You are here

Virginia Magazine President's Letter: "Building on a Foundation"

December 21, 2015

At the time of this writing, in early October 2015, we are only two years from the beginning of UVA’s bicentennial. Our celebration will start with a major public event on the Lawn on Oct. 6, 2017, commemorating the 200th anniversary of the laying of the University’s cornerstone. Just as that original cornerstone provided the foundation for the University’s first building at Pavilion VII, the Cornerstone Plan is creating a solid foundation for the University’s future as we approach our third century.

The first year of implementing the Cornerstone Plan was productive by many measures. We launched the Meriwether Lewis Institute for Citizen Leadership and enrolled the first cohort of Lewis Fellows; expanded the number of first-year advising seminars as part of our Total Advising initiative; developed the Virginia Alumni Mentoring program to connect students with alumni who work in fields that interest those students; created the Data Science Institute and graduated the first class of students with master’s of science degrees in data science; implemented a global studies major and created a new entrepreneurship minor; launched the Internship Center within the new UVA Career Center and increased participation in our Global Internship program; and created the Affordable Excellence program to ensure that an excellent UVA education becomes more affordable for more students. This is quite a number of achievements, and it is only a partial list of the numerous programs and initiatives produced by the Cornerstone Plan so far.

Now we set our sights on the second year of implementation and have no intention of experiencing the infamous “sophomore slump.” At the September Board of Visitors meeting, I presented our priorities for 2015-16. These priorities will enable us to build on the early success of several Cornerstone Plan programs while launching new initiatives.

Hiring will continue to be a top priority as we plan for the generational turnover of our faculty. Provost Tom Katsouleas has approved proposals from deans for a strategic hiring initiative in which we will recruit 20 new faculty members this year. We are giving special attention to proposals that include cluster hires in areas of excellence, coordinated hires in several schools and hires that will enhance diversity in the faculty.

Planning is under way to create a Total Advising center on the second floor of Clemons Library; this will be a centrally located one-stop shop where students will be able to find all the resources they need related to advising, internships, career counseling, study abroad, personal mentoring and so on.

In the first year of the global studies major, we offered four concentrations: global development; global public health; environments and sustainability; and security and justice. In the second year, we will continue to build out the curriculum and will also continue expanding our Global Internship program to enable more students to have real-world work experiences in foreign nations.

Building on our momentum from the launch of the UVA China Office in Shanghai, we plan to develop additional strategic academic partnerships in that region of the world and to enhance study-abroad support for our students who study and work in Asia. I will travel to Asia with UVA colleagues in May to continue working on this expansion.

Provost Katsouleas is leading the effort to identify and select our second research institute, after the Data Science Institute, in the series of pan-University research institutes we are developing through the Cornerstone Plan. Building on the success of the Data Science Institute, we plan to create new data science faculty fellowships, short courses and graduate degree programs in the coming year.

In some organizations, strategic plans fail because they lack broad support, or because the plans are written with great optimism but are promptly consigned to the bookshelf, where they gather dust. The Cornerstone Plan is flourishing because it has the full commitment and support of the University’s Board of Visitors, which has provided funding for the plan, as well as faculty, staff, alumni, students, parents and others.

So I close this column with a word of gratitude: Thank you for your dedication to the University and your support for the priorities in the Cornerstone Plan. This first year of success is proof of your uncompromised commitment, and it should give all of us great confidence for the year ahead.