Virginia Tech receives $10M gift for AI center, other programs
Center for Artificial Intelligence and Data Analytics to be located at NoVa Innovation Campus
With a $10 million gift from Mehul Sanghani, CEO of Reston-based Octo Consulting Group, and his wife, Hema, Virginia Tech has renamed its Center for Artificial Intelligence and Data Analytics in the couple’s honor.
The Sanghani Center will move its headquarters to Virginia Tech’s $1 billion Innovation Campus, which will be under construction starting this year. The gift will support recruiting, research and fellowships at the center, which opened in 2011 and was formerly called the Discovery Analytics Center.
“We thank the Sanghanis for their landmark contribution,” Virginia Tech President Tim Sands said in a statement about the couple, both of whom graduated from Virginia Tech. “This gift fuels growing momentum as we expand the university’s footprint in the greater D.C. area and explore the human-computing frontier. The Sanghanis’ investments in data analytics and artificial intelligence will advance Virginia Tech as a catalyst for discovery, growth and opportunity.”
Funding will also be allocated to a Sanghani Center scholars program for minority students pursuing graduate degrees in artificial intelligence, a focus of Mehul Sanghani’s company. Founded in 2006, Octo specializes in information technology and artificial intelligence consulting for the federal government. Some of the company’s clients include the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the General Services Administration.
The center will be located in the Innovation Campus’ first academic building, which is expected to open in August 2024. The campus will be located in the Alexandria portion of National Landing, approximately 2 miles from Amazon.com Inc.’s $2.5 billion East Coast HQ2 Headquarters.
“Higher education is the perfect vehicle for a gift like this,” Mehul Sanghani said in a statement. “With Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus coming online, we were presented with the unique opportunity to be part of growing our university’s standing as a world class institution that uses innovation — specifically artificial intelligence and data analytics — to transform our society for the greater good.”
Virginia Tech expects up to 750 master’s students will be enrolled at the Innovation Campus by the end of the decade.
“This is a transformative gift that opens up new possibilities at a pivotal time,” said Lance Collins, vice president and executive director of the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus, in a statement. “Support from alumni like Mehul and Hema broadens the scope of what we can accomplish. As we build this campus, having partners like the Sanghanis makes a major difference, and we are extremely grateful.”
Naren Ramakrishnan, the center director, says the gift will allow for “more ambitious” research and education objectives.
“These funds will be used to create endowments to support the recruitment of top-notch academic and research faculty, launch new educational programs, pursue high-risk seed projects, and recruit promising Ph.D. students,” Ramakrishnan said in a statement.
Of the Sanghani’s $10 million gift, $7.4 million will support the center, $1.5 million will go to a food access program for students and the remaining funding will support Virginia Tech Athletics and the Global Business and Analytics Complex that is planned for the Blacksburg campus.
“Virginia Tech is where we both met and it opened the doors of opportunity to both Mehul and myself,” Hema Sanghani, a manager at CGI Federal Inc., said in a statement. “We believe we have a responsibility to give back to the school that has afforded us so much, and that investing in higher-education will have a return that not only supports our university, but also helps the greater good.”