Virginia Tech’s new Data and Decision Sciences Building has opened its doors to students, faculty, staff, and industry professionals ready to tackle some of the world’s most pressing data challenges. Completed in the summer, the 120,000-gross-square-foot facility houses multiple colleges including the Pamplin College of Business, College of Engineering, and College of Science.

Located on the corner of Prices Fork Road and West Campus Drive on the Blacksburg campus, the Hokie Stone-clad building designed in the collegiate gothic architecture expression brings together students from a variety of disciplines to meet the demands of commercial and government organizations that need employees with strong data analytics and quantitative research skills.

Transdisciplinary teaching and learning is at the center of the building’s design. At four stories, the building supports 75 faculty offices and graduate student workspaces, 32 student team rooms, nine flexible classrooms, data collaboration hubs, and analytics labs. Collaboration zones are dispersed throughout the building to encourage productive collisions among occupants. 

“Teamwork, close coordination, and effective stewardship of resources lie at the heart of this project’s success,” said Dwyn Taylor, assistant vice president for capital construction. “The building’s designer, Moseley Architects, and contractor Kjellstrom and Lee delivered a beautiful facility that generations of Hokies will be able to enjoy and utilize for years to come.”

The Data and Decision Sciences Building helps facilitate cross-college collaborations. For example, the College of Science’s presence in the building provides an opportunity to bring experts from the Academy of Data Science together with the College of Engineering and the Pamplin College of Business. Academically, the academy houses the Computational Modeling and Data Analytics Undergraduate Program and a master’s degree in applied data science will launch in fall 2024, pending final approval from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.

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Hub for collaboration

In addition to its educational mission, the Academy of Data Science was also envisioned as a hub for collaboration between the College of Science and other Virginia Tech colleges and institutes to develop new data science methodologies and applications. So far, this collaboration has included the support of academic research through funding opportunities and faculty fellowships along with the design of the new master’s degree – a joint effort with the College of Engineering that also features elective courses from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Natural Resources and Environment.

“Synergies in data science across disciplines are abundant and growing,” said Kevin Pitts, dean of the College of Science. “This physical space will help bring people together from different disciplines, and we are excited to see how we can further capitalize on our campuswide efforts in areas related to big data.” 

The Pamplin College of Business also sees these benefits of cross-college collaboration. With 25 faculty members relocated to the new facility as well as the Pamplin Center for Business Analytics and the faculty who specialize in security, privacy, and trust research and practice, such as cybersecurity, one of the college’s pillars, the opportunities for cross-discipline work in these fields in the building’s lab and collaboration hubs are considerable.

Multi-level commons area filled with different seating options to foster collaboration. Photo by Noah Alderman for Virginia Tech.
The Deloitte Foundation Virginia Tech Alumni Trading Analytics Lab in Memory of Jon Taillon and Angel Vaccaro. Photo by Noah Alderman for Virginia Tech.

Feeding the tech talent pipeline

The Data and Decision Sciences Building also provides new and innovative spaces for the College of Engineering. Several faculty from the Department of Computer Science have offices located in the building, along with labs and classrooms that allow students to experience and interact with the latest computational technologies. The new visualization lab features a high-resolution power wall with multi-touch functionality. Coupled with SAGE3 software developed by researchers in the Sanghani Center for Artificial Intelligence and Data Analytics under a $5 million dollar National Science Foundation grant, the high-resolution screen enables the display and organization of large amounts of media, data analytics, and visualizations.

The new building also will enable expansion of computer science enrollment and increased hiring of faculty members in support of Virginia’s Tech Talent Investment Program.

“Our students are very familiar with interdisciplinary collaboration as part of their curriculum,” said Julie Ross, the Paul and Dorothea Torgersen Dean of Engineering. “The unique features of data and decision sciences take that interdisciplinary approach to the next level by exposing students to big data computation in collaboration with universities across the country, and even across the globe in real time.”

Classroom space. Photo by Noah Alderman for Virginia Tech.
Flexible conference room. Photo by Noah Alderman for Virginia Tech.

Global Business and Analytics Complex coming to life

The Data and Decision Sciences Building is part of a multi-facility solution known as the Global Business and Analytics Complex to meet the demands for a modernized learning environment and to accommodate the exponential growth of faculty and students within Pamplin College of Business. The Data and Decision Sciences Building will connect to a second academic building – known as the New Business Building – that will house a fully relocated business school. This facility is currently under design. Also part of the Global Business and Analytics Complex will be two living-learning communities anticipated to be located in the proposed Student Life Village.

The Global Business and Analytics Complex will be known for delivering an innovative educational model that keeps pace with the digital revolution through talent production – both undergraduate and graduate – and transdisciplinary research, fueling the pipeline to key economic regions. With a state-of-the-art learning environment, Virginia Tech can become a leader in business education in the next decade by preparing students to be technologically proficient, to work collaboratively on multidisciplinary teams, and to adopt an entrepreneurial mindset to solve complex challenges in business and society.

“It is inspiring to begin my tenure as dean of Pamplin College of Business in conjunction with the opening of the Data and Decision Sciences Building, the first of the two academic buildings that are part of the vision for the Global Business and Analytics Complex,” said Saonee Sarker, Richard E. Sorensen Dean of the Pamplin College of Business. “The further integration of all business disciplines with computer science and the College of Science will provide the kind of learning environment our faculty and students require in this era of big data and complex problems. This project will improve our already strong reputation for leadership in analytics and decision sciences and ensure responsible digitalization practices.”

Data and Decision Sciences Building from West Campus Drive. Photo by Noah Alderman for Virginia Tech.
Data and Decision Sciences Building from Prices Fork Road. Photo by Noah Alderman for Virginia Tech.
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