A Plan for a New Horizon: Envisioning Virginia Tech, 2012-2018

An updated draft of A Plan for a New Horizon: Envisioning Virginia Tech, 2012-2018 is now available.

DRAFT, A Plan for a New Horizon: Envisioning Virginia Tech, 2012-2018

This draft synthesizes the work of the Presidential Task Force over the past twelve months and incorporates much of the feedback provided by members of the Virginia Tech community on previous drafts.

Thoughts, comments, and suggestions on the preliminary draft are welcome and may be submitted to the Office of Long Range Planning through the “Leave a Reply” textbox below. Please note that comments submitted through this blog may be posted and made available to the public.

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6 Responses to A Plan for a New Horizon: Envisioning Virginia Tech, 2012-2018

  1. Deborah S. Hamilton says:

    Congratulations on the many hours of diligent work that went into creating this important document. However with the exception of maintaining the base Commonwealth of VA funding, I note that there is no mention of how any of these goals are to be funded. Would it not be prudent to include a section focusing on systematic and strategic fund development toward the specific target goals and objectives? Thanks!

  2. On behalf of the Members of the Office of Energy and Sustainability I want to offer our congratulations for an absolutely magnificant preliminary draft. We especially applaud your team for the many references to “sustainability” throughout the document, and for showcasing “The Virginia Tech Climate Action Commitment and Sustainability Plan” in the “Becoming a Destingation Campus: The Virginia Tech Experience.” This is a powerful statement and so much appreciated. Well done!

  3. Eugene F. Brown says:

    While the Plan recommends a second major or minor program in the humanities, social sciences, or arts to students in engineering and science, when it comes to students in the humanities, social sciences, or arts, there is a curious lack of parallelism. The report recommends to such students a second major or minor program with the only stipulation that “the discipline has a sufficiently different emphasis.” While I am sure that a case could be made for English majors having a second major in art history, for example, is there a good reason why the report would not specifically recommend to such students a second major or minor program in engineering or science?

  4. scase says:

    I’m glad to see the liberal education thinking move beyond simply taking a choose “two from this area” and “two from this other area” approach. However, I am curious to see what would be acceptable beyond combinations of majors and minors. For engineering students, I can’t imagine a way in which a major + minor would not increase the time to graduation. (The current area approach requires 13 credit hours that are not specified in my major in order to meet CLE requirements; a minor would require at least 18 hours. How can that not increase time to graduation?)

    I also get very sensitive to statements that say “every student,” so in this case the requirement that “every student would then take fundamental courses in English/communications and computational science/mathematics” caught my attention. What if programs wish to weave these topics into a number of courses within the discipline, without requiring separate courses? Would this be acceptable, particularly if the aggregate exceeds that which would be covered in a single course?

  5. Douglas Lindner says:

    As we Invent the Future, the university community is working to provide solutions to today’s challenges to create a future that allows all members of society to live to their full potential. There is a very broad spectrum of challenges facing us from energy to sustainability to healthcare (to name a couple). Science and technology are leading the way in providing technical solutions these challenges. To realize the full benefit of these technological innovations, they must be integrated into our society. In fact, many of these challenges remain because the implementation of existing technological solutions has lagged the utilization of these solutions. To realize the full potential of innovation in the science and technology, we should investigate a holistic approach to a broad spectrum of current challenges. We note that the current emphasis on sustainability is a step in this direction.

    In the final analysis, all words and actions originate with the individual. It is the words and actions of individuals that create our institutions and that will meet the challenges of modern society. The implementation of innovations in science and technology occur through the words and actions of individuals. Using an integrative approach to investigate the intersection of individual behavior and science and technology will provide fresh solutions to the challenges of modern society. A starting point for this type of investigation can be found in a wide variety of mind body practices like contemplative and mindfulness meditation, movement practices like taiji and yoga, creative practices using art, deep listening, etc. We note that the investigation of mind body practices is well underway in Integrative Medicine, a combination of Allopathic Medicine and Alternative and Complementary Medicine. Through integration of the mind-body practices into the university community, VA Tech will be Inventing the Future by setting out a broad, interdisciplinary, and translational research curriculum with profound implications for health, education, and the integration of innovations in science and technology into modern society.

    A wealth of mind body practices has been developed in other cultures. Some these practices are well developed with sophisticated philosophies what explain how they work. There is a great opportunity to establish the effectiveness of these practices through evidence-based research and to integrate them into the university. Mind body practices will have an impact on many aspects of academia including health and healthcare, educational practices including life-long learning and the integration of creativity with science and technology, the relationship of the human with the environment, the development of life cycle skills, and the health and well being of the university community itself. Elevating research in this innovative area of mind body practices would be eminently fundable, translational across of a variety of disciplines, and forward thinking in terms of its global focus.

    This research will have an impact on traditional healthcare and it will impact concepts and practices of public health. Many, if not most, major medical schools incorporate research and teaching of alternative and complementary medicine. Even so, we note that a huge percentage of the general public in the US is using alternative healthcare on a regular basis, so university research is lagging public practice. Mind body practices address medical issue arising from lifestyle choices, so developing these practices for the general public could have a dramatic long-term impact in the cost of healthcare.

    Mind body practices directly related to working with the mind can have a direct impact on student performance in the classroom that would carry over into lifelong learning skills. There is already underway a significant movement in higher education (and K-12) toward contemplative education. The university should engage in a significant effort to develop contemplative practices as an integral part of university education. We note that THE common component in the university curriculum is the training of the mind. Yet, the university mostly ignores those practices that are basic training for the functioning of a healthy mind. (We would never field a football team that did not engage in physical training.)

    The integration of these practices into university life will provide a foundation for health and wellness in daily living leading to resilience in the institution. In a recent cultural development, the current student population, broadly speaking, is experiencing levels of stress beyond the stress experienced in years past. This stress originates in the very high levels of expectation for professional achievement, increased workloads, increased emphasis of financial aspects, etc. This stress is affecting their ability to function in the classroom as well as beyond. Mind body practices provide a coping mechanism for the daily pressures of university life. The students could then carry their skills into the lives as they enter into the workforce and throughout their life.

    Another common component across the curriculum is creativity. Contemplative education can enhance creativity through the training of the individual skills independent of subject matter. The development of contemplative education (and mind body practices in general) would provide a vehicle for the integration of creative practice across the university. An increased emphasis on creativity represents a shift away for vocationally oriented training to an emphasis on the student ability to express themselves uniquely in the changing environments encountered throughout their working lives. Creativity is the essence of Inventing the Future, through education, research, and service.

    • Marc Junkunc says:

      In one of his famous poems T.S. Eliot asks, “Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”

      The “Invent the Future” connection made here by the poster is so appropriate. Given the increasing complexity and specialization of knowledge it is astute to consider that greater mindfulness will be necessary to continue successful and productive innovation through science and discovery, as well as the business application of such through entrepreneurship. There is a clear connection between mindfulness and creativity, and hence entrepreneurship, innovation and technology. A perfect contemporary example could be the success of Steve Jobs with Apple Computer. Mindfulness, as much as science, technology and business, is an important factor in successful entrepreneurship in society, not to mention socially responsible innovation and entrepreneurship. To be on the cutting edge in these domains VT will benefit from incorporating mindfulness training along the way.

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