2010 University Exemplary Department Award honors chemical engineering, entomology, and mechanical engineering

BLACKSBURG, Va., Sept. 9, 2010 – Virginia Tech's Department of Entomology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the Department of Chemical Engineering and the Department of Mechanical Engineering in the College of Engineering have been recognized with the 2010 University Exemplary Department Award.

A reception to honor this year’s recipients will be held Wednesday, Sept. 15, at The Inn at Virginia Tech from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in the Latham Ballroom. All members of the campus community are invited to attend the ceremony and are encouraged to register at the Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research event registration website.

Presented annually since 1994, the University Exemplary Department Award recognizes the work of departments or programs that enhance the teaching and learning environment for students and faculty.

This year, the awards were presented to departments and programs that develop and sustain innovative and effective approaches that foster international awareness and education.

“Virginia Tech’s vision statement underscores the value of international experiences and collaborations for both students and faculty,” said Senior Vice President and Provost Mark McNamee. “The global partnerships and opportunities envisioned, created, and sustained by the three departments honored this year are rich models that have had direct positive impacts on teaching, research, and outreach.”

A complete list of past Exemplary Department Award winners, along with the theme of the award for each year, is available online.

McNamee and Daniel Wubah, vice president and dean for undergraduate education, will present a plaque and a cash award to a representative of each winning department.

Department of Entomology, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

The Department of Entomology has positioned its students to contribute to areas of human and animal health, pest management, and communication, in the context of an expanding global economy.

More than $10 million has been raised over the past 10 years to support research, teaching, and outreach with internationally-affiliated programs. A significant portion of the funding is directed toward the Integrated Pest Management – Collaborative Research Support Program (IPM-CRSP). IPM-CRSP is one of eight collaborative research support programs set up by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to leverage the expertise found at American land-grant universities in developing countries around the world. Most of the department’s faculty and students are involved with this program as they serve the following regions: Latin America and the Caribbean, Central America/Honduras, South America/Ecuador,Caribbean/Jamaica, East Africa, Southeast Asia, Central Asia, Bangladesh, West Africa/Mali, and Eastern Europe.

The impact of the international exposure was evident in letters of support from graduates like Alison Smith, a member of the Class of 2007, who attributes her experience in Mali to her admission to Tulane University’s School of Medicine where she is contributing to an National Institutes of Health-funded research project in Sierra Leone and establishing a medical facility in rural Haiti.

Department of Chemical Engineering, College of Engineering

The Department of Chemical Engineering has a history in internationally-linked education as they recognize the value placed on an international experiences by hiring industries. Chemical engineering graduates likely will have at least one international assignment during their career, and early experiences are important preparation.

Many students elect to complete their five-credit Unit Operations Laboratory course abroad with an international partner university in Europe. This program has been in place for 24 years, most recently at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU), in Lynby, just outside of Copenhagen. Students are registered as students at DTU and receive transfer credit, as well as valuable international experiences, for their work. More than 48 percent of students receiving a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering between 2007 and 2009 completed the Unit Operations Laboratory in Denmark.

Students and faculty gain additional international exposure through research collaborations such as Professor Y. A. Liu’s work with the Office of the President, China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation (SINOPEC), the largest energy and chemical company in Asia. Faculty, engineers, and students travel between SINOPEC and Virginia Tech.

Chemical engineering graduate Kevin Norfleet, Class of 2008, noted that his experience in Denmark enabled him to be “able to adapt to different cultures and navigate unfamiliar places and situations smoothly” in his position as a customer product support engineer for Celanese Acetate.

Department of Mechanical Engineering, College of Engineering

The Department of Mechanical Engineering is the largest undergraduate mechanical engineering program in the United States and providing leadership the area of international education and experiences. They created a dual Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering program together with the Technische Universität Darmstadt, Germany, in which the students complete their senior year at the other university and earn Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering degrees from both universities.

Students also have the option of a dual Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering program together with the Technische Universität Darmstadt in which the students complete one year at each university, in any order, and earn Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering degrees from both universities. Joint research activities with the Technische Universität Darmstadt take place in the areas of autonomous vehicles and automotive engineering, resulting in nearly $5 million in external research funding.

John Dooley, vice president, Outreach and International Affairs says, “The success of this program has led to the involvement of several other Virginia Tech departments with Technische Universität Darmstadt and I consider this partnership a model for other collaborations currently under development.”

John Grandin, director of the University of Rhode Island International Engineering Program, said, “Their collaboration with the Technical University of Darmstadt is well known and certainly highly creative and trend setting.”

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 225 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $496 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.