Gregory Triplett, Ph.D., formerly associate dean for graduate studies and research in engineering, has been appointed senior associate dean for academic affairs in the VCU College of Engineering. Effective July 1, 2019, Triplett oversees the college’s undergraduate and graduate academic programs, as well as career and student services. The new role reflects VCU Engineering’s growth in enrollment and research expenditures in recent years, and its importance in the local digital economy.
How is your new position as senior associate dean for academic affairs different from your previous role?
In my new role, I will oversee the entire enterprise of what we do here academically, from undergraduate through doctoral programs. Working across the entire academic spectrum allows us to ensure that our undergraduate and graduate programs work together seamlessly and dynamically. This way, we can create more collaborations for student success at every level.
Why did the college decide to create this new role at this time?
The needs of our students have expanded. VCU Engineering students are thinking beyond just a traditional education. They want relevant experience and applied learning that combines industry and research. Also, given our growth in enrollment, research expenditures and the local digital economy, it was a good time to look at all aspects of academic programming.
Take undergraduate research, for example. This is a major priority at VCU Engineering. As a result, the undergraduate research programs have expanded dramatically to include Research Experiences for Undergraduates, Vertically Integrated Projects and the Dean’s Early and Undergraduate Research Initiatives. Although they are for undergraduate students, these programs interact a great deal with our research and graduate studies efforts. Graduate students mentor undergraduate researchers. Undergraduates who involve themselves in real research experience often go on to graduate school. By placing all of these programs under the office of academic affairs, we can build even richer collaborations.
My new role allows us to look at the programs holistically. Instead of thinking about academics, career services and student services in terms of “undergrad and grad,” we wanted to approach them together. There's a lot of connective tissue between the two.
What are your top priorities right now?
That’s easy: student success. I know we hear that phrase frequently, but student success is what this is really all about. We want academic programs that are able to meet the demands of industry and academia, but most of all, our students.
In many important ways, success is defined by the student. Before Dr. Vennie Filippas accepted a position as VCU’s researcher-in-residence at the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing, she was associate dean for undergraduate studies in engineering. She really understood the pulse of the students in engineering and was very student-centered. I plan to continue that best practice as I work closely with undergraduates.
What are students telling you they want?
One of the things that students appreciate most about VCU is diversity. This includes diversity of our faculty and diversity of experience. This is very much related to academic rigor, which our students embrace. Solutions to some of our most pressing social problems require people from different backgrounds and perspectives who all have a firm understanding of engineering. Our students are motivated by big problems and they tell me they expect us to be tough on them. They know they want to make an impact, and this requires a deeper understanding and a richer learning experience.
Anything you would like to add?
Industry likes the talent that comes from VCU Engineering. Virginia was recently named the best state for business in the U.S., and we have been a major contributor to that distinction. We know that most students from VCU Engineering make their careers in the commonwealth. Our reputation keeps getting stronger and the demand for VCU Engineering to produce more engineers and computer scientists only increases. Our job is to tell our story, especially to potential students. They can come here and learn from excellent faculty, have access to excellent resources, interact with industry — and then have a great career in Virginia, if they choose to stay here. This is what we believe we are supposed to do as a state institution.