Faculty and staff from disciplines across the College of Engineering are working together to advance the college’s strategic plan — one idea at a time.

The new College of Engineering Dean’s Fellows Program will help a broad set of individuals better understand how to take a project from ideation through implementation within the context of the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech. 

The program will explore topics such as leadership style, personal interests and strengths, the decision-making environment at Virginia Tech, and budget processes and considerations within the college. Fellows also will learn how projects and institutional change can happen effectively while working within a set of institution-specific constraints.

Each year’s fellows will focus on an overarching theme that integrates with key goals and tactics of the college’s strategic plan. The first cohort will concentrate on graduate education, offering support to the college’s PROTEGE initiative, which seeks to align processes and support students in the engineering graduate program.

Developing leaders and unifying diverse voices

The college hopes to generate positive change through the program while also improving retention for its mid-career faculty and staff. 

Julie Ross, the Paul and Dorothea Torgersen Dean of Engineering, developed the program with the goal of creating a sense of community for faculty and staff who are interested in creating real, positive change.

“When people feel empowered within organizations where they have an opportunity to influence its future, they are more likely to be happy and want to remain involved moving forward," said Ross. "I am looking forward to seeing how this cohort tackles the idea of improving the graduate education experience."

This new program is spearheaded by the College of Engineering’s Dean’s Office. The program will be led by Ross, along with Holly Matusovich and David Knight. Matusovich is associate dean for graduate and professional studies, and Knight is special assistant to the dean for strategic plan implementation.

The cohort approach will facilitate a community of practice and mentoring model with frequent feedback for fellows on their project ideas.

The inaugural cohort features 16 members representing 12 departments and units across the college: 

“I wholeheartedly believe there are better ways to support graduate students beyond the status quo, but understand that enacting change requires knowing which levers to push and when,” said Lee, assistant department head for graduate programs. “My hope for this program is to learn more about the levers that aren’t so easily seen by the typical faculty member.”

Transforming graduate education

Projects in this first year will integrate with activities of the PROTEGE Collective, a National Science Foundation-funded institutional capacity building effort recently awarded to the College of Engineering. PROTEGE stands for Partnerships and Research on the Equity of Graduate Education in Engineering. 

The collective aims to change the graduate engineering education system by connecting, integrating, and improving numerous processes in addition to providing support for graduate students.

By aligning the theme with this broader effort, the first cohort of fellows will advance strategic goals related to graduate students:  

  • Recruiting top talent from a diverse population to lead tomorrow’s workforce
  • Developing and retaining talent 
  • Fostering an inclusive culture that supports a healthy work-life balance
  • Growing and diversifying revenue streams
  • Offering world-class, affordable educational experience at scale
  • Expanding the college's reputation nationally and internationally
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