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Hello from your Department

April 19, 2017 –  

By Bob Smith


Bob Smith Robert (Bob) L. Smith Head, Department of Sustainable Biomaterials.

Another semester is almost over and in about three weeks, twenty-five students from the department will walk across the stage at the Moss Arts Center and collect their diplomas. It is always one of the highlights of the year with emotions of great joy, and some sadness for students who will be leaving their Hokie home after four (plus) years of hard work, a challenging education, and hopefully some fun. Many of our students will start new careers in areas such as distribution, research, marketing, design, and production management. Employers began last fall coming to campus to recruit students for positions in the private and public sectors. These employers tell us that the number one challenge for their companies is finding qualified individuals to fill positions that will help lead them into the future. They are not only looking for individuals with good technical knowledge, but students with good communication skills, the ability to take a leadership role early in their career, the ability to work in teams, and to be able to solve complex problems that arise regularly in their companies.

During the past years we have reorganized our classes and curriculum to address the issues that our partners from industry have raised. Our students start working in teams early in their education and many courses require students to be able to present their work in class. Our student clubs work together to help recruit students, represent the department at national meetings, and organize events on campus to increase the visibility of our department. The department has classes in both packaging and sustainable biomaterials where they must work in teams to solve “real world” issues that come from private companies. The department has capstone courses in which students have to put their education in the department all together to work on a major project for a semester.

This issue highlights some of the work that our student clubs have been doing this past year and recognized new graduate students to the program. It shares the breadth of our educational program from energy saving methods in producing maple syrup to complex issues with wood base composite manufacturing. The Wood Enterprise Institute (WEI) has had another very successful year with their VT wine rack and the Center for Packaging and Unit Load Design (CPULD) continues to give students first hand experiences working with the packaging industry with a variety of different projects. Finally, our extension faculty continue to serve the commonwealth with a variety of efforts to help the industry better compete in the market. In conclusion, I congratulate all of our graduating seniors and wish them a very successful future. I hope they all will remain in contact with us in the years to come. Every day I’m reminded that our purpose as faculty at Virginia Tech is to help shape the future of our nation/world by assisting the development of our young adults to go out and make this a better world. This class will have the chance to see if we are doing our job.

Best wishes,
Bob Smith

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