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Prepared Remarks for President’s Address to Parents

October 24, 2015

Welcome and Introduction

Good morning. I’m Teresa Sullivan, and I have the honor to serve as president of UVA.

Many of you were here on Opening Weekend, especially parents of first-year students.  If this is your first visit to the Grounds this fall, welcome! I hope all of you are having a great weekend in Charlottesville.

I want to thank the a capella group ReMix for providing the musical entertainment this morning.

With so many parents here, let me remind you that UVA has several parent leadership groups that serve our students. The Parents Committee works to enhance the student experience through grants from the Parents Fund.

The Parents Advisory Association of the Office of African American Affairs has a group in Northern Virginia and a group in Richmond. We also have Parent Ambassadors who serve as volunteers within UVA Clubs to reach out to other parents in their home regions.

If you are involved in one of the groups I just named, please stand. If others are interested in getting involved with one of these groups, please find one of these parent-volunteers and ask how you can help.

I want to remind you that Culturefest 2015 is going on today. Culturefest is a student-run international festival with performances, foods, and arts and crafts, and it takes place in the Amphitheater, right outside this building. I will be there myself after this event, so I hope to see you there.

Following my remarks, some UVa leaders will join me for Q&A:  Craig Benson, dean of the School of Engineering; Rachel Most, associate dean for undergraduate academic programs in the College of Arts & Sciences; Jeff Legro, Vice Provost for Global Affairs; and David Lapinski, UVA’s Director of Employer Relations. These leaders are prepared to take your questions about academics, global programs, career services, and other topics.

The Story of Edward Stettinius

I want to share a story about a former UVA student, and  the story begins with a coincidence in today’s date. It so happens that we are gathered on an important day in global history. Today is the 70th anniversary of the entry-into-force of the charter of the United Nations. On October 24, 1945, the U.N. officially came into existence, and October 24 is now celebrated each year as United Nations Day.

The person who is generally credited with the successful launch of the United Nations was a man named Edward Stettinius. He had a distinguished record of service prior to his work on the U.N.: he served as Special Assistant to President Franklin Roosevelt during World War II, until becoming Under-Secretary of State in 1943. He served as Secretary of State from 1944 until 1945, when he resigned to become the first U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations that he helped to create. 

But before doing all those things, Stettinius was a student at the University of Virginia. He took classes here from 1919 to 1924, and later, at the conclusion of his government service, he served as UVa’s Rector, until his death in 1949. 

Many of you attended Fall Convocation yesterday at John Paul Jones Arena and heard Darden professor Greg Fairchild speak. It so happens that Edward Stettinius delivered the keynote speech at Fall Convocation 69 years ago. UVA didn’t have the JPJ Arena in 1946, so Stettinius delivered his speech to a packed house in Memorial Gym. And in those remarks, he made an appeal that still resonates today. He said:

“At no time in the history of this country has there been greater need for the enlightenment and understanding which dynamic leadership in education can bring … In times such as this, the University of Virginia and every other university faces a supreme challenge … This institution of higher learning should not only train leaders for tomorrow. It must also rededicate itself to the historic ideal of truth which recognizes no barrier of nation, race, or creed … This is the challenge facing the University of Virginia.”

If this was the challenge facing UVA in 1946, the challenge today has grown much greater. The 20th century is often called “The American Century” because the United States dominated the period, especially after World War II, in terms of economics, culture, and military might.

The 21st century is different: this is a global century of connected nations and connected economies, with a labor market that is both fiercely competitive and constantly evolving. UVA graduates may work in several different jobs — in several different industries, possibly in several different nations — during the course of their careers. Today’s students need to be prepared for work, citizenship, and leadership on a global scale.

Just as Edward Stettinius and his colleagues understood that the vitality of individual nations would depend on international cooperation, our students need to know that their success as individuals will depend on their ability to cooperate and collaborate with diverse colleagues from around the world.

The challenge for me and my colleagues, as UVA educators and leaders, is to prepare them for this reality.  So today I’ll talk about some of the new curricular and co-curricular programs we’re creating to prepare students for this global economy. After hearing about these programs, I hope you’ll encourage your sons and daughters to get involved.

ML Institute for Citizen Leadership

Some people may be natural-born leaders, but at UVA we believe that leadership is also a skill that can be formed and sharpened through education and training. So we created the Meriwether Lewis Institute for Citizen Leadership.

Named for the man whom Thomas Jefferson appointed to lead the Corps of Discovery, and supported by a gift from UVA parents Rebecca and Bill Sanders, the Lewis Institute prepares students for the significant levels of leadership they assume at UVA, and for lives of leadership after graduation.

Students are selected for the program in the fall semester of their 2nd years and begin by enrolling in a spring academic course titled “Leadership across the Disciplines,” which examines leadership from various disciplinary perspectives, including business and the liberal-arts disciplines.

During summer, Fellows participate in a six-week program covering a broad range of leadership topics, including public speaking, team building, and budgeting. All this prepares them for their continued involvement as student leaders working on a range of issues and independent projects at the University.

This past summer, Lewis Fellows worked in small groups to create proposals for how UVA can adapt and develop a newly-acquired building on The Corner for student use. The Fellows will continue their work this year.

Total Advising

To succeed in their academic work, and to prepare for a competitive labor market, students need advice from different sources and perspectives. Through a concept we call Total Advising, we’re taking a comprehensive approach to student advising that includes strong academic advising, career counseling, and personal mentoring.

As part of Total Advising, we launched six Career Communities focused on six fields: Business; Education; Public Service; Government and Law; Engineering, Science, and Technology; and Creative Arts, Media and Design. These communities began last year as online-only virtual networks, but each one is now staffed on Grounds by a career adviser.

The communities allow students, regardless of their years or majors, to get advice from alumni and employers about specific careers. In the next few weeks, the communities will hold events focused on careers in global development; advertising; architecture; music; education policy; and the Foreign Service.

This winter and spring, the UVA Career Center will lead two “job treks,” one to New York City focused on careers in marketing, and another to Washington DC focused on careers in government and in the arts. 

To further enhance advising, we created the Virginia Alumni Mentoring program to connect students with UVA alumni mentors who can offer insights about careers in specific fields. More than 350 students are connected with alumni through the program, choosing from 900 mentors.

And in the very latest in Total Advising news, I can announce today that work is officially under way to create a new Total Advising Center by adapting the second floor of Clemons Library. This centrally-located center will help students find all the resources they need related to advising, internships, career counseling, study abroad, personal mentoring, and so on. We plan to open the center by January 2017.

New Fields and Disciplines

Part of the challenge of preparing students for the global economy is that today’s economy is constantly evolving into tomorrow’s economy. In many cases, we are training students in fields that didn’t exist when you and I were in college, and some that didn’t exist even a few years ago.

Data science is one example. Because of the massive, complex data sets that have become realities of our modern world — Big Data, as we call it — developing human talent to secure, manage, mine, and manipulate those data sets is a global priority.

Through our Data Science Institute we created a new Master of Science in Data Science (MSDS) program to prepare students for this field. The 11‐month program equips students for jobs in industry and government in areas related to data analytics, storage, security, and ethics.

Even before the first students entered the program, employers were calling us to ask when our first graduates would be available for hiring. This seems to be part of a global trend: A 2012 report estimated that there would be 4.4 million IT jobs created globally to support Big Data by this year, with almost 2 million of those jobs in the U.S.

The Data Science Institute is the first in a series of pan-University institutes we will create to bring together faculty and students, working across the disciplines, to address major 21st-century challenges. Just last week, Provost Tom Katsouleas issued a call for proposals for the next institute, which we plan to announce by next spring.

Global Experiences

To prepare for a diverse global economy, our students need to have a variety of international experiences while they’re at UVA, both curricular and extra-curricular.

On the curricular front, we launched a new major in Global Studies last year with four concentrations: Global Development; Global Public Health; Environments and Sustainability; and, Security and Justice. About 120 students enrolled in the major in its first year, and that number nearly doubled this year.

We also offer a new interdisciplinary minor in Entrepreneurship to all undergraduate students, regardless of school or major. Courses cover design thinking, new-product technology, start-up operations, and other topics. 21st-century careers call for a strategic mindset and entrepreneurial spirit, and the courses in this minor teach students to think like an entrepreneur. 

As for extra-curricular international programs, we have increased our offerings in global- and service-learning activities, which include study-abroad, J-term, embedded semesters, internships, research, and service. In 1990, UVA had fewer than 10 faculty-led study-abroad programs, with even fewer exchange agreements. Today, we have more than 50 UVA-managed study-abroad programs, with student-exchange agreements with more than 80 universities.

In addition to study abroad, students should have the opportunity to work abroad, so we launched a new Global Internship program last year, placing 35 students in internships in 10 countries. We will expand this effort in coming years, as we leverage our global network of alumni and partners to provide professional experiences for our students in other cultures.

These and other efforts are transforming UVA into a truly global university for the 21st century, and they resulted in our receiving a 2015 Senator Paul Simon Award for Campus Internationalization. We are one of only five institutions nationwide to win the award, which I will accept on behalf of my UVA colleagues in a ceremony in Washington DC next month.   

To continue preparing our students for today’s rapidly evolving economy, our University needs to be focused, strategic, and action-oriented. All of the programs I’ve mentioned today are products of our strategic plan, the Cornerstone Plan, all created within the last couple of years. Many of our alumni and parents gave us ideas for the plan, and those ideas are now coming to fruition all across the University.

UVA’s Most Enduring Tradition

Gathering for Family Weekend is a great UVA tradition, and UVA has a lot of traditions: old ones such as the Honor System, student self-governance, and the “Good Old Song,” and newer ones such as the Lighting of the Lawn at holiday time.

For a place with so many traditions, UVa’s strongest one is the tradition of producing exceptional leaders who distinguish themselves on the national and global stage. The list of UVA graduates who have served in leadership positions includes 15 U.S. Senators, 12 Governors, a U.S. Attorney General, a U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, a U.S. Secretary of Transportation, an FBI Director, and numerous ambassadors, astronauts, judges, and CEOs.

Today, on United Nations Day, we remember the achievements of one such leader, Edward Stettinius. So let me close with a final comment about Mr. Stettinius, and this takes the form of an official announcement.

In recognition of Edward Stettinius’ connection to the University of Virginia and his achievements as a national and global leader, and as demonstration of our commitment to global leadership and international discourse, I’m pleased to announce that we are creating a new University award — the Edward R. Stettinius, Jr., Prize for Global Leadership.

UVA alumnus Davis Hamlin and his wife Winnie made a generous leadership gift to enable the creation of this prize. The award will recognize a person whose life and work reflect the principles of America’s first Secretary of State and founder of this University, Thomas Jefferson, as well as the distinguished career of Edward Stettinius, who followed in Jefferson’s footsteps both as Secretary of State and as the University’s Rector.

In the days ahead, we will appoint a selection committee that will finalize criteria for the award and select the first winner. Candidates will have a record of leadership in the global arena, and a commitment to public service and to positioning higher education as an integral element in foreign affairs. 

We plan to award the first Stettinius Prize at a Global Leadership Forum held at UVa this spring.  

Closing – Tomorrow’s Leaders are Here Now

The announcement of this award leads me to a final, closing question: Who will be the future winners of the Stettinius Prize? Where are they today? What are they doing to equip themselves for their future achievements?

For that matter, who will be tomorrow’s Nobel winners and Pulitzer winners? Who will make the great discoveries in science, medicine, cyber-security, and other fields? Who will write the great books, the important algorithms, the symphonies? Who will be our future Secretaries of State, governors, senators, CEOs, and civic leaders? Who will have the vision and vitality to lead?

The answer to all those questions is obvious, of course: your sons and daughters will become those future leaders. Right now they’re working hard in our classrooms, labs, and studios to get ready, and soon they will disperse across the nation and around the world to assume their well-earned positions of leadership — their “destinies of high promise,” to quote Mr. Jefferson.

Our challenge at UVA is to ensure that they are superbly prepared to fulfill those destinies. We accept the challenge, and we promise to work hard at our duties.

Thank you for entrusting us with this great responsibility; thank you for sending your sons and daughters to UVA; and thank you for coming today.