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Diversity and Innovation Think Tank

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The past year has been defined by a global public health crisis, persistent barriers to social justice and equity, significant shifts in the political landscape, and unprecedented economic challenges.  As a result, the higher education industry is faced with unique opportunities and challenges. 

In order to ensure that Virginia Tech is positioned to respond to the new realities impacting higher education, Dr. Menah Pratt-Clarke created the Diversity and Innovation Think Tank.  The objective of the Think Tank is to regularly convene faculty, staff, and students to discuss the future of higher education and to explore how Virginia Tech might actualize its potential within the rapidly-evolving higher education landscape, in the context of Virginia Tech's Beyond Boundaries vision, key initiatives, and the university strategic plan.  Recognizing that the initial vision of Beyond Boundaries for the year 2047 may now be Beyond Boundaries for 2027, the Diversity and Innovation Think Tank was created as a place for conversation among diverse thought leaders to share ideas, perspectives, and strategies to accelerate Virginia Tech’s vision for its future.

The Think Tank may also serve as a site for convening conversations and building community among interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary scholars.  The Think Tank began its work by hosting a Summer Conversation Series and invited almost thirty faculty and administrative leaders from various departments, colleges, offices, and units.

Format and Structure

Participants were asked to review Virginia Tech’s Beyond Boundaries Vision and related initiatives, the university strategic plan, and the university strategic planning dashboard. A survey was deployed to gather feedback prior to discussion. The survey explored three key questions:

  • If you could wave magic wand to help Virginia Tech be ready for the future in five years, what would it be and why? 
  • What are challenges and barriers to implementing magic wands?
  • If we had to determine three to five priorities/metrics/milestones, what would they be?

Three Diversity and Innovation Think Tank Conversations were convened for two hours each to explore these questions.

  • The first Think Tank Conversation (June 17) explored the following question: If you could wave magic wand to help Virginia Tech be ready for the future in five years, what would it be and why?
  • The second Think Tank Conversation (June 24) explored perceptions about the top three to five milestones and metrics within the Virginia Tech strategic planning dashboard that, if achieved, would be transformational for Virginia Tech.
  • The third Think Tank Conversation (June 25) explored examples of processes, structures, and practices that have successfully and quickly achieved change at Virginia Tech, with a specific focus on faculty diversity hiring, given its prominence during the second Think Tank Conversation.



Menah Pratt-Clarke, Chair, Vice President for Strategic Affairs and Diversity
Laura Belmonte, Dean, College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences
CL Bohannon, Associate Director, School of Architecture and Design, College of Architecture and Urban Studies
Roseanne Foti, Department Chair, Psychology, College of Science
Ron Fricker, Interim Dean, College of Science
Luisa Havens Gerardo, Vice Provost for Enrollment Management
Matt Holt, Department Head, Agricultural and Applied Economics, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
Elizabeth Hooper, Director of State Government Relations
Matthew Hull, Program Manager, Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science
Matt Hulver, Director, Fralin Life Sciences Institute
Sylvester Johnson, Assistant Vice Provost for the Humanities/Director, Center for Humanities
Tonisha Lane, Assistant Professor, School of Education, College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences
Lee Learman, Dean, Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine
Margie Lee, Department Head, Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, VA-MD College of Veterinary Medicine
Steven McKnight, Vice President for Strategic Alliances

Rafael Patrick, Assistant Professor, Industrial and Systems Engineering, College of Engineering
Dwayne Pinkney, Senior Vice President and Chief Business Officer
Narendran Ramakrishnan, Professor, Computer Science, College of Engineering
Patty Raun, Director, Center for Communicating Science
Julia Ross, Dean, College of Engineering
Robin Russell, Department Head, Business Information Technology, Pamplin College of Business
Sudipta Sarangi, Department Head, Economics, College of Science
Wayne Scales, Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering, College of Engineering
Frank Shushok, Vice President for Student Affairs
Joel Snodgrass, Department Head, Fish and Wildlife Conservation, College of Natural Resources and the Environment
Crasha Townsend, Director, Student Opportunity and Achievement Resources, Office for Inclusion and Diversity

Office for Strategic Affairs:
Erin McCann, Director for Strategic Planning
Patty Covey, Assistant Director for Strategic Planning
Lauren Henson, Program Manager
April Goode, Operations and Communications Manager
Shahidur Rashid Talukdar, graduate student
Jaleen Washington, summer intern


Next Steps

  • Encourage colleges and departments to convene mini conversations as part of the Diversity and Innovation Think Tank Conversation Series for faculty, staff, and students to provide input on magic wands and Beyond Boundaries 2027.

Please contact the Virginia Tech Office for Strategic Affairs - -  for assistance in planning and/or scheduling a Think Tank conversation series within your college or department. 

Additonal Resources