George Washington University President Steven Knapp addressed plans for the Virginia Science and Technology Campus (VSTC) in a speech before a group of Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce members on April 18. The speech, titled “The George Washington University and Loudoun County: Our Future Together,” was part of the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Luncheon Series, held at the National Conference Center in Loudoun County.
More than 150 business and community leaders heard Dr. Knapp speak, including Anthony Howard, president and CEO of the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce, and Scott York, chair of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors. VSTC Dean Ali Eskandarian also attended the event.
Mr. Howard made opening remarks, and Christopher Craig, president and COO of the software company Unanet, welcomed Dr. Knapp to the podium.
The university’s School of Nursing, which serves more than 500 students, added a 3,300-square-foot state-of-the-art simulation center in Loudoun County in 2012. VSTC also supports the county with science and technology education opportunities, including 20 degree and certificate programs and 17 research labs that focus on cybersecurity, transportation safety, mechanical engineering and high-performance computing science. These efforts “not only solve urgent problems, but do so in a way that creates economic value,” Dr. Knapp explained.
Dr. Knapp also cited several VSTC events that tie Loudoun and GW communities together, including STE Day, an annual event that brought 120 Loudoun County high schools students to campus this year; the Genomic Summer Camp for Girls, which introduces high school girls to the study of genetics; and the Teachers in Industry Project, an externship program that places teachers in local businesses. VSTC also hosts several small business workshops and art exhibitions.
“Our ambition both for our institution and for the county goes beyond hosting these events. We want to be part—an essential part—of Loudoun County’s emergence as an increasingly powerful innovation-based economy,” Dr. Knapp said.
According to Moody’s Economy.com, Loudoun County boasts the nation’s highest concentration of internet, defense and satellite companies. Seventy percent of the world’s internet traffic also passes through the county’s data centers.
To strengthen the county’s technology-based economy, Dr. Knapp said the new Institute for Computational Biology, led by Keith Crandall, will focus heavily on big data and life sciences. The institute will receive $5 million in start-up funding over the next five years and an additional $1.2 million for new computing capacities. Other big data initiatives will focus on medical genomics, which will also receive a $5 million investment, and physics and engineering.
Additional efforts to build out the university’s presence in Loudoun County will include new arts programs and a museum conservation and resource center, which will feature a 22,000-square-foot conservation and art storage facility and 30,000 square-feet of space for research programs.
“Think of how much more powerful those efforts will be if we can bring together not only the resources of different academic fields but the resources of higher education, the public sector and the private sector,” Dr. Knapp said. “We need to develop a strategic partnership that will align these three sectors, and that means working with the extraordinary leadership the county enjoys.”
Questions following the speech centered on distance learning for military veterans. Dr. Knapp introduced recently appointed Senior Associate Dean for Military and Veterans Initiatives Mel Williams, who spoke to GW’s efforts serving the veteran community.