Thanks for the Enter Sandman Intro!  I did not know what I was walking into when I was introduced exactly 6 months ago, but I’ve decided to roll (or better yet, jump) with it.

By the way, am I correct in assuming that if I say “Let’s Go” and then pause, you will return with “Hokies”?  Great.

Laura and I would like to thank you for the warm Hokie welcome we have received.

As I explained six months ago, and mentioned again in my recent letter to the Virginia Tech community, I sincerely believe that this is Virginia Tech’s Century.  I’d like to elaborate on my letter here, with a focus on strengths and opportunities.  We’ll have plenty of time to address the challenges we all face in the weeks and months ahead.

I say that this is Virginia Tech’s century because Virginia Tech’s past has prepared the institution to be ready for this moment.  The traditional Land-Grant missions of 1) preparing students from the full range of life experiences to participate in a democracy, and 2) contributing as an institution to the economic development of the State, have never been more relevant than they are today.  Over the course of generations, Virginia Tech has preserved and grown its strengths in agriculture and engineering, and Virginia Tech has maintained the comprehensive set of programs in the Liberal Arts that is needed to prepare the Commonwealth’s citizens to contribute to our democracy.  So many other institutions, public and private, started or drifted one way or the other as the fashion dictated.  Virginia Tech, while evolving, stayed the course.  It is this balance that is now needed in the New River Valley, the Commonwealth of Virginia, the United States and the World.

The balance is fragile, however, if the disciplines are not woven together so that every mission of the university, discovery, learning and engagement, can draw upon the full palette of knowledge and expertise.  What important problem can be solved only by engineers who are trained only in engineering, or by poets who have mastered only poetry? 

Cybersecurity?  No...we need ethics, public policy, computer science and a host of other disciplines. 

Global food security?  No…we need agronomy, epigenetics, food science, nutrition, politics, international relations… and more.

Resilient communities?  No…we need public policy, engineering, land management, economics…and, as I have learned from Nikki Giovanni, every really big problem needs a poet!

Not only are individual subject matter experts needed at the table, the individual contributors must each have broad enough exposure across the disciplines to be able to communicate effectively with each other.   Preparing those “T”-shaped individuals is central to Virginia Tech’s mission.

Under President Steger’s leadership, Virginia Tech has taken great steps toward building this fabric at Virginia Tech.  The Institutes are visible examples….and while they must be in balance with strong disciplines to be effective, these Institutes position Virginia Tech at the frontier of knowledge and engagement.

I could have arrived at the analysis above without ever meeting a Hokie.  If I had stopped there, I would have missed the truly distinctive characteristic of Virginia Tech and its people.  The motto, Ut Prosim or “that I may serve,” is embodied in every Hokie we have met. 

In 1896 when the motto was adopted, Ut Prosim reflected the commitment of the Corps of Cadets to serve this nation by keeping it secure.  The corps also represented the “military tactic” imperative of the Land Grant Act.  As Virginia Tech has evolved, so has the scope of the commitment to service.  With the Corps still central to the service mission, the commitment to serve is now a call to serve humanity from everyday interactions with individuals to service on a global scale. 

While we demonstrate our commitment in the Big Event, the Relay for Life, and hundreds of other projects across the university, the primary function of Virginia Tech is to prepare each member of the next generation of Hokies to serve at the highest level of their potential, raising their aspirations and lowering barriers as they develop the skills and attain the knowledge necessary to make a positive impact on the human condition.

You might think that many universities could claim the same, but a commitment to serve is a strong filter on who joins our community and how they make decisions about the trajectories of their lives and their careers.  This is truly a transcendent characteristic of Virginia Tech and its people. It impacts our research portfolio, the connection between us and our alumni, and our ability to attract talented students, faculty and staff.

Of course, Virginia Tech must continue to strive to be better still.  Together, I ask that we make the following commitments:

To inclusive excellence – bringing every voice to the table, and making sure that our students can engage those whose life experiences are much different than their own;

To enhancing the value of a Virginia Tech education, by looking for every opportunity to eliminate unnecessary expenditures while continuing to invest prudently in student success, so that any Virginia resident who is prepared for Virginia Tech has an opportunity to earn a Virginia Tech degree, regardless of family income;

To continuing the drive to establish Virginia Tech among the nation’s leading research universities, not just in research expenditures, but in impact and influence as well;

To competing successfully nationally and globally in attracting and retaining talent – by compensating appropriately, but even more important, by creating an environment where talented individuals can fulfill their dreams;

To translating our discoveries into impactful products, services and policies, by removing barriers and bringing resources to our innovative faculty, students and staff;  

To leveraging Virginia Tech’s presence throughout the state, from the main campus in Blacksburg, to a growing footprint in the National Capital Region, to Extension offices and facilities in every county in the Commonwealth, to our facilities and programs overseas;

So while it is clear that there is much work to be done and there are many daunting challenges ahead, I am convinced that there is absolutely no better platform than Virginia Tech from which to make a permanent and transformative impact on humanity. LET’S GO <<Hokies>>! Let’s go invent the future!

Contact the President

Office of the President
Burruss Hall, Suite 210
800 Drillfield Drive
Blacksburg, VA 24061

E-mail: president@vt.edu

Phone: 540-231-6231