Q&A with President Timothy Sands

President Timothy SandsTimothy Sands, who became Virginia Tech’s 16th president in June, was the provost at Purdue University, so he has a history with land-grant universities. We asked him for his thoughts on the land-grant mission, student experiences, and how the university impacts Virginia.

What role do you see our college playing in the state’s economy? 

Part of the land-grant mission is to foster economic growth, which is what the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is doing every day. It is preparing students for rewarding careers in the changing agricultural and life sciences industries, carrying out basic and applied research which is important for these industries, and delivering Extension programs throughout the commonwealth and beyond. The college, Extension, and the Agricultural Experiment Station work together to leverage advancements in science and technology to transform knowledge into practice that powers the economy and creates jobs around the commonwealth. Agriculture is the state’s No. 1 economy, and we want to help keep it that way.

Virginia Cooperative Extension celebrated its centennial this year. What do you see as Extension’s role in the university’s mission?

Extension is an invaluable component of the land-grant system, and it plays an important role in extending Virginia Tech’s knowledge to the citizens of the commonwealth. In addition to the Extension programs on campus, the programs at 11 Agricultural Research and Extension Centers along with 107 Extension offices located across the state are essential for this land-grant mission and also help serve as gateways to Virginia Tech. Our partnerships with communities allow us to address local needs and provide specific educational opportunities to help Virginians better their lives now and in the future.

You have spoken a lot about student experiences since you started. Why do you think these are so important? 

The students who are in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences today will be tomorrow’s leaders. They will be involved in some of the most pressing issues our society is going to face, including feeding a growing planet and ensuring a safe water supply. By providing students with experiential learning opportunities, they gain the skills and experiences they need to be ready to tackle the many challenges awaiting them.

As is apparent by the 17 patents you hold, most of your professional career has been involved in research, both in the private sector and at public universities. What role do you see our college playing in helping the university reach its research goals? 

Research is at the heart of what we are doing at Virginia Tech — helping make the world a better place. The work that the college is doing in developing renewable energy sources, making a safer, more-reliable food supply, improving health, and protecting our environment are crucial as the global population swells and new challenges arise daily. The college’s amount of sponsored funding has increased significantly in recent years, contributing to the National Science Foundation’s ranking of Virginia Tech as seventh in the nation for university research expenditures in the agricultural sciences. These are testaments to the high-quality, relevant work the college is conducting.