as did preparations for the new academic year. Thank you to everyone who worked through the summer, with a special shout-out to those engaged in construction and maintenance, preparing our residence halls and dining operations, beautifying our campus grounds, and improving accessibility.

To our new students, we’re glad you’re here and look forward to meeting you. You and your classmates are arriving at an exciting time. I know you will enjoy the spacious and engaging Quillen Spirit Plaza and associated renovations to Dietrick Hall. The new Corps Leadership and Military Science Building and Upper Quad Residence Hall are open. Our Cook Counseling Center has relocated to a new building with more resources, and the first of our new academic buildings in the North Academic District, the Data and Decision Sciences building, is now open.

Construction can create logistical challenges, and we are still navigating ongoing work in the Perry Street area. The results will far outweigh the inconvenience when the fences begin coming down and we open Hitt Hall, a new dining facility, the Undergraduate Science Laboratory Building, new accessibility elevators, and the Multi-modal Transit Facility over the next year. These new spaces for living, learning, and connecting all support our vision to provide a high-quality educational experience that prepares students for a lifetime of success and well-being.

And while physical infrastructure is important, our people and the strength of our community makes us Virginia Tech. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the explicit consideration of race in admissions. This does not diminish our commitment to inclusion and diversity through InclusiveVT. Virginia Tech must strive to serve all communities including those historically underrepresented. If you have been part of Virginia Tech for a decade or longer, you have seen our community become much more diverse in many dimensions. This diversity expands the pool of talent we can attract and prepares all our students with essential cultural competencies, enhancing their ability to work and lead collaboratively in a world that is in great need of their talents and passions.

To take full advantage of our growing diversity and advance as a community, we must continue developing the ability to engage in civil discourse across differences in a supportive environment that promotes free expression and academic freedom. Our partnership with the Constructive Dialogue Institute along with other programs currently underway will prepare Hokies to take the lead in bridging the divides that trouble our society, and overcome obstacles that prevent us from reaching our true potential.

One primary obstacle impacting the success of our students, especially those from underrepresented or underserved backgrounds, is money. Tuition moderation funds from the commonwealth, which we greatly appreciate, have helped Virginia Tech keep tuition growth rates well below inflation over the past five years. Nevertheless, financial need prevents many of our students from enjoying the benefits of a full Virginia Tech experience, including paid internships, study abroad, research, and involvement in student organizations. Without these experiences, students miss the opportunity to develop important skills and networks. We aim to change this through the Virginia Tech Advantage,  and I encourage you to learn more about this important initiative.

The Virginia Tech Advantage brings us closer to the spirit of our land-grant charter as will our efforts to advance Virginia Tech into the top-100 global research universities. Bringing talent and partners to Virginia is central to our role of service to the commonwealth and only possible if we continue to grow the impact and reach of our research and innovation mission. Progress in the health sciences, our Innovation Campus in the greater Washington, D.C., metro area, support for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, and our investments in faculty through Research Frontiers, institutes, and Destination Areas all contribute to our building momentum.

We have so many reasons to be proud of our university and its future (in a humble Hokie sort of way). As Nikki Giovanni said in 2007, “We are better than we think, and not quite what we want to be.”

Time to start jumping!

Go Hokies!

Tim Sands,

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