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Beyond Blacksburg: Computer Science and the Innovation Campus

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Category: academics Video duration: Beyond Blacksburg: Computer Science and the Innovation Campus
Cal Ribbens hosts current Master of Engineering student, Grace Knudsen, and Vice President and Executive Director of Innovation Campus, Lance Collins to share their perspectives on the new Innovation Campus.
Good evening. Welcome from Blacksburg. I'm Cal Ribbens, the department head and computer science. And we're particularly grateful for those that are joining us tonight for this event that we've entitled Beyond Blacksburg: Computer Science and the Innovation Campus. So thank you for joining us. Our agenda tonight is really just to hear some details around the exciting project and prospect that we're launching soon known as the Innovation Campus and Alexandra, Virginia. But as you'll hear tonight, we're already getting started in many ways in planning and in offering new programs and in anticipating the real game changer that this, that this initiative is all about. So welcome, thank you for joining a special welcome to our alum's that are with us tonight. As I hope you know where this is really part of our 50th anniversary celebration that we've been experiencing and that we've been celebrating for the last semester especially, but really all this year. The department was founded back in 1970 and so for the last year we've been kinda reflecting on that, looking back at some of the exciting things that have happened over those 50 years in computer science and computer science at Virginia Tech. Looking at some of the things that are happening now. And then tonight we're kind of turning our eye to the future and talking about probably the most exciting thing that's going on in our department right now. As many of you know, it isn't exciting time, a lot of growth, a lot of amazing opportunity to have impact and to educate great students. But the topic tonight, the Innovation Campus, is really at the top of the list of the exciting initiatives that we're engaged in right now. So that's what this is about. Our agenda tonight is really just to hear more about that, to hear about some of the new things that are emerging. We're working very busily already on things like hiring and planning a new building and new programming and a new degree, a Masters of Engineering in Computer Science. That's going to be really one of the feature degrees at the new Innovation Campus. So what we're gonna do tonight is that we have one of our current students with us. So I'm going to introduce Grace Knudsen here in just a second. And she's just going to share a few of her thoughts about her first year in the program. She's been with us now for a couple of semesters and she'll be taking another course this summer. And Grace is a busy person. She has a full-time job with the federal government. She has a degree in Chemical Engineering from Purdue University in 2018. And she's been working for the government for the last few years and she started the program here in the fall. So let me turn it over to Grace and she's going to share just a few of her thoughts and experiences from this past year. Grace. Thank you so much for that lovely introduction. Good evening everybody again, my name is Grace Knudsen, and I wanted to spend a few minutes talking about what Virginia Tech Innovation Campus has really given me in the last year before we turn it over to the next part of our program tonight. So when I was accepted into this program in the spring of 2020, I didn't not have extensive coding experience and I did not work in anything close to Tech. I graduated from a chemical engineering program that really taught me a lot about math and physics and chemistry. But very little about how even simple Python scripts or big data could be useful in a traditional engineering world. This program was definitely a little daunting and represented a pretty big change in my life from a traditional engineering field to a more innovative and tech driven industry that I was really eager to jump into and and I still am. So I spent last May and June. It's hard to believe that was already a year ago now. But I spent that time reading Java for dummies and in teaching myself the basics. But then I completed a prerequisite course in July through Virginia Tech. And by the time I completed last fall semester, the fall 2020 semester, which was my first in the Masters of Engineering Program. I was really shocked at how much I had learned in such a short amount of time. I went from learning how to download an IDE on my computer to coding more complex data structures in about six months. And that is definitely thanks to the excellent curriculum and the professors that I've had here in the program. But as Cal kinda mentioned, this program has definitely given me a challenge. While I've been managing a full-time job, I've been balancing classes and work for the last year. And it definitely takes a lot of good time management skills and a dedication to cutting yourself off at 40 hours of work a week, which I recognize is not always possible. And it definitely was not always possible for me either. This last year has definitely been a great lesson in setting boundaries, whether that's been at work or in my social life in order to make room for this big time commitment. That is my master's program. And the way that I have kind of thought about it for the last year is that I've been keeping a lot of different balls in the air. And it's really up to me to know which ones are glass and which ones are rubber, and how to keep those glass ones aloft. I also think I would be remiss if I didn't talk a little bit about the change, the entire world went through with the coronavirus pandemic. And what that meant to my experience at the Innovation Campus and kind of what the Innovation Campus is today. So obviously, it is a very privileged position to still be employed and to take time and money to enroll in a graduate program. I'm very thankful for that. Unfortunately, I've not been able to have in-person classes at the Falls Church Campus, which has somewhat constrained my ability to connect with other students and form study groups. But what this program has lacked in that intangible on-campus value, in my opinion, has more than made up for with the added flexibility of virtual classes. I have no commute to class. I don't have to sit in DC traffic. And I can often choose to work on class content on my own schedule. And I really hope that even post-pandemic, Virginia Tech is able to maintain some of that flexible mentality for its students. Particularly since Innovation Campus is geared towards working students like me or part-time students who are trying to pick up new skills. Finally, I want to just touch on what the future looks like going forward after graduating, which will hopefully be a year from approximately now. This program has definitely shown me that the tech world is very wide and very varied. I actually ended up switching my intent in concentration from computers security to software engineering because of how much I've been loving my coding intensive classes. And I'm really looking forward to a career in tech after completing this program. And I can't thank you enough for providing program that is so affordable, so approachable and flexible to make that happen. With that, I think I'm just going to hand it over to the next part of our program. But thank you again, and I'm happy to answer any questions once we get to the Q&A session. Perfect. Thanks very much, Grace. We really appreciate those comments. And I should've said earlier that we absolutely do welcome questions or comments from you all. There's a Q&A tool that you can put those in and we'll probably marshal those up and and kinda go through them at the end. So if you have a question for Grace or for our featured speaker. So next I want to introduce Dr. Lance Collins So Lance joined Virginia Tech last fall and he is the Inaugural Vice President and Executive Director of the Innovation Campus. Dr. Collins comes to us most recently from a decade as, as dean of engineering at Cornell University. And has a very long list of accomplishments and accolades. And I will not take ten minutes of his time and go through that long list. But I will embarrass him to say that I think the most recent thing that we've heard about is that he was recently named to the, to the National Academy of Engineering, which is a, which is a big deal. And so we're really excited for Lance and that accolade as well. So Dr. Collins is, he's the guy - he has an exciting vision and he's been working furiously speaking a busy people with lots of balls in the air to kind of capture this moment and help launch it into the future. And so we're working very closely with him to see how that all rolls out. And so we've invited Lance to share some of his vision and then take some questions regarding the Innovation Campus. Please. Thank you so much, Cal, that's a great introduction. And Grace, that was terrific. And I was taking notes while you were making recommendations for the Innovation Campus. Thank you for that. It's an exciting time for Virginia Tech and for the for the creation and subsets of a campus. It's a rare event,