Budget request addresses state technology and ag needs
By Larry Hincker
Spectrum Volume 20 Issue 12 - November 13, 1997
The Virginia Tech Board of Visitors has approved requesting $29.8 million additional in annual funding and $5.8 million for one-time equipment funding from the 1998 General Assembly. Much of this funding will be directed to responding to Virginia's needs in technology and science. Year 2000 revisions will require one-time funding of $11.4 million. For the Plan to Serve Virginia Agriculture and Human and Natural Resources the university is requesting $4.7 million in annual funding.
A report released in May by a committee of Virginia business, government, and education leaders, "A Blueprint for Technology-Based Economic Growth in Virginia" called for large investments in education to address technology needs of Virginia's workforce. The General Assembly through Senate Joint Resolution 218 and House Bill 1848 has indicated its concerns about Virginian's technology job skills. The university's budget proposal will address many concerns about technology preparedness throughout Virginia
Long a leader in technology creation, Virginia Tech has demonstrated a commitment to the application of technology. One of six strategic directions in the university five-year plan for 1996-2001 commits Tech to national leadership in the use of technology for instructional delivery. The university has made a massive commitment to teacher training and web-based course development. It has achieved international recognition for the groundbreaking Blacksburg Electronic Village. Info-tech researchers routinely add to the body of knowledge in computer engineering, human/computer interactions, fiber optics, wireless communications, networking, and other disciplines feeding the information revolution.
Among the 22 proposed initiatives addressing technology needs are programs in information technology, biotechnology, and advanced science. The university proposes bolstering or creating new degree programs in computer science, electrical and computer engineering, accounting-information systems, management science, information technology, networking, software, and wireless communications. New initiatives will create advanced learning centers, an institute for instructional technology in education, and digital libraries for technology transfer.
Sharing Virginia Tech's leadership in biotechnology applications, the university proposes greatly expanding its privately funded high-school teacher-training program for science teachers. Combining the university's bio-applications experience with engineering, the university proposes initiatives in pharmaceutical engineering (using transgenic animals for production of human medicines), biomechanics, and biotribology (the use of biological lubricants for human joints.)
Agriculture Extension, research, and education programs were severely affected by budget reductions of the early 1990s. The university underwent in-depth strategic planning identifying critical needs enabling the university to adequately address agriculture and natural-resource needs of Virginia. The resulting "Plan to Serve Virginia Agriculture and Human and Natural Resources" has been endorsed by more than 70 agriculture and forest commodity groups and farmer and agribusiness organizations.
Companies, governments, and any organization using computers are grappling with computing problems resulting from the changeover to the year 2000. Virginia Tech has many complex administrative systems, most of which reside on mainframe computers that require extensive modification. Moreover, many systems are aging and need updating. A combination systems-conversion and system-replacement strategy is actually superior and less costly than total replacement. The requested funding will not only fix year-2000 problems, but also result in modernized administrative systems.