Virginia Tech Magazine

Volume 17, Number 3
Spring 1995

Around the DrillField

First woman provost named

Peggy Meszaros, former dean of the College of Human Resources, has been named provost and senior vice president for the university. Meszaros, who began her duties in February, was selected after a national search. President Paul Torgersen called Meszaros "an academic leader who has a strong commitment to helping students, faculty members, and staff develop to their fullest." Meszaros has been dean and a professor of family and child development at Virginia Tech since 1993. She served as dean of the College of Human Environmental Sciences at the University of Kentucky from 1985-93. Previously, she was state supervisor of home economics and director of consumer education for the Maryland State Department of Education, associate dean and professor in the College of Home Economics at Oklahoma State University, and a science and home-economics teacher in Kentucky. She holds a B.S. from Austin Peay State University, M.S. from the University of Kentucky, and Ph.D. from the University of Maryland.

Grant will establish Russian business incubator

The U.S. Agency for International Development (AID) has awarded $2 million to a Virginia Tech-led team to establish incubator facilities in Russia. The Moscow Technology Incubator will provide technology-development support, management training, and marketing to develop technologically oriented small businesses in Russia. Work on the two-year project will be conducted by Virginia Tech, the Academy of National Economy in Moscow, and Atlas Group Inc., a technology firm in Herndon, with Tech serving as the prime contractor. Frederick Krimgold, director of University Outreach and International Programs' (UOIP) Northern Virginia office, and S.K. DeDatta, director of UOIP's Office of International Research and Development, are co-principal investigators on the project. The project team will teach Russian trainers critical aspects of incubator management and the technology commercialization process.

Title IX lawsuit settled

Virginia Tech and lawyers representing students who sued the university alleging gender discrimination have reached a settlement. The university agreed to settle the suit and pay a total of $50,000 to the plaintiffs and their lawyers, but denies any and all charges in the plaintiff's complaint. The plaintiffs accepted and endorsed the university's sports expansion plan. President Paul Torgersen said he believed Virginia Tech ultimately would have won the case in court, but the cost of the defense would have been higher than the settlement. "It is in the best interests of all parties to settle and get on with the more important tasks of expanding sports opportunities for women at Virginia Tech," he said. Over the past several years, Virginia Tech has upgraded salaries of women's sports coaches to conform to market standards, modified facilities, and increased operating support. Ground will soon be broken for a new softball field. Women's soccer was added in 1993-94, women's lacrosse begun in spring 1995, and women's softball will be added in 1995-96. When all actions are implemented, the university will support 11 men's and 10 women's intercollegiate sports. Athlete participation will approximate the gender ratio of student enrollment. The plan to expand women's sports opportunities began prior to the lawsuit.

Equine Medical Center receives $1-million gift

The Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center at Morven Park in Leesburg has received a $1-million gift from Adelaide Riggs of Woodbine, Md., to endow a faculty chair in equine medicine. The chair will be occupied by Michael Murray, a veterinary clinician and researcher who has recently conducted pioneering investigations into equine gastric ulcers.

Education restructuring approved

The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia and the university board of visitors have approved a College of Education restructuring plan. As part of the university's efforts to achieve greater effectiveness and economy, the college was asked to cut 20 percent of its $8-million budget over the next three years--a savings of $1.6 million. The plan eliminates five programs, downsizes most other programs, and reduces administrative costs and personnel. Programs cut were: adult education, community college and higher education administration, community health education, exercise science, and the graduate sports management program.

Students win aircraft award

For the fifth year in a row, a team of Virginia Tech Aerospace and Ocean Engineering (AOE) undergraduates has won the top award in the national Student Aircraft Design Competition sponsored by the Lockheed Corp. and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). Virginia Tech students took three of the five awards in the 1993-94 contest--first and third places and an honorable mention. Virginia Tech AOE undergraduates also won first and second place in the 1993-94 Ship Design Contest sponsored by the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, and third place in the AIAA Team Spacecraft Design Competition.

Expo to explore Blacksburg retirement opportunities

At Retire Blacksburg Expo '95, to be held June 8-11, the town will showcase Blacksburg's attributes as a top-rated retirement community. Civic leaders and recent retirees will offer seminars, social activities, and tours. Blacksburg was recently rated No. 1 in Virginia in its services, cost of living, safety, climate, and leisure opportunities for retirees. A registration fee of $150 per person covers conference materials, tours, some meals and entertainment. Hotel rooms are available at discount rates. For more information, call 1-800-288-4061 or fax (703) 231-9886.

Engineer's electronic documents spare trees

A desire to save paper and the spur of a colleague's criticism of his idea set Peter Rony on his quest for efficient electronic transmission of classroom materials. Rony, a Virginia Tech professor of chemical engineering, is making his process controls course materials available to his students via computer. In the past, Rony has electronically provided software manuals and course assignments. During the 1994-95 academic year, the professor and his students will electronically exchange course materials, including laboratory reports. Rony estimates that electronic transmittal of materials could save each of his junior-level students $15-$20 per semester in paper costs. In 1984, the Virginia Tech College of Engineering became the first U.S. public university to require all undergraduate students to have computers for course use. Although all of Rony's students and colleagues have computers, electronic exchange of documents among faculty and students often is stymied because of computer incompatibility. In 1992, he learned that Adobe Systems Inc. computer company had created a software package called Acrobat that makes it possible to view the same version of a document on DOS, Windows, Macintosh, and Unix platforms. This electronic exchange will save time as well as paper. No student will have to print or copy a large amount of paper material for each course. Rony believes computerized textbooks will become an alternative to printed text, perhaps by 1997 or 1998.

Popular-culture text changes overnight

The textbook that Marshall Fishwick used in his popular-culture class last fall had a section about O.J. Simpson being charged with the murder of his wife. The spring semester's textbook has the updated story of the trial that has captivated the country. With traditional textbooks, that would not have been possible because the publishing process takes up to two years. By then, anything a textbook contained about O.J. Simpson would be outdated. And, in today's on-line world, particularly in a field that changes as rapidly as popular culture, that's a problem. So Fishwick, professor of communication studies and humanities, found a way to keep up with both the changes in our culture and the immediacy of information retrieval in the world of the computer generation without having a classroom full of students hidden behind terminals and reading from screens. The solution now being pioneered by several publishers is a custom-designed book that's a cross between the traditional textbook and a magazine. Along with American Heritage Custom Publishing Group, Fishwick custom designed Go and Catch a Falling Star, a textbook for his popular-culture class's study of fallen celebrities. It contains text Fishwick chose from several sources, as well as some of his own research. "At the last moment, after the book went to press, O.J. did his Bronco deed," Fishwick says. "The editor said if I could get that in the next week or two, he would include it. They added it in July and got the textbook to Tech in August." After all, a textbook on fallen heroes used in fall 1994 would have been outdated if it had not included the most publicized case in recent history. The custom-published books are cheaper and more relevant than traditional textbooks, Fishwick says. They allow the professor to pick from materials on databases, such as chapters from other books for which the publisher has obtained reprint rights, while adding their own chapters. But the ability to update quickly is the book's selling point. "You can add, modify, and change pictures or text at will," Fishwick says. "I think the idea is going to spread."

D i s t i n c t i o n s

Big wheels
The Virginia Tech Cycling Club won the Atlantic Coast Championships and qualified for nationals for the fifth consecutive year.
Rugged women
The Women's Rugby Club was ranked first in the state, fifth on the East Coast, and 20th in the nation.
Water sprites
The Waterski Club won the Eastern Regionals and took 11th place in the National Collegiate Waterski Association competition in October.
Ranking research leader
Virginia Tech ranks 16th in the nation and first in the state in research sponsored by private industry, according to statistics released by the National Science Foundation.
Vets save babies
Researchers working with sheep at the Virginia-Maryland School of Veterinary Medicine have devised a new drug therapy for pregnancy toxemia, a life-threatening disorder that causes many premature deliveries each year. Human clinical trials of the drug are under way.

Students learning through community service

Virginia Tech's new Service-Learning Center is building partnerships with community agencies and public schools. "When we bring together the expertise of the students and faculty at Virginia Tech, leaders from the community, and teachers and administrators from public schools, we have an opportunity to develop exciting projects that will benefit the community while giving our students new ways of learning," says Michele James-Deramo, who became the center's first director in January. Two courses on campus--one in religion and one in sociology--already give students the option of service as part of their academic program, and James-Deramo would like to see three more by fall. In Rachel Parker-Gwin's sociology classes, students can receive 25 percent of their course credit by performing 15-20 hours of community service, then writing an academic paper or making a classroom presentation that links concepts taught in class with what they have experienced. "The students invariably have a positive reaction to it," says Parker-Gwin, who began incorporating service learning into her classes before while teaching at UCLA before coming to Virginia Tech two years ago. "Service learning helps students see things that have been taught in class in a different way." James-Deramo plans to integrate projects begun under the leadership of Lucinda Roy, associate dean for curriculum, outreach, and diversity for the College of Arts and Sciences. Under Roy's direction, the university brought together women and minorities through a project called SWAP--Service-Writing Awareness Project--to focus on writing grant proposals around the idea of community service for credit. Out of SWAP has come Project CI, an effort, under the direction of Detine Bowers in communication studies, to fund the African American Museum in Christiansburg. James-Deramo also hopes to continue Virginia Tech Outreach Project for Schools (VTOPS), another program Roy began. In this program, Virginia Tech student volunteers go into area schools to tutor children in reading and math and encourage them to attend college.

University joins Atlantic 10 conference

Virginia Tech will join the Atlantic 10 Conference for 15 sports, including men's and women's basketball. The affiliation will begin with the 1995-96 academic year. Joining the Hokies to form a new 12-team alignment will be Dayton and LaSalle. Holdover schools in the Atlantic 10 are Duquesne, George Washington, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, St. Joseph's, St. Bonaventure, and Temple. Xavier of Ohio and Fordham recently joined the conference. Rutgers and West Virginia, two of Virginia Tech's football rivals, are withdrawing from the Atlantic 10 after this season for full membership in the Big East Conference. Tech is a member of the Big East for football only. The Atlantic 10 sponsors 18 varsity sports. In addition to men's and women's basketball, Tech will participate in men's baseball, women's volleyball, men's golf, and men's and women's cross country, soccer, swimming, tennis, and indoor track. The new Atlantic 10 will be divided into two six-team divisions. In men's and women's basketball, Tech will play a 16-game conference schedule, facing each school in its division twice and each school in the other division once. Tech thus will be able to schedule 10 non-conference games in the two sports.

Virginia Tech Magazine Volume 17, Number 3 Spring 1995