The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences provides undergraduate and graduate students with an outstanding education. Practicing science in a global environment often involves the interface between science, economics, and culture; it requires that students be given opportunities to experience teamwork that also encompasses academics, research, and extension because research builds the core base of academic knowledge that is translated through formal educational and outreach programs.
Our land-grant mission demands that the colleges’ research programs be relevant and address the local, national, and global challenges facing society. The college must be prepared to anticipate and respond to emerging issues important to our diverse stakeholders. Many of these issues require combining contributions from multiple disciplines to achieve understanding and develop solutions. A challenge for the college is to position itself to undertake research programs that address multidimensional and multidisciplinary issues.
Virginia Tech is home to one of the nation’s premier comprehensive agricultural and life sciences programs. We will grow and expand our distinctive and globally recognized research profile while meeting the needs of our local communities. The college’s research expenditure has increased by more than 60 percent during the past six years. We will strive to increase extramural awards in support of research programs and to be a major contributor to the university’s strategic goal of emphasizing the translational approach to research and scholarship in the fields that contribute to agricultural and life sciences — food security and agricultural productivity, water management, global sustainability, energy, health, and environmental quality.
Virginia Cooperative Extension is administered through CALS but encompasses programs delivered and supported by the College of Natural Resources and Environment and the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine. The strategies and actions relevant to VCE in this plan pertain to the programs delivered primarily from CALS and are predicated on the VCE Strategic Plan. Furthermore, VCE and CALS will take a holistic approach in addressing the strategies under this goal in partnership with the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station and other research aspects of the college, as well as collaborative relationships with the other Virginia Tech colleges, public and private universities, state agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and private sector entities. Increased numbers of partnerships and our ability to leverage our volunteer programs translate to greater programmatic outreach and impact. VCE will focus on programs that are high-need, supported by the relevant research base, and can be delivered effectively across the commonwealth.
An effective land-grant college requires a sustainable resource base, a commitment to its core mission, and a culture of continuous improvement if it is to meet changing needs and capitalize on emerging opportunities. It also requires an environment that is supportive of a diverse and inclusive community and whose members embrace Virginia Tech’s Principles of Community and the college’s core values. Ongoing and open communication within the college, as well as with the external stakeholders of the organization, is essential. The college must capitalize on the scholarly creativity and productivity of its diverse faculty and staff members and students; it must use its resources wisely in order to carry out the land-grant missions; and it must routinely monitor its progress in achieving its stated goals.
Although the college relies on significant federal and state funding, annual levels of federal Hatch and Smith-Lever formula funding and state funding are no longer sufficient to maintain today’s research and extension programs, let alone meet future needs. Similarly, state support of the instructional mission has not kept pace with levels needed to provide students with a high-quality educational experience. For example, total state support per Virginia student for 2012-2013 is projected to be 33 percent below the funding levels of a decade ago. These trends are requiring us to reallocate funds and develop new approaches for funding programs and operations. Our faculty and staff members have been very successful in growing extramural grant funding, but we must continue to enhance and leverage this creativity and competitiveness to pursue support well beyond traditional approaches and sources.