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Five-Year Strategic Plan and Two-Year Strategic Communications and Marketing Plan

2022-2027

Five-Year Strategic Plan - Pending Approval

Introduction: Ut Prosim, Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources in Virginia, and “Why We Exist”

Virginia is a diverse state. Northern Virginia and the Tidewater regions enjoy high growth, low unemployment, and high per capita incomes. The economy is greatly influenced by federal government/military spending and trade. Virginia is home to one of the busiest ports on the east coast. By comparison, several rural regions of Virginia, such as Southside and Southwest Virginia, have relatively high rates of unemployment, low per capita income, and relatively poor health outcomes. Many rural localities are experiencing negative population growth. Virginia agriculture is dominated by poultry (30 percent), cattle (10 percent), dairy (9 percent), field crops, and oil crops (18 percent) in terms of cash receipts. The vast majority of the value of Virginia agriculture originates in the Shenandoah Valley, Eastern Shore, and coastal plains. The impact that agriculture has on Virginia’s economy goes well beyond production agriculture, which employs 54,000 farmers and workers and generates around $3.8 billion in economic value (Weldon Cooper 2017).

Virginia enjoys many natural assets, ranging from the third largest estuary in the world (Chesapeake Bay) in the east to extensive Appalachian forests in the west. The natural environment helps support tourism, with Virginia being one of the most visited states in the country. Virginia is engaged in a number of global and regional efforts to improve environmental quality. Virginia is a major participant in four decades of federal and state efforts to improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay. Recently, Virginia became the first southern state to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which operates the carbon cap and trade program in the eastern United States.

The value-added of Virginia’s agriculture is estimated to be around $45 billion, or nearly 10 percent of the commonwealth's gross domestic product (GDP). When jobs in the closely related forestry sector are added to those in agriculture, every job in these sectors results in 1.7 additional jobs in Virginia. Beyond its economic impact, a hallmark of Virginia’s agricultural and natural resource sectors is diversity. With its large port facilities at the harbor of Hampton Roads, Virginia’s economy is linked directly to international export markets. In 2021, agriculture and forestry exports together were valued at more than $4.1 billion. By commodity, some of the leading agricultural and forestry exports in Virginia include soybeans, soybean oil, wood products, tobacco, seafood, and specialty food and beverage items. Leading export markets for Virginia’s food and agricultural products include Canada, China, and Western Europe.

Furthermore, the environmental benefits of Virginia’s natural areas in categories such as clean water, natural habitat, and carbon sequestration are estimated to exceed $18 billion per annum. Relatedly, agritourism in Virginia is estimated to generate around $2.2 billion in economic activity resulting in more than 22,000 full-time jobs.

We strive to be leaders in conducting timely and high-impact basic and applied research on policies and problems that impact the economies and prosperity of agriculture, food, health, and community and social wellbeing for residents of the commonwealth and beyond. Our instructional programs seek to equip our students with the necessary hard and soft skills to be fully employable upon graduation, to be productive citizens, and to enjoy an ever-expanding vista of career paths and professional and personal opportunities. Our Extension and outreach programs aim to use relevant economic and agribusiness management tools to help food and agricultural producers, agribusiness firms, natural resource managers, local, state, and federal governments, and the constellation of communities, large and small, domestic and international, address the pressing issues they confront. In all that we do, we are guided by Virginia Tech’s motto, Ut Prosim, “That I may serve.” Service, coupled with our overarching commitment to the land-grant mission, is at the heart of all that we do.

Who we are

Taglines

  • Education with purpose
  • Research with impact
  • Scholarship with intent
  • Extension and outreach with value

About us

The Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics at Virginia Tech is a premier, world-class department of its kind, ranked globally in the top ten percent. Inspired by our land grant mission and motto Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), we teach, conduct research, and distribute findings that empower a diverse audience of students, stakeholders, and alumni to change the world. Our faculty and graduates have expertise in applied economics and agribusiness principles that, in turn, help address the food, financial, health, development, policy, environmental, and social needs in Virginia and beyond.

Students receive a world-renowned education and leave as leaders prepared to serve their communities by addressing the world's most challenging problems.

Our mission

Through dynamic research, all-encompassing classroom experiences, and impactful Extension and outreach efforts, we solve global challenges that deal with the economics of agriculture and agribusiness management, environmental and natural resource management, and human health, development, and wellbeing.

We accomplish our mission by:

  • Expanding boundaries of agricultural and applied economics knowledge through research that addresses societal issues and needs.
  • Ensuring our scholarship has a real-world impact by using our expertise to inform teaching, outreach, and Extension efforts.
  • Providing instruction that inspires students to achieve new and deeper levels of understanding about the use of economic tools and concepts to address real-world policy and business problems.
  • Developing and delivering Extension and outreach programs to help stakeholders achieve better outcomes, enjoy greater profitability, and reach a higher standard of living.

Our vision

The Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics will be a premier program to educate and train future leaders, and to support industry, agencies, and policy-makers, through excellence in research, teaching, and Extension. By using our expertise, we address global challenges confronting food and fiber industries, rural and urban communities, and natural resource systems, and help policymakers make better, more informed decisions.

Our core values

  • We uphold the ideals of our land-grant mission and our motto of Ut Prosim (That I may serve).

By integrating our research, instruction, and Extension programs, we are able to more effectively address real-world problems and enhance the quality of life for those that we serve.

  • We seek excellence in research, teaching, and Extension.

We are committed to being the best we can be in all that we do. By seeking excellence, we ensure that we can attract the best talent, that our work will have an impact, and that we will remain relevant in addressing the most pressing policy debates of today.

  • We commit ourselves to honesty, integrity, and transparency in all that we do.

We share a belief that excellence cannot be achieved without honesty, integrity, and transparency. We remain ever accountable to our students, our stakeholders, our peers, and each other.

  • We celebrate diversity and promote an inclusive environment that demonstrates respect for all individuals and groups.

Our shared belief is that the most challenging problems confronting society can only be successfully addressed when all groups and individuals have identical abundant opportunities to contribute and flourish.

  • We take pride in forward-thinking creativity, discovery, and innovation that encourages academic and career development for faculty, staff, students, and alumni.

Solving big problems require big ideas. We seek to maintain an environment that encourages all members of our community to continue their journey of personal growth and development.

  • We hold ourselves accountable to find solutions that change the world for the better.

Our land-grant mission compels us to engage in work that demonstrably and positively impacts the quality of life for those we serve. We are committed to using our economics tools to help find workable solutions to society’s biggest challenges.

Our core strategic themes

The 2020 strategic plan for Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences identified four major strengths the college will continue to pursue:

  1. Food
  2. Health
  3. Economy
  4. Environment

Taken together, these four strengths will allow the college to successfully address the college’s overarching theme: Thriving Communities. For the reasons outlined in the introduction, the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics is uniquely positioned to contribute substantially to each of these four core strategic themes. We are, by design, focused intently on issues relating to food, health, the economy, and the environment. In all that we do, our overarching objective is to support thriving communities.

Consistent with the core strategic themes, the department has identified faculty strengths in the following areas:

  • International trade and development
  • Agribusiness, risk management, and policy
  • Applied econometrics and data sciences
  • Environmental and natural resource economics
  • Food and health economics
  • Community and rural economics

Many members of the department have research, teaching, and Extension expertise that encompasses several strength areas.

Strategic priorities

As a result of an ongoing internal dialogue and conversations with internal (to Virginia Tech) and external stakeholders, the department has developed a series of three overarching strategic priorities each of which is associated with three goals. These goals are designed to be consistent with and supportive of many of the strategic goals identified by the college in its 2020 strategic plan. Unless otherwise stated, the metrics associated with each strategic priority are to be achieved by 2027.

1. The department will be a destination for creative and diverse faculty, staff, and student talent.

The department will continue to grow in national and international preeminence by being a destination for talent. To help build the workforce of the future, it is imperative that the department attract and retain the best and most representative faculty and staff members possible. Furthermore, to meet the evolving needs of employers for highly-trained, diverse talent, it is necessary for the department to grow and enhance its graduate and undergraduate programs in sustainable ways.

Goals:

  1. Attract, develop, and retain diverse faculty and staff talent that embraces the tripartite land-grant mission.
  2. Attract and retain high-quality students in our programs and ensure timely degree completion and promising career outcomes.
  3. Expand representational diversity and acknowledged appreciation for pluralism among all of the department’s faculty, staff, and students.

Metrics:

  • Increase underrepresented minority and underserved (i.e., first generation, Pell-eligible, or active duty or veteran status) student populations in our undergraduate and Master’s programs to 40 percent.
  • Obtain gender parity in our graduate and undergraduate programs.
  • Increase overall underrepresented minority faculty and staff representation to 15 percent. Increase female representation to 50 percent in all faculty ranks and 50 percent in tenured and tenure-track positions.
  • Increase second-year retention of all undergraduate students to 80 percent.
  • Reduce the average time-to-degree for all entering freshmen to four years or less and for transfer students to 2.5 years or less.
  • Increase the number of undergraduate majors (first and second) to 300, with an equal split between the Agribusiness Management and the Applied Economic Management degrees.
  • Increase the number of undergraduate students completing a 4+1 combined B.S./M.S. degree program to 10 percent of our total majors.
  • Increase the number of continuously enrolled online M.S. and for-credit certificate students to 50.

Explore opportunities to build joint degree and certificate programs with other units in the college and beyond.

Seek to establish a presence with the Innovation Campus in Alexandria, VA.

  • Increase the number of continuously enrolled online master of agricultural and life sciences (OMALS) students to 20.
  • Increase stipends to allow us to attract Ph.D. candidates with strong communication and analytical skills.
  • Increase the number of Ph.D. placements in tenure-track academic positions to 25 percent of each entering cohort.
  • Increase the number of Ph.D. students (funded and unfunded) to 45.
  • Reduce average time-to-degree for Ph.D. students to 4.5 years.
  • Ensure that within five years all first-year Ph.D. candidates are funded from department (i.e., non-grant) resources.

2. The department will be a destination for excellence in research, teaching, and Extension in agricultural and applied economics for the commonwealth and beyond.

The department will be a global leader in advancing the science and application of economics tools and principles relevant to food, agriculture, human health, community, and environmental issues. But being leaders in research alone is not sufficient. In keeping with our integrated land-grant mission, we seek to share the results of our research with stakeholders in the commonwealth and beyond by providing timely Extension programs and materials and by pursuing teaching and learning excellence in our classrooms and beyond.

Goals:

  1. Advance excellence in agricultural and applied economics research and discovery.
  2. Maintain preeminence in teaching and learning.
  3. Pursue distinction in Extension and outreach programs for the commonwealth and beyond.

Metrics:

  • Achieve top-ten status in the Research Papers in Economics (IDEAS/RePEc) rankings of departments like ours by increasing publications in top-tier agricultural and applied economics and general economics journals by 20 percent.
  • Increase first destination outcomes (i.e., employment connected to the field of study or continued studies in graduate or professional programs) of graduates to 75 percent.
  • Hire a world-class agricultural and applied economist to serve as the inaugural holder of the Kohl Chair and director of the Kohl Centre.
  • Hire a highly qualified Extension-research tenure-track candidate in agricultural markets, trade, and policy.
  • Hire a highly qualified candidate to hold the J. and Renae Pearson Collegiate Faculty fellow teaching position to be affiliated with the Kohl Centre.
  • Hire a highly qualified instructor or professor-of-practice candidate to hold the Kohl Junior Faculty Fellow teaching and engagement position to be affiliated with the Kohl Centre.
  • Hire at least three Extension-research faculty members to work remotely in one of the college’s Agricultural Research and Extension Centers (ARECs). Specific areas include but are not limited to:

Economics of Agricultural Technology and Big Data.

Applied Agribusiness Management and Agritourism.

Agribusiness and Farm Management: Field Crops.

  • Increase research expenditures by 35 percent relative to the most recent three-year average.

Go through the legislative process of elevating the Center for Agricultural Trade to be a USDA Policy Research Center (PRC).

  • Ensure that 100 percent of our undergraduate majors have obtained experiential learning in the form of a paid internship, a co-op, immersive research or Extension experience, or a study abroad opportunity.

Refocus the Kohl Centre to have a more data-centric, project-based orientation.

Charge the new Kohl Chair to leverage the resources of the Kohl Centre to build corporate and business partnerships that benefit our students, faculty, and staff.

  • Increase faculty participation in pedagogy and Extension training by 5 percent annually.

3. Ensure departmental and institutional excellence.

To ensure our department’s long-term success and viability, it is necessary to build and maintain robust relationships with our alumni and stakeholder partners. Furthermore, to ensure our sustained success we must have a steady stream of diverse and fungible fiscal resources at our disposal. We must especially develop new ways to engage with our recent alumni. We must expand partnerships with private and public businesses, nonprofit organizations, and other entities interested in employing our students or working with us to find creative solutions to the most pressing economic and social challenges confronting society today.

Goals: 

  1. Continue to improve, upgrade, and modify our physical space and technological resources.
  2. Foster, establish, and maintain mutually advantageous relationships with internal and external stakeholders.
  3. Constantly pursue creative and practical ways to diversify revenue streams to better support the diverse research, Extension, and instructional activities of our faculty, staff, and students.

Metrics:

  • Upgrade and modify the Williamson room as a dedicated space for Commodity Investing by Students (COINS) at Virginia Tech with at least two Bloomberg terminals.
  • Update, modify, and refurbish the graduate student spaces on the third floor of Hutcheson Hall and in the basement of Smyth Hall.
  • Complete updates and modifications for other shared spaces and faculty and staff offices.
  • Use the Kohl Centre and its affiliated faculty to leverage opportunities to provide executive training and education in multiple formats.
  • Form and organize a young alumni engagement committee to provide advice on curriculum, employment opportunities, and young alumni engagement.
  • Build and launch a department-level career fair with at least 40 companies/employers participating within three years.
  • Increase the number of AAEC alumni donors:

35 percent giving to Virginia Tech

15 percent giving to CALS

  • Increase the average size of a financial gift of AAEC alumni:

$2,500 to Virginia Tech

$7,500 to CALS 

Two-Year Strategic Communications and Marketing Plan

Goals

  1. Increase undergraduate and online master’s applications and enrollment
  2. Increase Ph.D. applications
  3. Develop program-level student learning outcomes and a plan for reporting
  4. Facilitate internship opportunities for students with visible companies and organizations
  5. Raise awareness of faculty research
  6. Increase Extension and outreach visibility and presence in Virginia and Mid-Atlantic region
  7. Implement brand alignment

Target audiences

The department counts among its stakeholders a broad range of audiences. Each audience requires specific content and communication styles to effectively convey messaging.

Prospective students and their influencers

Prospective students

  • Traditional, both domestic and international
  • Under-represented (minority, first-generation, low income, LGBTQ+)
  • Under-served (military veterans, working adults, non-traditional, transfer)

Influencers

  • Parents/Guardians
  • Guidance counselors
  • Teachers
  • Family/friends

External audiences

  • Alumni
  • The New River Valley community
  • Broader Virginia community
  • Donors, current, and potential
  • Corporate partners
  • Employers
  • Policymakers
  • Media
  • High schools and community colleges

Internal audiences

  • Current students
  • Faculty
  • Staff
  • Student Ambassadors

Administrative audiences

  • Departmental, Alumni, and University Boards
  • University administration

Who we are

Taglines complement messaging points

  • Education with purpose
  • Research with impact
  • Scholarship with intent
  • Outreach and Extension with value

About us

The Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics at Virginia Tech is a premier, world-class department of its kind, ranked globally in the top ten percent. Inspired by our land grant mission and motto Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), we teach, conduct research, and distribute findings that empower a diverse audience of students, stakeholders, and alumni to change the world. Our faculty and graduates have expertise in applied economics and agribusiness principles that, in turn, help address the food, financial, health, development, policy, environmental, and social needs in Virginia and beyond.

Students receive a world-renowned education and leave as leaders prepared to serve their communities by addressing the world's most challenging problems.

Our mission

Through dynamic research, all-encompassing classroom experiences, and impactful extension and outreach efforts, we solve global challenges that deal with the economics of agriculture and natural resources.

We accomplish our mission by:

  • Expanding boundaries of agricultural and applied economics knowledge through research that addresses societal issues and needs.
  • Ensuring our scholarship has a real-world impact by using our expertise to inform teaching and Extension efforts.
  • Providing instruction that inspires students to achieve new and deeper levels of understanding about the use of economic tools and concepts to address real-world policy and business problems.
  • Developing and delivering Extension and outreach programs to help stakeholders achieve better outcomes, enjoy greater profitability, and reach a higher standard of living.

Our vision

The Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics strives to be a premier program to educate and train future leaders, and to support industry, agencies, and policy-makers, through excellence in research, teaching, and Extension. By using our expertise, we address global challenges confronting food and fiber industries, rural and urban communities, and natural resource systems, and help policymakers make better, more informed decisions.

Our core values

  • We uphold the ideals of our land-grant mission and our motto of Ut Prosim (That I may serve)
  • We seek excellence in research, teaching, and Extension
  • We commit ourselves to honesty, integrity, and transparency in all that we do
  • We celebrate diversity and promote an inclusive environment that demonstrates respect for all individuals and groups
  • We take pride in forward-thinking creativity, discovery, and innovation that encourages academic and career development for faculty, staff, students, and alumni
  • We hold ourselves accountable to find solutions that change the world for the better

Strategic priorities

Goal: Increase undergraduate and online master’s applications and enrollment

Our message

  • Education with purpose
  • Scholarship with intent
  • Highly-ranked master’s program
  • Creation of  local-to-global impact
  • Ranking in the top ten percent worldwide of institutions and economists in the field of agricultural economics
  • Commitment to graduating future leaders that will use their knowledge and insights to help build a better world
  • Vibrant community of forward-thinking, actively engaged individuals
  • Inspiration for students to embrace the mantra, “I can transform the world with my degree”

Measurables

  • Undergraduate applications received/enrollment: Up to 300 applications by 2027 or 120 by 2024
  • Enroll 28 M.S. online students by the Fall of 2024
  • Enroll 20 OMALS-Agribusiness students in the Agribusiness Fundamentals Certificate by the Fall of 2024
  • Comparison data: Review applications and enrollment per semester to analyze growth
  • Develop key performance indicators from the website and social media that will analyze growth

Goal: Increase Ph.D. applications

Our message

  • Research with impact
  • Support for diversity, equity, inclusion, and accountability
  • Renowned faculty
  • Exceptional resources
  • Individualized mentoring
  • Highly sought graduates across industries and academia
  • Excellence in research
  • Funding opportunities

Measurables

  • 34 Ph.D. students by 2024

Goal: Develop program-level student learning outcomes and a plan for reporting

Our message

  • Outcomes with purpose
  • 90-day placement rate

Measurables

  • Faculty/staff advisory committee to create data reporting 90-day placement rates

Goal: Facilitate internship opportunities for students with visible companies and organizations

Our message

  • Education with purpose
  • Experiential learning
  • Impactful experience
  • Company partnerships

Measurables

  • Data on student internship placements

Goal: Raise awareness of faculty research

Our message

  • Research with impact
  • Renowned faculty
  • Excellence in research

Measurables

  • The continued increase in Google Analytics 
  • An increase in media inquiries that can be tracked via Google alerts
  • Increase in rank to 36th spot from numbered 38th in the top ten percent worldwide of Institutions and Economists in the Field of Agricultural Economics

Goal: Increase Extension and outreach visibility and presence in Virginia and the Mid-Atlantic region

Our message

  • Outreach and Extension with value

Measurables

  • The continued increase in click rates on the revamped webpage
  • An increase in media inquiries that can be tracked via Google alerts

Goal: Implement brand alignment

Our message

  • Messaging with purpose
  • Uniformity
  • Consistency

Measurables

  • 100% F/S to utilize branding collateral and developed processes