On UVA's Future

January 25, 2019

You know, when people ask me about my vision for UVA, I often respond by asking them, would you rather hear the short version or the long version? And people who know me inevitably say, the short version, please. So here's the short version.

I believe that we should strive to be both great and good in all that we do. And I think that if we succeed, 10 years from now we'll be known as the best public university in the nation and among the very best overall, whether public or private.

Now, you might be saying, well, that leaves me with some questions. What do you mean by good? What do you mean by great? What does it mean to be the best? Which inevitably leads to the longer version.

Today is, by some measures, the 200th birthday of the University of Virginia. And as this date has approached, I've been giving a lot of thought to our past and how far we've come over the last two centuries, but also to our future and how far we have to go. I think we have the opportunity and the responsibility to be a beacon for higher education, to help light a path forward for the 21st century. In order to do that, we have to accomplish something that's harder than it sounds. We have to be both great and good in all that we do. Think world class university with a heart and a soul whose highest calling is to serve the public.

I think we need to learn from our mistakes. We have not always been great. And we have not always been good. And I think above all, we have to rededicate ourselves to the animating purpose of the University of Virgina, which is to serve.

Now, to be great and good doesn't mean that we should try to do everything and anything. We have to make choices, sometimes hard choices. But it does mean that we should prepare our students not simply to be leaders, but to be ethical leaders. We should work at the frontiers of discovery. But we should also be paying attention to the political and social consequences. We should live our values. We should be a good neighbor to the Charlottesville region and a good partner to the Commonwealth. We should be elite and unapologetically so. But we should not be elitist. Above all else, we should strive to improve the human condition and advance the common good through our teaching, through our research, and through our health care. These two things, being great and being good, can and should go hand in hand.

And if we can do both, I have no doubt that we'll be a beacon for higher education. So happy birthday, UVA. And here's to another great 200 years.