Students and their families returning to the University of Virginia this weekend for the start of another academic year are likely to notice some notable additions and renovations across Grounds.
From a trio of new residence halls for incoming first-year students and a new squash center already drawing raves from the sport’s top ranks, to new academic offerings and an appearance next month by one of U.Va.’s most celebrated graduates in the world of comedy, here’s a “Back to School” primer on 13 things that are new on Grounds this fall:
1. New homes for first-years: Drive down Alderman Road, and you’ll notice last year’s construction site has given way to three new, state-of-the-art residence houses that were completed this summer. About 570 incoming first-years are scheduled to move in this weekend.
Tuttle-Dunnington and Lile-Maupin each house 176 first-years in their five-story residence halls, while Shannon House is scheduled to hold 192 first-years. The residence halls feature two wings on each floor, with 12 rooms per wing, each linked by a shared lounge space with flat-screen, wall-mounted television sets, wireless network connections throughout the buildings and study rooms on each floor.
2. Tina wants you to go to there: Tina Fey – actress, comedian, writer, producer and star of NBC’s “30 Rock” series and U.Va. and “Saturday Night Live” alumna – will kick off a new U.Va. speaker series highlighting the positive impact of the arts on society.
A 1992 graduate of the College of Arts & Sciences with a bachelor’s degree in drama, Fey will deliver the inaugural address of the “President’s Speaker Series for the Arts,” an initiative of the Office of the President and the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost, on Sept. 14. Fey’s appearance also will serve as the centerpiece for “Encore!,” a reunion weekend for the Department of Drama. Ticket information will be available soon.
This academic year also marks the first full season of plays and dramatic works staged at the new Ruth Caplin Theatre on the Arts Grounds. An online schedule for the upcoming drama season can be found here.
3. Squash, anyone? U.Va.’s club squash program will relish training at the new McArthur Squash Center at the Boar’s Head Sports Club. The 33,000-square-foot venue features 11 total courts, including nine international singles courts, one of which is an all-glass show court surrounded by spectator seating . It was built thanks to an $11.9 million gift from the Charlottesville-based Quantitative Foundation.
The McArthur Squash Center officially debuts with the Grand Opening Festival of Squash that starts Sept. 19 and runs through Sept. 22, but the facility is already open and available to U.Va. faculty, staff and students, as well as members of the Boar’s Head Sports Club and guests of the Boar’s Head Inn.
The program kicks off Sept. 7 at the International Residential College, with a presentation on the role of sports in American culture and on U.S. college campuses. With the U.Va football team kicking off that afternoon at home against Oregon at 3:30 p.m., the discussion will feature a brief explanation of American football, followed by a tailgate BBQ.
5. Look Who’s MOOCing: Politics professor Larry Sabato becomes the latest University faculty member to teach a massive open online course, or MOOC.
On Oct. 21, the University’s famed political expert will launch a four-hour MOOC titled, “The Kennedy Half-Century.” As the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination approaches in November, the free online course will feature two hours of video instruction from Sabato and is one of 11 MOOCs scheduled to be offered by University faculty this academic year.
A summary of the University’s MOOC offerings can be found here.
6. The Constructed Environment: The School of Architecture is launching a Ph.D. program in the constructed environment in the fall of 2014, but the school will begin accepting applications for the new multidisciplinary degree this fall.
The program aims to support advanced research in topics that engage one or more of the school’s four disciplines: architecture, landscape architecture, urban and environmental planning and architectural history. More information on the program can be found here.
7. Statistically speaking: The College of Arts & Sciences is offering a new minor in statistical analysis of social behavior. The minor is designed as an add-on to social science majors in politics, economics and sociology and requires extra work in math and statistics and discipline-specific quantitative analysis courses.
The minor was opened to sign-ups in April, and this year's first-year students will be the first class that can plan their undergraduate academic plan around a social science major with this extra statistical training that will prepare them to take on research projects in the growing number of fields where data analysis skills are highly valued.
More details can be found here.
8. Branching out with sculpture: The latest addition to the Betsy and John Casteen Arts Grounds comes in October, when artist Patrick Dougherty, with the help of U.Va. and community volunteers, will sculpt a unique work from locally gathered saplings in front of the Ruth Caplin Theatre and the Arts Commons.
Dougherty is world-renowned for his larger-than-life, site-specific twig and sapling sculptures. An accompanying exhibition will run from Oct. 19 through Dec. 22 at The Fralin Museum of Art at the University of Virginia, featuring photographs and models of Dougherty’s earlier projects, as well as preparatory drawings for the installation at U.Va.
9. Buses back on the bridge: A new McCormick Road bridge spanning Emmet Street and connecting Central Grounds with the western part of the University opened at the end of July.
Pedestrians accustomed this summer to detouring across the bridge at Ruffner Hall or the crosswalks at the Central Grounds Parking Garage no doubt will appreciate its reopening after workers spent the summer replacing the McCormick Road bridge structure and deck.
Likewise, buses that were unable to cross the bridge for more than a year after the Virginia Department of Transportation posted an 8-ton weight limit in July 2012, no longer will have to use alternate routes.
10. Swimmers headed north: Tentatively scheduled to reopen in late November or early December, the North Grounds Recreation Center is undergoing a renovation that will add a 25-meter by 25-yard, 10-lane swimming pool, a whirlpool, a sauna, two international singles squash courts and locker rooms, among other features.
The project’s website includes a photo gallery.
11. Al fresco at O-Hill: Catering primarily to first-years living on Grounds, the Observatory Hill Dining Room now features a new outdoor dining area called “The Patio.”
Grilled menu items and smoothies will be served outside in addition to the regular menu, and updated, comfortable seating has been added for students to linger and socialize. Parents with students on a residential dining room meal plan still eat free when they visit.
12. Rotunda renovation continue: The scaffolding that surrounded much of the Rotunda for most of the previous school year is gone, but a second phase of renovation work, which will focus primarily on the interior of the dome and the wings of the Rotunda, is expected to launch after the May 2014 Final Exercises,
Programming additions at the Rotunda include extended study hours, more classes scheduled for the Lower West Oval Room and the return of First-Year Dome Room dinners.
13. A clean slate on the Range: The University’s West Range rooms, part of U.Va’s historic Academical Village, features new slate roofs. The original slate roofs capping the rooms were installed in the 1830s to cover the wood roofs that Thomas Jefferson designed.
Some of the original slates removed from the roofs are being preserved for the historical archive.