Careers at Virginia Tech

Executive Director, Virginia Tech Transportation Institute

Apply now Job no: 515767
Work type: Administrative & Professional
Senior management: Vice President for Research
Department: Virginia Tech Transportation Instit
Location: Blacksburg Area
Categories: Executive / Director / Management, Research / Scientific, Transportation

Virginia Tech

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. Virginia Tech's world-class reputation is a result of the dedication and loyalty of more than 13,000 employees who go above and beyond in their daily lives to make the university community and the communities in which they live top-notch in every way. Virginia Tech employees create a culture of excellence at work and at home and help make the university a rigorous academic institution and an employer of choice. Visit to learn more about why Virginia Tech is a great place to learn, and work.

Virginia Tech Transportation Institute

The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) conducts transportation-related research to save lives, time, and money and protect the environment. As one of six premier research institutes created by Virginia Tech to answer national challenges, VTTI is continually advancing transportation through innovation and has affected public policy on national and international levels. The Institute was founded in 1988 and in recent years has grown to over 500 faculty, staff, and students occupying eight buildings with more than 250,000 sq ft of research facilities, including the Virginia Smart Roads (a network of highway, surface street and rural test tracks with accelerated pavement testing capabilities), a crash sled lab, several national research centers and an affiliated LLC (the Global Center for Automotive Performance Simulation near Danville, VA) home of the National Tire Research Center (the world’s most advanced tire testing laboratory). The Institute also houses the largest dataset for naturalistic driving data in the world, which contains over 70,000,000 miles of continuous driving data, including thousands of crash and near crash events captured via multiple cameras and a variety of kinematic sensors installed on private vehicles in everyday use. VTTI ensures its national and global success by employing a select team of multidisciplinary researchers, engineers, technicians, support staff, and students.  The Institute has a combined annual operating and extramural research budget of more than $50 million, and is an organizational unit of Virginia Tech.

Location and Campus

Virginia Tech’s 2,600-acre main campus is nestled in the heart of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. Blacksburg, Roanoke, and the New River Valley offer the charm of small towns combined with the modern conveniences of a metropolitan area. The area boasts a plethora of unique and chain restaurants and stores, symphonies, theatres, historical attractions, museums, a vibrant night     life, sporting events, outdoor recreation activities, and a temperate climate.

Virginia Tech Leadership

In June 2014, Timothy Sands became the 16th president of Virginia Tech after spending 11 years at Purdue. A scientist, educator, and inventor, he has dedicated much of his career to advancing the impact of research and innovation in public education. As president, he has engaged the university community in a visionary plan to advance Virginia Tech’s role as a global land-grant institution, confronting the commonwealth’s, the country’s, and the world’s most challenging problems. The initiative, called “Beyond Boundaries,” seeks to define Virginia Tech’s role a generation into the future and align the educational experience with the needs and opportunities that will be created by changing world economies and the evolving landscape of higher education.

Daniel Sui, an internationally renowned researcher in the area of GIS-based spatial analysis and modeling for urban, environmental, and public health applications, was appointed Virginia Tech’s vice president for research and innovation, effective Nov. 1, 2020.

The Role

The Executive Director of VTTI serves as both VTTI Director and the President of VTT, LLC, an affiliated company of Virginia Tech. This position is a critical leadership role with responsibility for ensuring that VTTI has the strategic vision, facilities, research infrastructure, extramural funding, and key personnel essential to the realization of Virginia Tech’s goal of expanding the research enterprise while creating a global research impact, actively working with faculty from over 30 academic departments, providing experiential learning opportunities for both graduate and undergraduate students, and serving as an economic development engine for Southwest and Southern Virginia. Reporting to the Vice President for Research and Innovation and working closely with the University Leadership (including Deans, Vice Presidents, the Provost and President), the VTTI Executive Director is the Institute’s senior officer, who will create a systematic, stakeholder-centric, forward-thinking, and progressive research enterprise across VTTI and make recommendations to the Virginia Tech community and its complex operating environment. The Executive Director oversees the entire research mission and strategic plan of the Institute, as well as VTTI’s financial and operational enterprises, including research operations and initiatives, extramural growth, financial affairs, human resources management, policy and governance, and planning and facilities management (including eight buildings and four test tracks). It is critical that the VTTI Executive Director and the VTTI leadership build strong alliances with research institute/center director colleagues, academic peers, and both research administration leaders and senior administrative colleagues.

Key Relationships

Reports to: Vice President for Research and Innovation

Direct reports:                

  • The VTTI Chief Finance and Administration Officer
  • VTTI Division Directors
  • Directors of several Centers in partnership with academic departments
  • The VTTI Chief Engineer and Senior Transportation Fellow
  • The VTTI Director of Advancement and Outreach
  • Executive Assistant
  • The Executive Director of the VTT, LLC

Other key relationships:

  • Vice President for Advancement
  • Senior Associate Vice President for University Relations
  • Executive Director for Government Relationships
  • Executive Director of Internal Audit, Risk and Compliance
  • Virginia Tech Foundation leadership
  • Faculty, staff and student leadership
  • Key directors or division officers at leading federal funding agencies
  • Corporate partners
  • Private foundations
  • Congressional leaders

Major Responsibilities:

  • Oversee the infrastructure and research portfolio and the financial and operational enterprises of VTTI and VTT LLC, which exceed $150M in facilities and over $50M annual in expenditures;
  • Lead and direct the promotion and positioning of VTTI as a premier multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary transportation institute with research strengths in transportation safety and human factors, transportation systems and operations, advanced and automated vehicle  development, roadway infrastructures, mobility, policy, crash biomechanics, and transportation materials;
  • Serve as a global leader in transportation research, including actively pursuing large-scale opportunities, marketing the VTTI, VTT LLC, and VT brand, and providing a policy voice for improving transportation on a global scale;
  • Deepen efforts to strengthen professional development and retention of top research and administrative talent; and
  • Work closely with the VTTI leadership and with the over 100 VTTI research sponsors in both the public and private sectors.

Candidate Profile

The ideal candidate will be an accomplished leader in the transportation research arena with considerable stature and a track record of securing and/or managing funding in the largest focus areas of the Institute: ground transportation safety and advanced/automated vehicle technology.  VTTI houses the largest group of driving safety researchers in the world, and although VTTI is quite broad in its mission, its largest sponsors and over 80% of its extramural funding is in this general focus area (including research, development, testing, and evaluation of advanced safety systems and vehicle automation).

The ideal candidate will have a proven record of leading large-scale, transportation-related initiatives and solving complex problems through the application of advanced research and development techniques as well as substantial recognition of advanced scientific or policy achievement in related fields. This individual will have had positive, sustained impact in complex environments, where collaboration and influence management are critical to success. Qualified candidates will possess an understanding of and appreciation for a university academic environment, the roles and relationships of faculty, staff and students, and the diverse needs for operational support. An advanced degree in engineering, public policy, or urban planning, or comparable field, is required and a background in safety or automotive engineering is strongly preferred. In addition, the candidate will have a track record that includes:

Ideal Experience

  • Working effectively as part of a senior leadership team characterized by trust, open communication, and shared goals;
  • Optimizing organizational performance on multiple dimensions including mission, values, impacting and growing the research enterprise, and extramural research;
  • Driving strategic resource planning and budgeting, operations, and risk management, and developing decision support analytics and systems to support these activities;
  • Recruiting, motivating, developing/mentoring, and retaining a high-performance workforce, and creating growth career paths for research faculty and staff;
  • Setting the tone at the top for: Institute integrity, transparency, and openness; building diversity and instilling values related to equity and inclusion; and, bringing diverse constituencies together and driving towards unifying solutions.
  • Working independently and with multidisciplinary teams advance cutting-edge research with the ability to obtain, plan, develop, coordinate, and direct both large- (greater than $5M) and small-scale research projects to research conceptualization, proposal development, research execution, resource acquisition, logistics, strategic planning, policy interpretation, and documentation;
  • Significant professional research experience in a relevant field(s) and with relevant organizations in the public or private sectors;
  • Collaboratively conducting complex innovative research designed to answer both applied and basic research questions, including a record of high-quality publications, significant awards from the profession, impactful keynote addresses, and/or major policy implementation and an excellent track record of obtaining and/or managing extramural funding from federal and state agencies, private foundations, and/or corporations;    
  • Planning, developing, and coordinating strategic direction of new research areas or large-scale initiatives, such as those at VTTI. Strategic direction will include, but is not limited to, identifying key VTTI experts to work on projects and developing new partnerships with existing customers, new customers, within VT, and with other companies that can be leveraged to successfully collaborate on large, complex, multi-million dollar projects;
  • Working successfully with people holding different perspectives within layered university governance structures;
  • Developing effective communication processes and building relationships at all levels of an organization; and
  • Encouraging and mentoring researchers to engage in an academic environment using the tools and resources available to promote professorships, publishing, and other activities to enrich the university’s standing.

Other Personal Characteristics

  • Highly strategic and creative thinker with the ability to ensure effective implementation;
  • Exceptional listening and astute political skills;
  • Excellent communication skills, both written and verbal;
  • Well-organized planner with strong analytical skills;
  • Unquestioned ethics and integrity, and    
  • High energy and drive.    

In terms of competencies required for the position, we highlight the following:

Leadership and Knowledge

  • Understands all parts of the organization—including both VTTI and VTT LLC—and their interdependencies, and uses that knowledge to influence strategy and make decisions. Ensures the research and administrative support units are aligned with the goals and objectives of VTTI as well as the University. Considers cross-functional, cross-divisional, and/or University-wide factors when managing the group/function. Sponsors the use of common University-wide processes and practices (i.e., best practices). Understands and keeps in mind the financial implication of all decisions and actions.

Setting, Communicating, Implementing, and Assessing Organizational Strategy

  • Helps develop VTTI’s organization’s vision, translating it into both short- and long-term plans. Creates effective strategies and business plans to focus on VTTI’s research enterprise units as well as the research operations and administrative support units on the key university-wide priorities. Considers long-term consequences and implications of actions and decisions for the organization. Provides strategic direction by assessing and managing the risks and opportunities associated with industry trends. Sets, implements, and measures strategy outcomes and communicates progress to organizational stakeholders and the VTTI and VTT LLC communities.

Executing for Results

  • Sponsors continuous improvement programs, recognizing opportunities to simplify organizational processes and create efficiencies. Anticipates and ensures appropriate resources and structures are in place to support short- and long-term VTTI goals. Creates and/or uses effective metrics to support fact-based opinions and drive results. Manages change effectively, bringing on board all relevant constituencies. Works closely with the university leadership to ensure VTTI’s needs are represented during the budgetary and legislative processes.

Leading Teams

  • Ensures current and future organizational talent needs are met by leading in recruiting, hiring, developing, coaching, and mentoring others, as well as developing growth career paths for research faculty. Creates a high-performance culture by planning, instructing, monitoring, guiding, and evaluating others’ job performance and by ensuring that others do so. Motivates teams by actively rewarding and recognizing their efforts. Promotes diversity and inclusion.

Building Relationships and Using Influence

  • Builds effective relationships vertically inside the organization and horizontally across the industry including at the University level as well as among private/corporate and federal and state sponsors. Effectively relates to others by collaborating and cooperating even with those holding divergent and/or opposing views and goals. Listens effectively. Exhibits respect to people from all backgrounds and organization levels by seeking and including different thinking styles, cultures, and backgrounds.


The Search Committee will accept candidate materials until the VTTI Director is selected. An initial review date is May 25th 2021. For more information, please contact:

Whitney Abraham, or Jeff Cumberland, Virginia Tech, Department of Human Resources

Chair, VTTI Executive Director Search Committee,   Stefan Duma,

Virginia Tech does not discriminate against employees, students, or applicants on the basis of age, color, disability, sex (including pregnancy), gender, gender identity, gender expression, genetic information, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, or veteran status, or otherwise discriminate against employees or applicants who inquire about, discuss, or disclose their compensation or the compensation of other employees or applicants, or on any other basis protected by law.

If you are an individual with a disability and desire an accommodation, please contact Jeff Cumberland at during regular business hours at least 10 business days prior to the event.

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