To the Virginia Tech community,

I don’t think I have ever welcomed fall with more enthusiasm, and from what I’m seeing around campus, you feel the same. Earlier this summer ,we had reason to believe that the pandemic would subside by now, but despite the resurgence driven by the delta variant, we are now much better prepared for a full in-person experience than we were a year ago. The difference is the availability of safe and effective vaccines. I’d like to thank all of our students, employees, and community members who are now fully vaccinated. Currently, 94 percent of our students and 82 percent of our employees – more than 90 percent of our entire population - have reported receiving their final dose. With our recent decision to require vaccinations for employees as well as students, our vaccination rate will be well beyond almost any community of our size in the country, and that will allow us to participate in the in-person experiences that Hokies value.

That’s not to say that we are in a bubble. Our campuses are open, and we continue to engage in the communities we serve. Our modeling indicates that we must remain vigilant, especially at the start of the semester when our experience shows that infections are likely to spike. We owe it to those in our larger community who are immunocompromised or who cannot yet be vaccinated to wear face coverings in indoor public spaces and in instructional settings until we see infection rates on our campuses and in the surrounding communities drop to moderate levels. We also have a personal responsibility to avoid poorly ventilated spaces with people we do not know, and if we must pass through those spaces, to wear a face covering.

In addition, I’m thankful for the dedicated Virginia Tech employees who worked over the summer to prepare our campuses for an in-person experience. Let’s show our appreciation by following the guidelines and supporting the in-person experience they worked so hard to facilitate.

If you have not been on our Blacksburg campus this summer, you may be surprised by the number of construction projects underway. The North Academic District is, admittedly, a construction zone. From the Global Business and Analytics Complex, to the Multi-modal Transit Facility, to the Virginia Tech Foundation’s Gilbert Street project, the Prices Fork Road edge of campus is being transformed.

The newly completed Creativity and Innovation District Residence Hall is another extraordinary addition to our living-learning capacity, and the Upper Quad, home of the Corps of Cadets, is undergoing the next phase of its transformation. The Holden Hall project is taking shape, a critical step for the College of Engineering.

Loading player for

You will have noticed the sky-blue pipes being installed everywhere on campus. This efficient chilled water distribution system is a step forward in our Climate Action Commitment. Needless to say, this is an exciting time to be on campus! If you are a student beginning your first year, you will likely see all of these projects completed during your time here. Though charting paths around construction can be inconvenient, between this year’s capped enrollment and a hybrid workforce, campus traffic may be lighter than was typical before the pandemic.

Exciting things are also happening at our campuses across the commonwealth. Construction on the first academic building on the Innovation Campus in Alexandria is scheduled to begin in September. This fall, the Fralin Biomedical Research Center at VTC will celebrate the opening of its new addition on the Virginia Tech Carilion Health Sciences and Technology Campus in Roanoke and the opening of a biomedical research facility on the Children’s National Hospital Research and Innovation Campus in Washington, D.C.

We are also pleased to welcome another academically strong entering class, diverse in every dimension, and committed to our motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve). And we are looking forward to providing a proper belated welcome to everyone who joined Virginia Tech during the pandemic, including last fall’s entering cohort.

This fall we kick off our celebration of Virginia Tech’s sesquicentennial, 150 years since our doors opened as Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College in 1872. While we will be reflecting on our past and celebrating the present, we will be focused on our Beyond Boundaries future. Virginia Tech’s roots are mature, but we are also a young institution, becoming a comprehensive public research university only in 1970. As a result, we have a wonderful balance of tradition and vibrancy.

We are an institution that embraces change, works easily across boundaries, and readily engages the communities we serve. In the coming years, we have an opportunity to become a leading global land-grant research university with a commitment to transformational research, authentic engagement with partners across all sectors, and a model for inclusive and experiential education. I invite all Hokies – students, faculty, staff, alumni, partners, and friends – to participate in this celebration and conversation through the end of 2022.

Have a wonderful fall semester.  Be committed. Be well. Go Hokies!

Tim Sands,

Share this story