A Portrait of an Engaged Institution

Vision Statement
Strategic Action Steps, 2000-2001

May 11, 2000

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

A Portrait of an Engaged Institution

As articulated by Ernest Boyer, the complete university and the most successful professoriate must attend to four separate yet interrelated scholarly functions: discovery, integration, application, and teaching. Teaching not grounded in research and practice is hollow. Research not applied and transferred to real world problems is without value. And outreach not informed by research and pedagogy is ineffective.

Upon the foundation of research-generated knowledge we build our excellence in educational instruction, and through outreach we apply this knowledge base and instructional expertise to serve external audiences. From the instruction and application of knowledge, we are given the opportunity to demonstrate, test, synthesize, integrate, and articulate knowledge in new ways; this teaching and outreach experience feeds back to pose new questions and refocus research efforts.

Therefore, outreach is a critical form of scholarship of an effective university, especially a land-grant university. It is neither an after-thought nor an appendage, but must be an integral, integrated part of the university. And this integration should lead to a seamless relationship among outreach, research, and teaching. ("Outreach at Virginia Tech: Toward the Model Land-Grant University of the 21st Century," Final Report to the Provost, Task Force on University Outreach, July 1995.)


In November 1999, the Vice Provost for Outreach assembled a team of university leaders and brought the team together in a retreat format. The team's charge was to share perceptions about university outreach-its value, strengths, and weaknesses. Its goal was to develop a vision for outreach at Virginia Tech and to identify immediate action steps to make the vision a reality.

Major outcomes of the team's work are reported below. It is anticipated that this abbreviated document will allow the university community to focus discussions more easily, leading to enhanced University Outreach at Virginia Tech.

University Outreach: Ideas in Action

University Outreach is a portrait of diversity-a diversity of ideas in action. Just consider

Themes emerge from these activities that provide insights about outreach. First, university resources contribute to policy analysis and interpretation, public policy decisions, solutions for societal problems, workforce development, new technology, economic development, and lifelong learning. Our faculty, staff, and students are the lifeblood of outreach.

Second, there is a strong sharing and reciprocity component in outreach that adds institutional value. Outreach is a two-way process where we are active partners sharing with external stakeholders. This sharing and listening process brings information and opportunities to our university-new research needs and funding for entrepreneurial ventures; student assistantships, internships, and placements; undergraduate and graduate curriculum development; funding for multidisciplinary workforce development initiatives; and the creation of jobs and economic wealth.

The power of this synergy leads to a higher level of value. A major challenge and opportunity is to identify creative mechanisms to share this information.

Third, the interaction of our faculty, staff, and students with stakeholders throughout the state, nation, and world demonstrates our university's expertise and competencies. Outreach also serves as a major marketing tool for the university.

Fourth, the involvement of our students in activities through service learning and outreach projects not only enhances the quality of their educational experience but also provides a mindset about the importance of societal contributions. Such experiences encourage today's students-tomorrow's alumni-to become lifelong learners.

University Outreach, then, is the transfer of knowledge and experience between the university and external stakeholders through teaching, research, and technical assistance to positively impact societal and economic development issues.

Administrative Structure, Values, and Principles of University Outreach

In recognition of the importance outreach assumes in our land-grant institution, an integrated administrative structure was created. Under the leadership of the Vice Provost for Outreach, this unit developed a mission for outreach to serve university stakeholders by facilitating collaboration to link societal needs with university expertise. We are a catalyst for positive change in education, economic development, and quality of life.

The administrative structure is hybrid wherein programs and activities are developed and/or approved in collaboration with the colleges and academic units. Services to support these activities are provided centrally to facilitate collaboration, coordination, and the efficient use of resources required to implement activities.

Outreach activities and programs are an integrated part of our university's academic program. An Outreach Council composed of academic leaders and the Commission on Outreach currently serve major roles in facilitating collaboration in the academy to enhance outreach.

Nine units in University Outreach provide assistance to and leadership within the university community for outreach activities. A brief description of these units is provided in Appendix A. Values and principles related to outreach guide the way these units work, make decisions, and determine resource allocations:

These perspectives include the way university members engage in a wide array of outreach activities; lessons learned about outreach through the engagement process; and the experiences of academic, administrative, and outreach leaders. It was from these perspectives that a vision for University Outreach at Virginia Tech was created.

The University Outreach Vision

Vision is about the future; it is a desired state we want to attain. It is our ultimate direction as the leading provider of outreach services in the Commonwealth, services we can provide through off-campus graduate and continuing education programs and technical assistance. This vision will take involvement and collaboration throughout the university community to become reality.

Specifically, University Outreach will

Strategic Actions for University Outreach

Every journey begins with the first step. Presented here are strategic actions the team perceives to be appropriate and attainable for the 2001 fiscal year.

  1. The marketing process of matching stakeholder needs with university priorities and capabilities is a thread that runs throughout our entire vision. Initiating a separate unit within University Outreach to place priority on marketing research for new program development and priorities is an overwhelming need as identified by the retreat team and extended campus directors.

    Strategic Action One is to establish a marketing research unit. The major task during the first year is to develop a comprehensive marketing plan to identify opportunities for program priorities and services consistent with our Vision. The plan is to be completed by September 30, 2000.

  2. Virginia Tech continues to examine its commitment to Virginia communities across the Commonwealth. Strategic Action Two is the systematic analysis, design, and delivery of comprehensive strategies that optimize the university's presence in various regions in the state. Recently initiated activities in Southside and Southwest Virginia, which focus on economic development, will be ongoing.

  3. Formal mechanisms to receive timely information from external stakeholders on workforce and economic development needs are crucial for the university to establish priorities and respond in a timely way. Listening to external stakeholders is the foundation of a vibrant outreach program.

    We will create regional councils throughout the Commonwealth for this purpose. Strategic Action Three is to begin the process of establishing these councils and to learn how to use them effectively. A minimum of two regional councils will be implemented by December 1, 2000.

  4. As a university, we will recognize the creativity and expertise of faculty, staff, and students in outreach program development. Additionally, we will provide an opportunity for members of our community to learn from each other.

    Strategic Action Four is to establish an outreach forum for the university community. The purpose of the forum will be to highlight outreach successes in research, teaching, and service learning; identify opportunities for collaboration; and stimulate creative approaches to outreach. The Commission on Outreach will provide leadership for the forum.

  5. Valuing and rewarding those who provide leadership for and participate in outreach activities is fundamental. Strategic Action Five is to ensure promotion and tenure guidelines that fully acknowledge and reward faculty outreach activities presented to the Senior Vice President and Provost for consideration. Adoption is anticipated by June 1, 2000.

  6. A corporate communication strategy to share the accomplishments and impact of University Outreach, both internally and externally, requires a consistent way of identifying and reporting impact.

    Strategic Action Six is to review existing measures for outreach activities and to recommend new measures that can be easily understood by internal and external audiences. The Commission on Outreach will lead this effort.

  7. President Steger has charged the university community to involve our alumni more extensively in the university's educational programs with the goal of having our alumni use Virginia Tech as their source for lifelong learning. Strategic Action Seven is to implement the initiative for lifelong learning for alumni. Pilot testing of various programs and delivery systems will commence during fiscal year 2001.


University Outreach Units

Economic Development Officer. Serves as a major source of contact for business and industry seeking university resource assistance. Coordinates a university wide economic development group to share information and respond to inquiries.

Center for Organizational and Technological Advancement (COTA). Provides COTA Fellows and Associates to assume leadership for technology transfer through symposia and workshops on cutting edge issues in engineering and physical sciences, biotechnology and life sciences, business and management, education, and governmental and nonprofit organizations. These programs are held typically at the Hotel Roanoke and Conference Center.

Division of Continuing Education. Assists faculty in the development and delivery of non-credit programs for workforce development, professional development, certification, and research dissemination. Provides oversight and management for the Masters of Information Technology and Certificate Program. The Donaldson Brown Hotel and Conference Center is part of the Division.

Institute for Distance and Distributed Learning (IDDL). Provides leadership and coordination for a growing array of university courses and degrees being delivered at a distance through technology. Provides instructional design and assessment assistance and coordination of delivery sites for faculty.

Office of International Research and Development (OIRD). Coordinates technical assistance, international collaborative research, and educational activities in developing countries. Assists in incorporating international dimensions into the teaching, research, and outreach missions of the university.

Office of Marketing Research. Assists faculty in exploring the demand for new courses and creative ways to reach to market niches. Identifies market trends consistent with university priorities and expertise. Prepares marketing plan for University Outreach based on university strengths and priorities and market needs.

Outreach Communications Director. Edits and produces Virginia Issues & Answers magazine and provides communications support for outreach programs and activities.

Outreach Finance Officer and Assistant to the Vice Provost. Develops and monitors the budget for University Outreach and its units. Leads a variety of special projects.

Public Service Programs. Focuses on economic development assistance, training local government officials, community resource development, and government leadership development. Provides technical assistance, research, and information materials to assist with policy, program, and organizational development.


Action Plan Team

Dave Barrett
Virginia Cooperative Extension

Greg Boardman
Director, COTA

Hap Bonham
Outreach Council

Jim Bowen
Outreach Council

Greg Brown
Dean, College of Natural Resources

Ralph Byers
Director, Governmental Relations

Kevin Carlson
Commission on Outreach

Clara Cox
Director, Outreach Communications

S. K. De Datta
Director, Office of International Research & Development

Catherine Doss
Public Relations Specialist

Bob Dunay
Outreach Council

Laura Fornash
Assistant Director
Continuing Education

Patty Foutz
Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center

Beth Hanson
Outreach Council

Elizabeth Holford, Director
Northern Virginia Center

Jim Johnson
Outreach Council

Ben Johnson
College of Architecture & Urban Studies

Clark Jones
Vice Provost for Outreach

Judith Jones
Outreach Council

Irene Leech
Commission on Outreach

Linda Leffel
Director of Marketing Research

Doug McAlister
Executive Director
Public Service Programs

Malcolm McPherson
Outreach Council

Joe Meredith, Director
Corporate Research Center

Joe Merola
Outreach Council

Peggy Meszaros
Senior Vice President and Provost

Roberta Minish
Outreach Council

Anne Moore
Director, Information Technology Initiatives

John Phillips
Economic Development Officer

John Randolph
Department Head, Urban Affairs & Planning

Dan Schneck
Commission on Outreach

Ted Settle
Director, Division of Continuing Education

William Skelton

Ray Smoot
Vice President for Finance & Treasurer

Charles Steger
University President

Doug Strickland
Director, Roanoke Valley Higher Education Center

Jane Swan
Assistant to the Vice Provost for Outreach

Tom Wilkinson
Institute for Distance & Distributed Learning


Chris McCollum
Public Service Programs

Charlotte Reed
Public Service Programs
Dean Emeritus, Extension Division

Vision Statement, 5/11/00