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Cross-cutting initiatives documented

By Catherine Doss

Spectrum Volume 20 Issue 27 - April 9, 1998

Within a few days, every employee at Virginia Tech will receive a document containing the case statements of the university's cross-cutting initiatives (CCI's).
The case statements mark completion of the first charge of the work groups that are assigned to each of the seven CCI's: bio-sciences and biotechnology; computing, information, and communications technology; environmental sciences and energy systems; food, nutrition, and health; learning communities; materials; and transportation. Each case statement contains background information about the CCI and discusses Virginia Tech's current strengths in that area and the potential for future development and partnerships.
The CCI work groups have now embarked upon their second charge: to evaluate Virginia Tech's strengths and weaknesses in the seven areas relative to the best universities in the country (also referred to as the gap analysis).
"These initiatives were identified because of their potential for world-class pre-eminence," said Peggy S. Meszaros, senior vice president and provost. "Strong universities--those that will survive in an increasingly competitive academic world--must have a core of world-class quality programs."
The university's current strategic-planning process began more than two years ago with the development of the Update to the University Plan, 1996-2001, which outlined six strategic directions for the university. In August 1997, the university issued the Implementation Plan of the Update to the University Plan. Referred to as the Academic Agenda, this document delineates goals and performance measures for each of the six strategic directions and outlines each of the seven CCI's. Further development of the CCI's by the designated work groups is another step in the ongoing planning process.
"During the next decade, we'll see tremendous changes to the higher-education landscape," Meszaros said. "This will include mounting pressure for the public and government to hold down the cost of attending college and reduced funding from state legislatures. Our planning process will guide the university through these and other challenges and opportunities. By having a focused plan, we are better able to see what we have accomplished and where we have excelled."
The seven CCI's were identified through a deliberate planning process that included input gained from faculty members, deans, and members of university administration.
"We wanted to build upon established and emerging strengths within the university," Meszaros said. "By focusing on our strengths, we stand the best chance of achieving internationally recognized excellence."
Meszaros is quick to point out, however, that these seven CCI's do not represent the full extent of Virginia Tech's academic enterprise.
"We are far too complex and comprehensive for that," she said. "This strategy simply enables us to focus our collective efforts on programs that have the greatest potential to involve the greatest number of faculty members and significant external funding."
"This is not a competitive grant process," Meszaros said. "The CCI work groups are to serve in an advisory role to university administration on what kinds of additional resource investments are needed."
Further discussion on issues such as CCI composition and potential funding sources will take place after the gap analyses are completed this summer. The work groups' third and final charge is to develop an action plan that charts the course for world-class pre-eminence within each initiative.