Georgia Tech students may learn in virtual classrooms, with avatars of themselves “sitting” in the class. Students and professors will work to solve the world’s problems using new areas of study. The institute will expand globally, while also taking on a larger role in Atlanta.
These are just a few aspects of the strategic vision Georgia Tech President G.P. “Bud” Peterson will share in a speech Tuesday. The plan outlines goals and priorities to shape the institution for the next 25 years.
Peterson spoke with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution to discuss the plan, noting that details are still being developed. The plan can be read at www.gatech.edu/vision.
Q: The strategic plan calls for new fields of study so students can interact and influence the world of 2035. What will these new fields look like?
A: If I asked you 10 or 15 years ago what the new or emerging areas were for the future, you would say information technology, biotechnology and nanotechnology. Those will continue to be very important. What we are trying to do is identify other areas. One of those areas is future media, the idea of how media technology and strategies impact the way we live our lives. Energy and sustainability are already important and will be increasingly important as we go forward. So will the availability of clean water around the world.
Q: What will the student experience look like? The plan calls for more student-faculty interaction, individualized degree programs, flexible schedules and more dependence on virtual learning.
A: Part of this process is looking at what role will the virtual environment play. We have a virtual campus right now, but we are trying to open that up even more. Perhaps students will be able to take classes through avatars or some other augmented type of structure. … We will provide more international experiences. Our students already study abroad, but we are looking to give them more opportunities to study and collaborate. One of our goals is to make sure we are graduating good global citizens.
Q: What will be the key areas of research over the next 25 years?
A: Some of the specifics areas are energy, water and future media. We want to create an “Experimental College” to give students more flexibility. New discoveries will be made at the intersections of existing disciplines. We need to provide them with flexibility so they can study these new areas. Ten or 15 years ago computer science and biology came together and then physics and engineering came together and created nanotechnology. Now nanotechnology and biotechnology are coming together.
Q: The future vision for Georgia Tech includes expanding the institution’s global footprint while also playing a larger role in Midtown. How can you accomplish both?
A: We haven’t figure it all out. We have 25 years to accomplish it. I think we understand the potential value Georgia Tech brings to the state, Atlanta and Midtown. What is it that we can do to have a dramatic impact? A great example is Technology Square. (The neighborhood of Fifth Street between the Downtown Connector and Spring Street.) We took a less-than-desirable area and it is now a thriving community. … We are doing some of that with the research park on North Avenue, and we are looking to expand that.
Q: Where will you find the money to accomplish these goals?
A: People have asked, “Why do this?” It is more important to do this at times when we are challenged economically and financially. We are working to improve our processes to free up resources to do other things. When times are tough is when you really have a chance to make some changes and set a course for the future. … While a lot of institutions are pulling back and retrenching, we think this is a time to be aggressive.