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Goals | Strategic Plan Home

Strategic Plan Goal 1
Graduates Prepared for Leadership


The School of Engineering Strategic Plan was developed to guide the School in the coming years as it transitions from a primarily education-focused school to a major research institution. Out of that process emerged six strategic goals to advance the School of Engineering mission and to strengthen its foundation.


Economic development and well-being of those in the Commonwealth and beyond will increasingly rely on the contributions of Engineering School graduates. To address this need, the Engineering School will increase both the size and the effectiveness of its graduate and undergraduate programs. Undergraduate enrollment is expected to increase from 2,300 to more than 2,700 in the next five years and graduate enrollment from 600 to 900 over 10 years. Taking the following actions will enable the School to continue to provide an outstanding student experience and effectively prepare its graduates to lead in their chosen fields.

Key Actions

1.1 Increase impact of the graduate program

Increasing the size and impact of the graduate program is central to the School of Engineering's strategy. For its graduate students to lead in their chosen field whether in academia or industry, the Engineering School must provide a thriving, competitive environment that values and encourages internationally recognized scholarship. The environment should stimulate connections across the School of Engineering, U.Va. and beyond. A larger, better connected, more productive graduate student body will increase the School’s research and scholarly productivity, provide support for its undergraduate program and enhance the visibility and reputation of the School. This growth strategy includes the following components:

1.2 Increase enrollment

To build critical density in the graduate student population, the School of Engineering will increase graduate student enrollment from the current level of 4.3 students per faculty, to 5.5 students per faculty, primarily through growth in Ph.D. programs. With the expected increase in faculty resulting from the planned undergraduate enrollment increase, the School of Engineering's goal is to increase overall graduate student enrollment to 900 in the next 10 years, while enhancing the diversity of the graduate student population.

1.3 Increase internal funding for graduate students

One of the principal barriers to admitting highly qualified graduate students has been the lack of a buffer to “smooth out” fluctuations in research funding. Admitting graduate students inevitably incurs risk, because the decision to admit them to the Engineering School involves a commitment of support. Currently, this risk is assumed fully by the individual faculty member, thereby discouraging faculty from taking on additional students. To address this issue, the Engineering School will more than double institutional support for graduate students from the current level of 9 percent student support to 20 percent. This will allow the Engineering School to spread the risk of admission across the School, and will make it much easier for faculty to take on the students needed to support their research. In addition, this increase will provide the necessary teaching assistant support for the Engineering School’s growing undergraduate program.

1.4 Create student community-building opportunities to stimulate innovation, collaboration and personal development

Expanded enrollment alone will not achieve the School’s goal of creating a thriving graduate program. The School of Engineering will also increase and enhance the opportunities for interaction among students and faculty within and beyond the School.

1.5 Consolidate Engineering School-wide educational programs

The School of Engineering will create a new department that brings together the existing Science, Technology, and Society (STS) department and the programs in Applied Math, Experiential Learning, Distance Learning, Rodman Scholars, International Studies, and business and entrepreneurship. Students gain a discrete advantage in the marketplace by participating in these programs, but they are currently administered by disparate faculty members with little coordination among the programs. By consolidating these educational programs, which add significant value and cross all departments, the School of Engineering will strategically integrate the educational experience, support high-impact practices and realize significant efficiencies in course delivery.

1.6 Ensure efficient, effective delivery of Engineering School educational programs

The School of Engineering will continuously review its curriculum for both undergraduate and graduate programs to ensure that it is providing the highest quality educational outcomes. The Engineering School must ensure that both its content and its method of delivery maximizes the impact of its educational program while properly using faculty and staff resources. Low-value-added courses and areas of duplication should be eliminated or revised to use Engineering resources effectively. In particular, the School will undertake a review of the first-year program, including common courses such as ENGR 1620 and CS 1110.

1.7 Provide every undergraduate with a sustained, high-impact educational experience

High-impact practices are sustained, purposeful, experiential learning interactions among faculty and students. They follow many themes, including:

  • Undergraduate research
  • Engineering practice
  • Service learning
  • Entrepreneurship
  • International study

High-impact practices have been shown to improve student performance, persistence and success. Moreover, high-impact practices allow the Engineering School to directly align faculty interests with student passions. Better alignment will reduce undergraduate student churn, tap into the latent intellectual capacity of the School of Engineering's undergraduate student population, and further empower students to take ownership of their learning experience. When faculty align with one or more high-impact practice themes, they gain access to students who are passionate about that theme, and can create relationships of deep educational benefit for the student and professional benefit for the faculty member.

To coordinate development of and access to high impact educational experiences for its students, the Engineering School will seek funding to create the Center for High Impact Practices.

1.8 Strengthen rigor in technical courses while ensuring broad educational opportunities across U.Va.

The Engineering School must continue to challenge its most ambitious and talented students with rigorous curricular and experiential learning opportunities in all disciplines. It is incumbent upon the faculty to create experiences that tap the intellectual capacity, leadership potential and creativity of these high-achieving students. Our curricula must meet the needs of all students, but we will raise the general level of rigor in the technical experience and demand more intellectual curiosity, collaboration and teamwork from each of our students.

1.9 Engage alumni in educational programs

Many School of Engineering alumni hold great affection for the School and the University and seek ways to sustain their connection to U.Va. Engineering. The School envisions its alumni as career mentors for students, partners in the education process (for example, as guest speakers), connections to employment opportunities, conduits to research experiences and partners in realizing its goals. Engaging alumni in the School of Engineering educational mission requires the following:

  • Continuously connecting alumni to the School, beginning immediately upon graduation and evolving into different roles and responsibilities.
  • Providing the Engineering School undergraduate students with trusted career counseling, a connection to the broader U.Va. network and “real world” advice.
  • Allowing faculty to engage with its alumni in support of a variety of relationships: education, research, Capstone projects, sabbaticals, etc.

Key Metrics

Key metrics to measure success are the following:
  • The quality of the School of Engineering's incoming students (SAT’s, GRE’s).
  • The value added to the Engineering School educational program (number of publications, number of undergraduate students participating in high impact experiences, etc.).
  • The diversity of the School of Engineering student body.
  • The ratio of graduate students to faculty from current 4.3 to 5.5 and the graduate student to undergraduate ratio to 1:3 from current 1:4, primarily through growth in Ph.D. programs.
  • The success rate of Engineering students (initial placement rates, long-term longitudinal studies)
  • Number of alumni engaged in School of Engineering educational programs.