Virginia Tech’s College of Architecture and Urban Studies (CAUS), under the leadership of Dean Richard Blythe, plans to adopt several new processes to enhance ongoing faculty engagement efforts and build additional capacity for collaboration among its four schools.

These activities follow a recent independent assessment of the current state of the college conducted by Segal Consulting. Through interviews and discussions with over 140 academic and administrative faculty as well as CAUS advisory board members, the assessment produced a number of valuable insights that will help inform the college’s strategic direction and position its programs for continued success.  

Blythe, who joined CAUS in 2017, has spearheaded several initiatives to more closely align the college with Virginia Tech’s Beyond Boundaries vision, including advancing the college’s international reputation, streamlining its finances, and launching a strategic planning process.

While a majority of CAUS faculty interviewed for the assessment said they embrace change and continuous improvement as essential for long-term success, they expressed concerns about the pace and impact of those changes within the college.  

“We have an incredible opportunity to help redefine the future of our disciplines in ways that exponentially benefit our students, communities, and Virginia Tech,” said Blythe, pointing to progress in college focus areas like smart design and construction, health design and policy research, and diversity and inclusion.

“But this kind of change is hard work, and we have difficult decisions to make,” he said. “Progress will require us to break down barriers and candidly face challenges, and I am committed to that process. The passion and commitment of our faculty, combined with the dedication of our alumni and CAUS community, is truly inspiring. We have the vision, talent, and grit we need to achieve our goals.  I’m thankful for this moment of recalibration, which will allow us to explore new ways of engaging our constituents and work toward developing broader support.”

Blythe noted that the assessment’s findings have provided him with a fresh understanding of both the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead. He also stressed the importance of building upon the college’s strong historical and pedagogical foundations as new initiatives are advanced.

“Our recent efforts to establish a more open, innovative, and inclusive approach to broad college governance are helping us find this balance,” he said. “But we still have work to do. As we move forward, leadership will be open and transparent."

As a result of the assessment, the college will implement a comprehensive approach that positions CAUS and its programs for future growth and success. This process will explore and support new ways of faculty engagement, invite additional input from internal and external stakeholders on college initiatives, and expand opportunities for leadership development.

Faculty will also be invited to participate in topical workgroups organized by a temporary executive review and leadership engagement committee. These workgroups will prompt deeper faculty collaboration across the college’s four schools and complement current strategic planning efforts.

Finally, CAUS will work with university partners to develop communications that engage and educate stakeholders on important college issues, such as fiscal and budgetary processes as well as enrollment management goals.

In a meeting with college faculty, Executive Vice President and Provost Cyril Clarke emphasized the importance of CAUS to Virginia Tech’s strategic success, especially in regards to the college’s alignment with the university’s Beyond Boundaries vision, and its capacity to expand global reach and forge industry partnerships. Highlighting the college’s long history of innovation and the rich legacy of its four schools, he said he looked forward to evaluating evolving CAUS initiatives with an open mind.

Originally from Australia, Blythe also reiterated his commitment to the college’s continued success, citing its tremendous potential for transformational impact on a global scale.

“When I moved my family halfway across the world several years ago to join CAUS and Virginia Tech, I did so with a strong respect for the really impressive work our faculty and students were undertaking,” he said. “I believe in these programs and where they’re heading, and I’m excited about this process and the potential of what we can achieve together.”