Virginia Tech's Century

by Timothy D. Sands

As we embark together on the next leg of Virginia Tech's journey, I'd like to take a moment to reflect on the path we have followed and to offer a perspective on the road ahead. I'd also like to thank all of you for welcoming Laura and me so warmly into the Hokie Nation.

I sincerely believe that this is Virginia Tech's century. The university is one of a handful of public institutions that balances the land-grant mission with a 21st-century portfolio of academic disciplines, featuring a strong core in science, engineering, agriculture, and technology, complemented by excellence in the humanities, arts, and social sciences, along with selected professional programs.

Combining this balance with collaboration across the disciplines further distinguishes Virginia Tech. There has never been a time in the history of American higher education when the interplay among the traditional disciplines has been more important to student success, the research mission, and our engagement imperative. Under President Charles W. Steger's leadership, Virginia Tech has taken great steps toward weaving this fabric of collaboration. Consider the research institutes, which place the university at the frontier of knowledge and engagement.

If I were given the opportunity to design an institution for the coming century, it would look much like Virginia Tech. The credit for positioning Tech so well for the future rests with our hardworking university community and its visionary leadership over the generations.

I could have arrived at the analysis above without ever meeting a Hokie. If I had stopped there, however, I would have missed the most distinctive characteristic of Virginia Tech and its people: The motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), is embodied in every Hokie we have met.

In 1896, when the motto was adopted, Ut Prosim reflected the Corps of Cadets' commitment to keep this nation secure. While the corps's service remains central to the motto's fulfillment, the scope of the mission has evolved. The commitment is now a call to serve humanity—from everyday interactions with individuals to service on a global scale.

While we demonstrate our commitment to service, the primary function of Virginia Tech is to prepare all 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.

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

Of course, Virginia Tech must continue to strive to be better still. I ask that together we make commitments to fostering inclusive excellence; to enhancing the value of a Virginia Tech education; to continuing the drive to establish the university among the nation's leading research universities; to competing nationally and globally to attract and retain talent; to translating our discoveries into impactful products, services, and policies; and to leveraging Virginia Tech's presences, 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, and to our facilities and programs overseas.

While it is clear that many daunting challenges lie 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!

• Follow President Sands on Twitter: @VTSandsman

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