Strategy 2. Foster synergies between research institutes and academic departments.

If we can create greater synergies to better integrate our research institutes with our traditional academic mission, we can create more research opportunities for faculty and students, improve Ph.D. student recruitment, increase Ph.D. production, and enhance our curricular breadth and teaching quality.

Almost one-third of Virginia Tech’s research expenditures now come through the large centers and institutes, and over one-quarter of Virginia Tech’s faculty members are research faculty. This is a tremendous resource that is under-utilized in our current environment.  If we could develop systemic changes that provided incentives for faculty and students to work and learn across traditional organizational boundaries there would be tremendous benefits, including:

  • Increased student exposure to highly interdisciplinary research opportunities
  • Increased student exposure to industrial and government sponsors
  • Increased funding for graduate students; thus increasing our ability to recruit the top students and increase Ph.D. production
  • Increased numbers of faculty available to teach; particularly innovative courses where research faculty are at the state-of-the-art and are nationally/internationally renowned scholars.
  • Increased number of faculty available to advise graduate students
  • Increased opportunities to develop state-of-the-art multidisciplinary curricula

There are no incentives for research faculty, many of whom not only hold Ph.D.s but are world-class researchers in their own right, to fund graduate students or teach.  There are also built-in disincentives for academic faculty to collaborate through institutes and large centers (shared overhead, most notably).  These constraints lead to a traditional, albeit unfortunate, divide between institutes and departments.  While many at Virginia Tech work to bridge these gaps on an ongoing basis, much more could be done by eliminating existing obstacles and creating innovative incentive programs to foster collaboration.

This strategic plan needs a commitment to developing mechanisms to create incentives for collaboration across institute/department boundaries through a process of benchmarking, brain-storming, and implementation.  This commitment needs to be a priority so that Virginia Tech can move forward in its mission to the greatest extent practical by better utilizing existing resources in its resource-limited environment.

Leave a Reply