Department Accomplishments

Dear CS@VT Supporters,

I want to express my pride at having served the past 7 years as department head of CS@VT. I came to Blacksburg 7 years ago to a new job – to lead a group of faculty whom I judged to be highly collegial and collaborative with strong interdisciplinary interests. I was attracted to their energy and openness to change and self-improvement. I was quite excited to move to Virginia Tech and to start my new leadership position.

Over my years here, the department has faced many challenges including budget cuts. ABET accreditation assessments (new to us since we joined the College of Engineering), numerous faculty hiring interviews, expansion of our CS staff, and more recently steeply rising undergraduate enrollment, as is happening across the country.

At our annual retreat earlier this month, we reviewed our progress on our educational and research missions – here are some highlights:

  • In AY 2014-15 we graduated more than twice as many CS bachelor’s degrees than in 2008-09 (182 in AY2014-15)
  • Today we have more than twice as many CS majors today than in Fall 2008 (594 in Aug 2015)
  • Today we have 14% female CS majors as a 2 year average while in 2008 we had only 5%
  • Our number of Ph.D. degrees awarded annually is up to a 4 year average of 23
  • Our percentage female M.S. and Ph.D. degree awardees are well above CRA Taulbee national averages for CS depts in public universities (CS@VT: 28% MS, 28% Ph.D.)
  • Today we have more than double the total research funding that we had in fall 2008 (current $43.4M)
  • In FY15 we had almost 3 times the research expenditures per tenure track faculty member than in fall 2008 ($412,000 vs $150,000)

In addition, during the past 7 years we strengthened the graduate program by emphasizing research in our master’s program, and opting to concentrate on our Ph.D. productivity. We instituted annual student activity reports and Green Thursday – to make sure each Ph.D. student benefited from an annual review by the faculty as a whole. Recently, we created Draft Day to enable research groups to work together on graduate admissions. Also, we strengthened our involvement of undergrads in research, resulting in a larger VTURCS annual poster session with CSRC representatives and faculty serving as judges. CS@VT undergrads were finalists twice and won honorable mention 4 times during this period in the CRA Undergraduate Research Awards Competition.

Our faculty received many external honors including 2 Virginia Outstanding Faculty Awards, 4 ACM Distinguished Scientist awards and 1 ACM Distinguished Educator award. As a measure of our increased external visibility, it was wonderful last year to have the department rise 6 steps since 2008 to #40 in the USN&WR rankings.

All of these accomplishments are the result of the hard and effective work of the faculty, staff and students in our department. We should be very proud of our department!

A bit harder to measure but still very important to us, are our numerous activities supporting more gender diversity in faculty and students, and our mentoring programs both for CS students and faculty. We now have 21% female tenure-track faculty members, well above the national average of 17%. And we have between 16-17% women CS majors at our latest update (8/2015).  Our mentoring efforts should result in better retention of CS majors and increased faculty productivity.

But what really matters in a department are its people—its faculty, staff and students. And we are fortunate to have a wonderful, good-humored, productive community.

It has been an honor and privilege to be CS@VT department head. I realize that now, without even thinking about it, I talk about “my department” with a sense of pride and ownership; this feeling of identification with the department will not go away. As I “step down” as department head and rejoin the professorate, I am very proud of our accomplishments and optimistic about the department’s bright future.


Dr. Barbara G. Ryder

Former Head, Department of Computer Science

Byron Maupin Professor of Engineering



Dr. Ryder
Dr. Ryder