Virginia Tech announced Monday that Lance Collins, engineering dean at Cornell University, will direct the university’s new innovation campus with a mission to grow tech talent and innovation in the region.
Strategically located, in Alexandria, Virginia, across the river from the nation’s capital, the innovation campus will give students the opportunity to work with both industry and government to drive technology development and develop a pipeline of tech talent, Collins told EdScoop.
“There is a real recognition on all campuses to improve and strengthen those connections between the campus work and industry,” Collins said. “But what’s unique about this [innovation campus] though is that this is the mission of the campus. It’s job one.”
Instead of being a traditional academic campus, the $1.1 billion facility will bolster and expand educational opportunities in computer science and other STEM fields, according to the university.
“The way I see that happening is that industry can physically co-locate in a co-location building on the campus,” Collins said. “But more importantly, industry can provide projects for students to work on as they’re going through their degree.”
Collins also said that the campus’ proximity to the federal government means that students will also be able to play an important role in being part of the discourse on technology policy.
“There is a big ecosystem here that Virginia Tech is going to be enhancing with this new campus,” he said.
Collins will start as the inaugural vice president and executive director of the innovation campus on Aug. 1 ahead of the campus’s inaugural class, set to start in the fall 2020 semester.
Currently, Collins serves as the dean of engineering at Cornell University where he was a key leader in the Cornell Tech initiative, which has developed partnerships between the university and industry in New York.