A new partnership between Roanoke College and Virginia Tech will enable more students to pursue graduate educations in computer sciences.
The joint partnership, announced Friday, will allow Roanoke College upperclassmen easy entry into Virginia Tech graduate programs for computer science and computer engineering. There’s also an accelerated offering, enabling students to graduate with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in five years, rather than six.
Those new options fit into a shared statewide goal to increase the number of Virginia college students who graduate to work in sectors of technology, said Roanoke College President Frank Shushok during a phone interview Friday.
“We want to knock down barriers for students as they’re transitioning from institutions that offer different strengths,” Shushok said. “They don’t have to jump through a lot of bureaucratic and administrative hoops … it makes it really easy for them.”
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By waiving application fees and test score requirements for Roanoke College students seeking those Virginia Tech graduate programs, Shushok said he hopes more Roanoke College students will carry on to post-graduate studies, and high-paying tech jobs that come after.
“I’ve spent a lot of time talking to industry partners and companies and people in the region and across the state,” Shushok said. “Everyone is talking about the need for jobs in computer science and computer engineering, and all the related technical fields.”
In response to those industry demands, students are increasingly choosing Roanoke College’s undergraduate computer science degree, Shushok said.
“I’ve just spent a lot of time to get to know TMEIC as a company in the region. They’re right down the road here from Roanoke College,” Shushok said. “They’re an international company that’s located right here, that needs students who have high tech capacities, but also wonderful leadership skills. So that’s an example.”
The agreement between Roanoke College and Virginia Tech came easy for Shushok, who was an administrator at Tech before he was hired last year to head the college in Salem.
“It was just easy to make a marriage out of two great partners who are trying to do the same thing in elevating the Commonwealth and students,” he said. “I’ve said from the beginning that Roanoke College wants to be bold, that we want to be innovative, that we’re committed to partnering with other institutions and entities.”
Students who are early to the joint partnership could be among the first to attend Virginia Tech’s new Innovation Campus in Alexandria, scheduled to open next year.
In the Friday announcement, Innovation Campus Executive Director Lance Collins said he looks forward to the partnership.
“The Innovation Campus is dedicated to increasing opportunities for underrepresented students while expanding access to tech talent in the National Capital region,” Collins said. “We look forward to welcoming Roanoke College graduates to our Master of Engineering program.”
Shushok said the partnership with Virginia Tech expands on and is similar to other Roanoke College agreements with Johns Hopkins University for nursing, and with Boston University for public health.
More educational collaborations are on the horizon, and not just from other colleges, but also industries, nonprofits, and whatever other institution is interested, he said.
“We’re just looking for any partner who’s interested in elevating the potential and possibilities for students, making it less difficult for them, and drawing on the strengths of different institutions,” Shushok said. “We’re looking in all directions, with all kinds of institutions.”