Lance Collins, vice president and executive director of the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus, gave a keynote address Jan. 18 at the Inclusive Engineering Consortium’s (IEC) EquiTECH 2022, a forum dedicated to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within the tech ecosystem. EquiTECH 2022, held in a complementary virtual format, brought together industry leaders, historically minority-serving institutions (MSIs), and research-intensive institutions to foster collaboration.

EquiTECH 2022 focused specifically on the critical issues of mentoring, retaining diverse quality talent, creating equitable partnerships between industry and academia, building community between leading technology companies and minority serving institutions, and influencing the future of DEI.

The program took place over two days - Jan. 18 and 20 - with Collins’ keynote kicking off the conference. John Kelly, vice president of the IEC and a professor in the ECE Department at North Carolina State University, introduced Collins, highlighting his recent election to the National Academy of Engineering. Collins gave an overview of the Innovation Campus and the role that diversity and inclusion plays within it.

“This is a new campus, and diversity and inclusion is something we are building into it right from the onset,” Collins said. “We are training students to work effectively across difference. The campus is designed to be a safe practice space for our students to develop the leadership and professional skills that will enable them to be agents of change in the workforce.”

Virginia Tech broke ground on Academic Building One for the Innovation Campus in Alexandria, Virginia, in September 2021. The Innovation Campus has set the goal – as stated in its Strategic Plan – to be the most diverse graduate tech program in the country.

In addition to discussing the role of the Innovation Campus in contributing to a more diverse and equitable industry, Collins answered EquiTECH 2022 attendees’ questions about how the campus will impact pathways to higher education.

“Our success is inextricably linked to success at the K-12 level,” he said. “We are starting with a modular program at the Alexandria City Public Schools that can eventually be duplicated with other school districts.”

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