Partnerships and programs add value to Virginia Tech
This acclaimed technical school grows even stronger
thanks to cutting-edge research, partnerships and
offerings designed to recruit, retain and develop leaders
On the main campus of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech, Blacksburg), undergraduates can live and study together in living-learning communities centered on shared academic, career and social interests. There are two for engineering � one for women and one for men � and others for life sciences, honors studies, leadership and more.
Students enrolled in the College of Engineering don�t have to live in one of the communities to participate in the college�s many areas of specialization and research opportunities, though. In addition to fourteen majors, the college offers several minors, including interdisciplinary engineering and science, naval engineering and green engineering.
The college�s annual career fair attracts major international corporations, government agencies and contractors as well as many smaller companies and startups. Those connections open doors to student participation at both the undergrad and graduate levels in high-level projects.
�On graduation day, over ninety-five percent of our 2018 graduates knew where they would be spending the coming year,� says Barbara Ryder, J. Byron Maupin professor of engineering and head of the department of computer science in the College of Engineering. The department of computer science is recognized for its projects in data analytics and parallel/heterogeneous computing. The department has 620 students majoring in CS as of fall 2018.
Virginia Tech and its CS corporate partners
Not surprisingly, the college has many corporate connections. The department of computer science has its own mechanism for connecting with potential employers of its students: the Computer Science Resources Consortium (CSRC), a group of technology companies that has worked with the Virginia Tech CS department since 1982. The CSRC holds career fairs twice a year. Through the consortium, undergraduates can begin internships as early as the summer before their sophomore year with companies like financial information firm Bloomberg.com (New York, NY) and technology giant Microsoft (Redmond, WA), as well as government contractors like Lockheed Martin (Bethesda, MD). CSRC bundles students� resumes and provides them to CSRC partners.
CSRC partners also include smaller companies like Nimble Storage (San Jose, CA) and Palantir (Palo Alto, CA), as well as other organizations that rely on computer science, such as railway company Norfolk Southern Corp (Norfolk, VA). CSRC partners provide on-campus speakers, funding for student activities and interaction with students on campus throughout the year.
�The students benefit greatly from having a career fair opportunity where the companies are all looking for people with computer science skills,� Ryder notes.
Virginia Tech�s programs expand students� career possibilities with resources like the CS department�s Discovery Analytics Center (DAC). The DAC is a university-wide effort that brings together researchers from computer science, statistics, mathematics, and electrical and computer engineering to tackle problems in important areas of national interest, including intelligence analysis, sustainability and health informatics.
One recent project applied data mining tools to analyzing historic newspapers to consider how public information can be used for disease surveillance. Other projects explore how data mining and text mining can predict social events such as labor strikes. �CS faculty lead this multi-institutional grant,� says Ryder. �The predictions from this research are awesome.�
Virginia Tech offers a concentration in cybersecurity at the graduate level, and the CS department participates in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency robotics challenge. In life sciences and computing, teams of undergraduates, graduates and faculty model living tissues and molecules to learn how they work and model genomes to identify disease-causing genes. CS students are also doing core research on graphics processing to reduce the power demand of GPUs to benefit both data centers and the environment. �Everything we do involves a team of professors, grad students and undergrads,� Ryder reports.
About half the CS graduate students are international, mainly from China, India, Bangladesh and the Middle East.
A university-wide program connects directly with HBCUs to attract minority students to summer research experiences and encourage them to apply for graduate school.
Recruiting and retaining women is key
Ryder, the engineer college�s first woman department head, is especially concerned about recruiting and retaining women undergraduate and graduate students. Under her leadership, the department participates in the National Center for Women in IT (NCWIT). NCWIT�s Pacesetters program has been especially helpful in increasing the number and percentage of women CS students recruited and retained as CS majors or minors. �We�ve increased the percentage of women in our graduating class for the past two years to fourteen percent,� Ryder says proudly.
The department also recruits women through NCWIT�s Aspirations in Computing awards program, which recognizes high school women for their interest and achievements in computing and leadership ability. NCWIT honors winners and refers them to educational institutions in their own regions. Virginia Tech�s CS department offers scholarships to Aspirations winners and has already attracted six to its CS program.
�It would be very difficult for us to do this alone,� Ryder admits. �NCWIT acts as a national clearinghouse. It�s been a wildly successful program for us as an institution.
�Getting more women into computing is something I care passionately about.�
Virginia Polytechnic Institute
and State University
||College of Engineering:
1,864 grad (2013-14)
||CS, MS, MEng, PhD,
|Ways to matriculate: