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Boeing Forms $3 million Partnership With Virginia Tech’s Calhoun Honors Discovery Program

A Boeing B-29 Superfortress, emblazoned with the Virginia Tech name after a successful bond drive, flew several missions over Japan during World War II. (Photo courtesy of Special Collections, Virginia Tech University Libraries.)

In a significant marker of industry support, Boeing has made a substantial commitment to Virginia Tech’s Calhoun Honors Discovery Program.

Boeing has agreed to contribute $3 million, a gift that will impact students and faculty members in the Discovery Program, which is a pilot model of transdisciplinary collaborative learning within the Honors College that is scheduled to enroll its first students in the fall 2019 semester. Boeing’s financial support includes funding for student scholarships, experiential-learning grants, and salary support for program faculty.

Boeing is the first founding industry partner of the Discovery Program. Boeing’s support establishes the Boeing Studio as part of the Calhoun Honors Discovery Program, which will allow students to engage in collaborative, transdisciplinary projects under the supervision of Discovery Program faculty and with Boeing experts available for advice.

“We are honored and excited to expand Virginia Tech’s partnership with Boeing in such a transformative way,” university president Tim Sands said. “The Calhoun Honors Discovery Program is focused on high-impact technology innovation that advances society, which occurs at the intersection of areas of knowledge. As a global leader in using highly engineered systems to solve complex problems, Boeing is an ideal partner for this bold new program.”

Boeing will support the studio by funding full-time Boeing Distinguished Professors of Practice, who will divide their time between Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus and at Boeing. In addition, Boeing staff will lend technical expertise by serving as visiting industry mentors, leading workshops, giving lectures and demonstrations, and helping to place Discovery Program students in internships. Additionally, Boeing will engage with the College of Engineering and the larger Virginia Tech community through special events.

Boeing experts will be invited to participate in the Discovery Program Advisory Board and to take part in recruiting activities that focus on underrepresented students, a leading priority for Virginia Tech. Some of these activities will take place through the College Access Collaborative, a program of Virginia Tech and the Commonwealth of Virginia to enhance recruiting and retention from underrepresented areas.

“Boeing is proud to support this trailblazing new program that will help Virginia Tech students develop the skills they need to become the innovators of the future,” said Tim Keating, executive vice president of Government Operations for The Boeing Company. “Future graduates of the Discovery Program will be the creative problem solvers we need at Boeing to continue building the products that connect and transform the world. I can’t wait to see what these students create.”

Creating a new model for higher education

Boeing will also participate in the research of the Calhoun Center for Higher Education Innovation. The Calhoun Center is partnering closely with the Honors College in the development of the Discovery Program, and in the connection of the program to a small cohort of academic, industry, and community partners.

The goal of the Calhoun Center is to connect the Discovery Program to national best practices for structuring and assessing adaptive, cross-cutting curricula for life-long learning. One outcome will be a set of blueprints that can be applied by forward-looking educators inside and outside Virginia Tech.

“The generous financial and in-kind support from Boeing moves us closer to our aspiration of making the Calhoun Honors Discovery Program a global leader in transdisciplinary education,” said Thanassis Rikakis, the founding chair of the Calhoun Honors Discovery Program and the Calhoun Center. “Boeing’s partnership will help us recruit students from different backgrounds so students can learn from and alongside a diverse peer cohort. Boeing’s participation in our learning ecosystem enhances the student experience and allows us to advance multifaceted collaborative research on adaptive life-long learning for an innovation economy.”

The Calhoun Honors Discovery Program was founded in March, when alumnus David Calhoun ’79 made a $20 million gift to the Honors College, the largest in the college’s history.  Five million of Calhoun’s gift is being used to develop and teach the curriculum of the Discovery Program and to launch the Calhoun Center. Fifteen million is helping Virginia Tech recruit and retain Honors College participants, which ultimately will benefit 200 Honors College students each year.

“Through Boeing’s partnership with the Calhoun Honors Discovery Program and the Honors College at Virginia Tech, students will be given the opportunity to learn how to engage real-world problems while still in the early years of their education,” Honors College Dean Paul Knox said. “The program is strongly influenced by Virginia Tech’s mission, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), with a clear focus on technological and social innovation for impact.”

About the Boeing Company

Through purposeful investments, employee engagement, and thoughtful advocacy efforts, Boeing and its employees support innovative partnerships and programs that align with the company’s strategic objectives, create value, and help build better communities worldwide. Boeing’s efforts are focused on improving access to globally competitive learning, contributing to workforce and skills development, and supporting our military and veteran communities.

Chicago-based Boeing is the world’s largest aerospace company and leading manufacturer of commercial jetliners and defense, space and security systems. A top U.S. exporter, the company supports airlines and U.S. and allied government customers in more than 150 countries.

Boeing and Virginia Tech have been connected for more than 70 years. Boeing has contributed more than $10 million in combined philanthropy and sponsored research to Virginia Tech over the past two decades.

Virginia Tech is one of just a handful of universities selected by Boeing to be part of its engineering accelerated hiring initiative. There are currently 279 Virginia Tech alumni working at Boeing, including several in key leadership positions.

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