Z City Desk

What’s In a Name?

Many Hokie Birds can be discovered throughout Blacksburg and on the campus of Virginia Tech, each different in colors, patterns, and ideas represented. This one represents innovation in travel, tourism, and culture. (Photos courtesy of Amy Jackson)

By Amy Jackson

Alexandria, VA – “Hokie! Hokie! Hokie! Hi! Tech! Techs! V.P.I.!…” (“Old Hokie” cheer, Stull, 1896). This cheer is still chanted today, and the history behind it, and that of the evolution of Virginia Tech’s (VT) name change, is fascinating. Its story bodes well for the future of VT and for Alexandria’s extension of its Innovation Campus.

As noted from the Virginia Tech Website (www.vt.edu/about/traditions.html): Significant academic changes in 1896 ushered in a new name more befitting the university’s higher profile — [The original name of the school was Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College when it was established in 1872.] It then became Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College and Polytechnic Institute, commonly known as Virginia Polytechnic Institute, or VPI, in 1896.

  • 1944:The shortened Virginia Polytechnic Institute became the official name.
  • 1970:The Virginia General Assembly bestowed university status, and the formal name of the university became Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
  • Today:Virginia Tech is the university’s official nickname, used in all but the most formal situations. (Today’s graduates still receive diplomas that read Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.)

Being a progressive university, its built on innovative, inspirational and intentional ideas. The name itself alludes to its own evolution of time and learning. It is rare that I hear of someone in our community not looking forward to the completion of the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus in North Potomac Yard. The partners behind the Innovation Campus, a subset of the North Potomac Yard Innovation District, include JBG Smith, the Virginia Tech Foundation, our city government and Alexandria Public Schools, have been working with our city staff and holding community outreach sessions since it was announced in November 2018 that this institution of higher education would be establishing its ever-spirited, innovative presence known to our region, with modern facilities being built in the City of Alexandria. Meeting target deadlines, it is still scheduled to open in 2024.

“The Virginia Tech Innovation Campus will be located in North Potomac Yard in National Landing. In November 2018, Virginia Tech and the Commonwealth of Virginia announced funding for an Innovation Campus in the Alexandria specifically targeted at tech talent that will benefit all companies in the Commonwealth. The campus will offer master’s and doctoral level programs that dovetail with the industry’s most pressing demands. Degree programs and research opportunities will focus on computer sciences and software engineering, while offering specializations in high-demand areas, including data sciences; analytics and collective decisions; security; and technology and policy. The campus will build on the growing innovation economy in Alexandria and Arlington, anchored by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, the National Science Foundation, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, as well as private sector companies like Amazon.” (City of Alexandria Website: (www.alexandriava.gov/neighborhood-development/north-potomac-yard-implementation-and-virginia-tech-innovation-campus)

New athletic helmet and mouth guard research initiatives at the VT Institute for Critical Technology & Applied Sciences.

I am a proud Hokie. I’m even more proud now that this university that accepted me upon graduating from T.C. Williams High School (now Alexandria City High School) and where I spent many years, cultivated many friendships, and earned my undergraduate degree, is now creating another extension of their Blacksburg-based institute of higher learning right here in Alexandria. Since this decision, our Alexandria City Council members have been invited to attend tours of Virginia Tech’s main campus in Blacksburg (among other federal, state, and local leaders), to learn about the innovations and to be able to experience the technology created firsthand. These activities have included: visiting VT/Carilion medical facilities in Roanoke, hearing of new athletic helmet and mouth guard research initiatives at the VT Institute for Critical Technology & Applied Sciences, traveling to the VT Transportation Institute (VTTI) where we learned of continued autonomous vehicle studies while riding in a Tesla (and shuttle bus) at what seemed like warp speed over the once tallest bridge in Virginia spanning Blacksburg’s generous acreage in the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains, participating in the demonstration of the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership at the VT Drone Park, learning about the undersea autonomous systems research that will assist in future data collection from oceans to rivers, including the Chesapeake Bay, and absorbing the tutorial of amazing, innovative technology demonstrated for us at the Center for Advanced Separation Technologies with a demonstration of the extraction process for Rare Earth Elements, seeing in real time the process of mining minerals (coal) to water – energy efficiency of the future!

All of this to say, field trips (“in-service learning” to educators!) are beneficial. Experiencing the innovative technology at the main campus is a great resource of knowledge and insight, especially when the Blacksburg campus is paving the way for successful ventures for all at the VT Innovation Campus while using Alexandria’s Environmental Sustainability Master Plan (ESMP) structure, and others, to implement the methodology needed.

“The ESMP builds upon City of Alexandria standards and policies, striving to exceed code and recommending innovative strategies where they are market-feasible and have the ability to create impactful change. Some key references and standards include the City of Alexandria’s: • North Potomac Yard Small Area Plan • Environmental Action Plan 2040 (EAP 2040) • Green Building Policy • North Potomac Yard CDD conditions • Vision Zero Action Plan • Landscape Guidelines • Open Space Master Plan • NPY Water Management Master Plan • Solid Waste Management Plan • Chesapeake Bay Action Plan” (media.alexandriava.gov/content/planning/NPYESMP20200923.pdf)

Virginia Tech scientists discussing the extraction of Rare Earth Elements (coal to water). We are second only to China in having the minerals to process for energy efficient fuel.

In 1896, 24 years after the university was established, it adopted its motto Ut Prosim, which it still adheres to today. Latin for “That I May Serve,” I believe Alexandria is the right home for Virginia Tech’s latest campus extension if only due to its continued forward-thinking innovative educational approach that serves the people well as it continually shapes the evolution of its name proving that progress is born of necessity. Go Hokies!

Vice Mayor Amy Jackson, a career educator, is currently serving her second term on the Alexandria City Council. Raised in Alexandria, she is the first ACHS (TCW) “Lady Titan” to hold a seat as an Alexandria City Councilwoman and now as Vice Mayor. She currently lives in the West End with her husband and two children who attend ACPS.

ICYMI: For the Love of Math: Alexandria Educator Authors Children’s Book to Boost Counting Confidence

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