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Prepared Remarks for Presidential Address on the University

January 30, 2015

Good afternoon. I’m pleased to see so many members of our University community here today. I want to recognize the University’s Rector, George Martin, and Board of Visitors member, Dr. Steve Long. Thank you all for coming.

If you walk out of this building and look to the east, you will see a great work-in-progress, a project that is both vast in scale and microscopic in detail. We are now engaged in the second phase of the Rotunda restoration, a phase that includes renovating the Dome Room, replacing the marble column capitals, updating utilities, and expanding classroom space, among other work.

On several levels, the Rotunda restoration can be seen as a metaphor for the issues we face as a University.

The Rotunda restoration has taught us to find creative solutions to tough financial challenges. Through a public/private funding partnership that includes the Commonwealth, foundations, and individual donors, we are meeting the $50.6 million cost of repairing and renovating our most iconic building.

The Rotunda restoration has taught us to examine our assumptions, and given us a new perspective on our history. We have always believed that the Rotunda was designed primarily to house the University’s first library, and it was. But in the process of restoration, we also found relics of chemistry labs. So we now know that, in one of the earliest examples of cross-disciplinary connections, scientists and humanists worked side by side in the Rotunda in the University’s early days.

The Rotunda restoration has taught us to have what the English poet John Keats called “negative capability”— the ability to live with uncertainty and ambiguity. The students in the class that graduated last year never saw the capitals on the Rotunda columns, because they were shrouded in black fabric for those students’ entire four years at UVa. Since arriving in 2010, I myself had never seen the capitals until they were recently uncovered for removal.

The Rotunda restoration has taught us to look for opportunities in situations that, at first glance, look like adversities. The large construction fence surrounding the restoration site looked like an eye-sore and obstacle to students planning the Lighting of the Lawn in December, until they realized they could string the fence with lights and make it part of the holiday display.

The intensive structural studies that preceded the restoration’s construction work reminded us that candid self-examination is the path to self-understanding, and that self-understanding prepares us to begin work with confidence.

At the beginning of this new year at UVa, we are deeply engaged in a period of institutional self-examination, with the goal of assessing and improving the climate and culture at our University. To lead this work, I assembled an Ad Hoc Group on Climate and Culture that includes administrators, faculty, staff, students, parents, alumni, and members of the Board of Visitors.

I asked the Ad Hoc Group to consider practices that we as a University community need to start, stop, or continue in the short-, mid-, and long-term — in other words, to stop practices that are detrimental or destructive; to start new practices that we are not currently doing but should be doing; and to continue effective practices that are already under way.

We divided the issues into three categories — prevention, response, and culture — and we now have a working group of students, faculty, staff, parents, and alumni assigned to each category. These groups will be working carefully, but briskly. The groups will deliver interim reports by March 16 and final reports by April 30.

Evaluating and improving the culture of a great university is a complex and daunting job — as complex and daunting as restoring a building that is listed alongside Taj Mahal and the Cathedral of Notre-Dame on the UNESCO World Heritage List. By sorting the issues into the categories of prevention, response, and culture we have created a systematic approach to a complicated set of problems. We have made significant progress in all three areas; you have already heard about many of the improvements, so let me talk about just a few of the most recent developments.

As we meet today, trainers from the international security firm G4S are in Charlottesville working with UVa Police to hire and train the first cohort in our new ambassadors program. This program will provide enhanced security support in areas where many of our students live and spend free time. The first team of 8 to 10 ambassadors will go on duty for the first time this coming Monday, February 2nd.

Earlier this month, we opened a police substation on The Corner. This is a joint effort by UVa and city police to increase the police presence in this area, especially on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. A gray pod building is serving as a temporary substation, and it will be replaced this summer by a permanent one in the building formerly occupied by the Freeman-Victorius frame shop.

Earlier this month, we offered a four-day training program with the Green Dot organization. About 130 students, faculty, and staff attended the training sessions. Green Dot will provide bystander training throughout the semester. I encourage faculty members to be flexible in allowing students to participate in training, and I encourage deans, department chairs, and unit supervisors to support employees who want to participate.

In April, 28 universities including UVa will participate in a climate survey organized through the Association of American Universities, or AAU. The participating schools enroll more than 800,000 students, making the survey one of the largest ever on sexual misconduct. We will have the data available by July, so we can use it to inform our education and prevention strategies for next academic year.

In addition to our administrative efforts, the Faculty Senate and individual faculty and staff members in the schools, Women’s Center, Teaching Resource Center, and other units — as well as many students — are providing strong leadership as we work to make our climate and culture better. Here are some examples:.

Faculty in the College and other schools are using classroom discussion periods to talk about issues of gender violence and safety on college campuses. Some are designing new courses on these topics. Two College faculty members have created a proposal for an “Institute for Research on Violence, Inequality, and Power,” and the proposal will be discussed by a pan-University group next week.

Two undergraduate students in the College have created a new social network designed to connect women in their second, third, and fourth years to first-year women. The goal is for the older students to befriend and mentor the first-years and to talk with them in candid terms about parties, social life, and staying safe at UVa.

Two professors in the Batten School are leading an innovative study of how safety issues can contribute to long-term gender disparities in educational and professional outcomes. They will present their findings to the UVa community this spring.

A Batten School student club called Formative Change Group will host its inaugural “policy pitch case competition” in April, with campus safety as the focus. Multi-disciplinary teams of UVa students will compete in developing policy-based solutions to campus-safety issues.

The School of Architecture recently held its fourth Vortex design workshop, and the focus this year was on strengthening the University’s residential culture — specifically, in the area along Ivy Road from Emmet Street to the Boar’s Head Inn.

Students, faculty, and staff are leading many other programs, both formal and informal, curricular and extra-curricular, in our effort to examine and improve UVa’s climate and culture.

Just as we summoned all of our intellectual capability to study and plan for the complex work of the Rotunda restoration, we will now summon all of the intellectual resources of our great university to make this a stronger, safer university.

Before the Rolling Stone story was discredited, it seemed to resonate with some people simply because it confirmed their darkest suspicions about universities — that administrations are corrupt; that today’s students are reckless and irresponsible; that fraternities are hot-beds of deviant behavior. Working together, we have soundly refuted those suspicions through our actions over the past two months.

The Columbia Journalism Review placed the Rolling Stone story at the top of its list for “the worst journalism of 2014.” The story unfairly maligned UVa and many members of our community. Perhaps the most emphatic refutation of the story’s thesis was the collective revulsion to its allegations expressed by students, parents, faculty, staff, and alumni.

Our efforts to address the issues before us have been collaborative from the start. Our decision to pause Greek social activities extended the pause that the Inter-Fraternity Council had already initiated. The Phi Kappa Psi fraternity voluntarily surrendered its Fraternal Organization Agreement, or FOA. And an unaffiliated fraternity and unaffiliated sorority voluntarily suspended their own social activities.

All of us believed that this pause in activity would allow us to work together to improve safety practices, and to bring calm to a very uncertain moment at UVa. Both these goals were achieved. In fact, this effort was already a work-in-progress before the Rolling Stone article came out. I had met with the IFC presidents in October of last year, and they were already working on new safety measures then.

It was students who led the process of revising the Fraternal Organization Agreements, and the editorial boards of both the New York Times and the Washington Post have praised the new safety measures in the FOAs. This is a great example of student self-governance and student leadership, and it reminds us of the importance of equipping students with the leadership skills they will need to meet the challenges they will face, now and in the future. Those who believe the administration dictated the FOA reforms are simply unwilling to acknowledge the reality and the effectiveness of student self-governance at UVa. As for me, I have confidence in our students.

The Rolling Stone article put our university in the spotlight, and we are using this moment of national attention to provide strong leadership in the long-running effort to improve student safety on America’s college campuses. All colleges, the military, and many workplaces face issues of sexual violence. But we have been put in a leadership position, and we will lead.

But there is a danger in the spotlight. Let’s make sure that the glare of the spotlight does not blind us to everything that is already great, and good, and promising about this University.

This University’s greatness can be traced to its origins, which are entwined with the beginnings of the world’s greatest democracy. This greatness is grounded in a particular set of beliefs — chief among them, the belief that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are basic human rights, and that the surest means of sustaining these rights is by educating the people to uphold them. Thomas Jefferson built UVa as a training ground for American leaders, and it has remained great for 200 years because we have remained committed to that founding purpose.

The goodness of this University lives in our commitment to a set of values that include honor, integrity, ethics, civility, and service. Our undefeated men’s basketball team embodies these values that we espouse. We like this team not just because they win, but because their values provide the firm bedrock for their winning, and for all the kinds of activities that we do at UVa. Go Hoos!.

We exhibit our values in many other ways; recently we have done so through our willingness to face our shortcomings with candor, and through our eagerness to become better. Jefferson defined this attitude of candor and improvement for us when he said this about the University: “For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it.”.

The promise of this University is the unwritten part of our story, and the part that we are here to consider today. The University’s promise lives in the talented faculty who will join our ranks in the years ahead; in the leadership capacity of the brilliant students who will come here to learn; in the discoveries that our researchers will make, and the scholarship and creative arts we will produce; and our promise is set forth in the aspirations described in our Cornerstone Plan. We understand that, more than any past greatness or goodness, it is the promise of the University’s future that demands our greatest attention now.

Once again, the Rotunda restoration provides the perfect metaphor. The purpose of the restoration is not to glorify our history, or to scrutinize our past. The purpose of the restoration is to sustain and strengthen this global treasure for future generations. Above all, it’s a forward-looking project. Likewise, we must continue to be forward-looking as a University.

The Cornerstone Plan has given us a blueprint for the University’s future, and the future is rushing at us quickly. We are now just two years from beginning our celebration of UVa’s bicentennial, which will commence with the 200th anniversary of the laying of the University’s cornerstone on October 6, 1817.

The bicentennial will be a wonderful opportunity for the UVa family to come together in celebration of the past 200 years. But more important than any tribute or commemoration is what lies on the other side of the bicentennial — the dawning of the University’s third century.

At the beginning of this new year, let’s acknowledge the significance of the task we face: The University’s success in the early years of its third century will be determined largely by our ability to fulfill the aspirations of the Cornerstone Plan. So let me talk about some of the progress we are making on that front.

Because of the generational turnover we are facing, recruiting and retaining an excellent faculty is one of the top priorities in the Cornerstone Plan. This is a transitional moment in UVa’s history, and we must ensure that our faculty recruiting now continues to meet Jefferson’s original standard of attracting “none but of the highest grade.” Consider a few examples of the great work our faculty are doing.

Rebecca Pompano is an assistant professor of chemistry who studies the complex kinetics of immunity, and her work is guiding the design of new vaccines and immunotherapies.

Joshua Choi is an assistant professor of chemical engineering whose research focuses on nanomaterials used for solar energy conservation.

Jeffrey Teo is as an assistant professor in physics and specialist in condensed-matter theory who works on the mathematics of topological insulators and superconductors.

Shane Davis is an assistant professor in astronomy and a theoretical astrophysicist who studies black holes and feedback from star formation.

Matthew Panzer is an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering who studies the biomechanics of injury, and develops human body models for injury assessment.

Karl Miller is an associate professor of music who studies the cultural history of popular music in the United States. He is writing a history of amateur musicians, from the parlor pianists of the 1800s to today’s amateur pop-stars who post their home-made videos on YouTube.

It’s obvious that these professors have a vast and disparate range of interests. But what do they have in common? Every one of them is newly recruited to the UVa faculty this year. They are in the first wave of hires that eventually will replace half of our faculty over the next 7 to 10 years, as many of our long-time professors will soon be retiring. These faculty members have had, and continue to have, a profound impact on students.

Earlier this week, our communications office published a story and video about economics professor Ken Elzinga, who has taught about 45,000 students during his 47 years at UVa. The story describes Ken’s strong commitment to teaching and to his students during his nearly five-decade tenure at UVa. We received a resounding response this week from alumni, many of whom were taught by Ken over the years. This reminds us of two truths: first, our current faculty is excellent, and they are having a life-long impact on our students; and second, the discovery and development of new knowledge in emerging fields is important, but we are teachers first and foremost.

A great faculty requires great leadership, and we have fresh blood in our academic leadership as well. Joining our already-strong team of deans, Ian Baucom, Allan Stam, and Beth Meyer took over as the deans of the College, the Batten School, and the School of Architecture, respectively, this academic year. Scott Beardsley, now a senior partner at McKinsey & Company, will succeed Bob Bruner as dean of the Darden School this summer. We expect to name Jim Aylor’s successor as dean of the School of Engineering as well as the new Vice President for Information Technology in early February. These leaders are injecting new energy and fresh insights into our academic enterprise at this transitional moment in our history.

Many new programs for students are emerging from the Cornerstone Plan. Let me describe a few. This semester, the first cohort of 25 students enrolled in the Meriwether Lewis Institute for Citizen Leadership. Students enter the Institute in the spring semester of their second years by taking a “Leadership Fundamentals” course for academic credit. In this course, they are learning about leadership from a range of speakers from the private and public sectors.

During the summer between their second and third years, the Lewis Fellows will participate in an intensive leadership program designed to help them build critical skill-sets. In the second half of the summer, they will take a summer-session academic course.

In the fall semester of their third years, they will conduct field-based independent study to apply their learning to a specific leadership issue. The Lewis Fellows’ involvement in the program will extend through their fourth years, and they will continue to work on their projects until graduation.

As part of the Cornerstone Plan’s Total Advising initiative, we are preparing our students for employment by giving them better resources earlier in their years at UVa. This week, University Career Services has been holding “Second-Year Week,” a series of events to help second-year students start thinking about, and preparing for, the world of work. Participating students have been working on their resumes, learning about careers in various industries, and hearing from representatives from Google and other organizations.

Right now, over in the Newcomb Hall Lounge, a full team of UVa advisers – including association deans, career counselors and advisers from internship and study-abroad programs – is holding open advising hours to help these students figure out their next steps.

In other efforts to improve advising, we expanded the number of College Advising Seminars from 45 in the fall of 2013 to 61 sections in this year’s fall semester. This allowed 288 more students to enroll in a COLA.

This semester, 53 first- and second-year students are taking a class called “Collect, Select and Reflect.” This course is organized into small classes limited to 18 students per section, and they allow students to build an electronic portfolio that they can continue to develop over the next four years. They can use the e-portfolio to apply for internships, study-abroad, research opportunities, jobs, and graduate and professional schools.

Also this semester, 28 first- and second-year students are enrolled in a course called “Liberal Arts and the World of Work” to learn how a liberal-arts degree can lead to multiple career avenues. We have a small upper-division seminar for third- and fourth-years called “Liberal Arts and Professional Engagement.” Students in this course are discussing some of the core competencies needed for success in a range of professional environments.

In another new class this spring, 28 first-year students are enrolled in “Academic Success and Leadership,” which is designed to equip students with the academic and leadership skills necessary for the global economy.

To thrive in a global economy, students should have a variety of international experiences, both curricular and extra-curricular. In the fall, we launched the new Global Studies major with four concentrations: Global Development; Global Public Health; Environments and Sustainability; and, Security and Justice. 150 students are enrolled in the new major this year, and we expect that the program will have 225 majors by fall 2015, and more than 250 by fall 2016.

Last summer, we created a new Global Internships program. During the first year, we had 40 interns working in eight countries in Africa, Asia, and Europe. The program has grown in popularity, with 137 students seeking internships in 18 countries for summer 2015 so far.

We recently established the Center for Global Inquiry and Innovation, or CGI2, and since its inception, the Center has awarded more than $310,000 in grants to 61 faculty members and 66 students. These grants have supported projects to determine the role of forests in climate change; to create a digital global literary network; and to manage linguistic preservation in South East Asia, among others.

In March, we will hold the official opening of the UVa China Office in Shanghai, PRC. The Shanghai office will strengthen UVa’s presence and capacity in this critical region of the world by supporting research partnerships, academic programs, student internships, alumni relations, and admissions.

As we continue to create new programs for our students, we remain committed to the principle that all students who are academically qualified should have access to UVa, regardless of their financial situations.

In the Cornerstone Plan, we use the term “Affordable Excellence” to describe our promise to offer an education that is both academically excellent and affordable for students from all backgrounds, including those with financial need and those who are the first members of their families to go to college.

Applications for admission to this fall’s first-year class show that we are succeeding in this effort. Applications received thus far for the Class of 2019 reflect a 12% increase in the number of first-generation students compared with the previous year. This means that more students from all walks of life are seeing UVa for what it truly is: one of the best values in higher education. Kiplinger’s magazine confirmed this reality once again in December when it ranked UVa as the #2 “Best Value” among public universities across the nation.

A $4 million challenge grant from Board of Visitors member John Griffin established the Blue Ridge Scholarships last year. Through the generosity of our alumni, parents, and friends, we were able to match the $4 million challenge in just nine months, and the inaugural class of Blue Ridge Scholars is now enrolled at the University.

Another strategy in the Cornerstone Plan is to create a series of pan-University research institutes to allow faculty teams to collaborate on research while generating new degree programs, minors, and certificate programs for students.

The Data Science Institute became the first in this series, and the inaugural class of 49 students is now enrolled in the Master of Science in Data Science program. This 11ÔÇÉmonth professional program equips students to meet the needs of industry and government in areas related to data analytics, storage, security, and ethics.

Our research enterprise continues to expand and strengthen. UVa’s sponsored research grew 3% last year, with awards totaling more than $292 million. And as a result of our effort to diversify our research portfolio, industry sponsorship grew 35% last year to over $33 million.

In a just-formed research initiative, UVa will launch a new partnership this year to conduct global research related to new energy processes. We will partner with the Max Planck Society, Europe’s premier research institution, in a multidisciplinary collaboration to revolutionize the production and use of energy.

The partnership will focus on producing clean energy from alternative sources such as water and solar. We anticipate that research conducted by UVa faculty and students will translate into technological innovations, business start-ups, and ultimately significant growth of U.S. and regional economies through new energy technologies. This initiative will involve multiple schools from across Grounds, help UVa recruit world-class faculty, and distinguish us as a leader in addressing global energy challenges.

Through our Strategic Corporate Partners program that emerged from the Cornerstone Plan, we are creating deep, structured partnerships that we can sustain, strengthen, and grow over the years. Our relationship with Rolls-Royce is a good example of this progression. This relationship began about ten years ago with the company’s support for the Integrated Core Experience curriculum in the McIntire School, and it has focused more recently on joint work in the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing, or C-CAM.

Success in those initial collaborations led to UVa recently becoming one of only three American universities to join the Rolls-Royce University Technology Centers global network, which connects research groups that are conducting high-technology research at premier universities around the world.

As the Academic Division is implementing the Cornerstone Plan, the Health System is now well into implementation of its own strategic plan. The Health System has brought Centers of Excellence into operation in three key areas: cardiovascular health, neuroscience, and cancer.

Each Center is implementing its planned initiatives and hiring key clinical faculty and staff. Programs of excellence in transplant and digestive health are also in development. The School of Medicine is developing an academic strategic plan, meant to be complementary to the Health System plan, with emphasis on our research and teaching missions.

Our goal for the Health System is to provide the very best patient care, in the safest environment, for people from all over the Commonwealth and beyond. Thanks to a clearly defined strategic plan, and strong leadership, we are well on our way to realizing that goal. This past summer, Pamela Sutton-Wallace took over as the Medical Center CEO. She is now part of the leadership team that includes Executive Vice President for Health Affairs Rick Shannon and Interim Dean Randy Canterbury in the School of Medicine. Dean Dorrie Fontaine in the School of Nursing, while continuing her leadership in the Academic Division, also completes the Health Affairs leadership team.

Fundraising is an increasingly important source of financial support for the strategies and aspirations that we aim to fulfill. After completing our $3-billion campaign in 2013, we have focused on attracting private support for key priorities, and we are making excellent progress.

We recorded just over $60 million in philanthropic cash flow for the month of December 2014. By comparison, cash flow for December 2013 was $54.4 million. Let me clarify that “philanthropic cash flow” is the term used for actual dollars received in gifts, pledge payments, and irrevocable gifts, and it does not include pledges or future commitments. So these are real “dollars in the door.” December’s cash flow brings our FY15 total to-date to just over $134 million, and this represents an increase of about 31.8% over the same period in FY14, which was $101.8 million.

These are good numbers, and they are important numbers, because these dollars represent donors who will help us advance our highest priorities for the University’s future. Our fundraising efforts are focused on three core priorities: retaining and recruiting top faculty; providing outstanding students with need-based scholarships; and restoring the Jeffersonian Buildings and Grounds.

Of course, that third priority includes the Rotunda restoration that I first mentioned in the beginning of these remarks. So this seems like an appropriate way to close my remarks now.

In one of the most dramatic phases of the restoration, our contractors are now in the process of removing the old, damaged capitals from the Rotunda’s columns, and replacing them with new ones. Craftsmen in the Pedrini Sculpture Studio in Carrara, Italy worked for months to carve the new capitals, recreating the Jeffersonian originals with meticulous care, and the completed capitals recently traveled to Charlottesville.

The first capital was removed from the south side of the Rotunda last Friday, and the contractor is now in the process of removing the remaining capitals. Early next month, crews will use powerful cranes to lift the new capitals, one by one, into position on the columns, completing one of the most important steps in restoring the Rotunda for its next century.

Each capital weighs more than 6,000 pounds, and because the capitals are “weight-bearing,” a complex shoring system is holding up the portico roof as the old capitals are removed and the new ones are put in their place, using a trolley system.

This is a delicate operation to say the least, and it has required months of advance study and careful planning. Our team has conducted this planning work with a great sense of duty and responsibility, understanding that we are dealing with one of the most iconic and important buildings in the United States.

With the planning now complete, the heavy lifting has begun.

We might say something similar about where we stand as a University community at the beginning of 2015. To create the Cornerstone Plan, we engaged in a sustained period of careful and collaborative planning, understanding that we had the duty and responsibility to plan for the future of one of our nation’s great universities.

Now we are engaged in the heavy lifting that will put into place the essential structures to ensure the University’s sustained excellence in its next century.

At the beginning of this new year, it’s appropriate for us to look back and acknowledge that we have endured one of the most traumatic semesters in UVa’s history. And we should continue to offer compassion and support to one another, as we work together to make the climate and culture of our University conducive to the excellence we seek.

But let’s recognize that the demands of the present and the future — what Dr. Martin Luther King, whom we are honoring this month, called “the fierce urgency of now” — require that we direct our energies toward today and tomorrow.

With the Cornerstone Plan as our blueprint, and with our values giving us energy and inspiration, let’s work together to build a great future for the University of Virginia — a future that will make UVa as strong and indestructible in its next century as the restored Rotunda outside these doors.

Thank you all for your commitment to this work.

Teresa A. Sullivan
President