Saturday, October 25, 2014

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U.Va. Advancing Global Strategy Using Jefferson’s Comparative Lens

University of Virginia Vice Provost for Global Affairs Jeffrey W.  Legro says U.Va. is better positioned than ever to advance its global strategy because of the strong dual support of President Teresa A. Sullivan and Executive Vice President and Provost John Simon.

Speaking Thursday to alumni and friends of the University at a UVaClub of London reception, Legro said that in his 15 years at U.Va., he’d never seen such united support. “Both the president and provost gave significant speeches this fall which have declared global a strategic priority, and that’s a first,” said Legro, who noted there is also support from the Board of Visitors. (For coverage of Sullivan’s speech, click here. For coverage of Simon’s speech, click here. For information about BOV engagement in global affairs, click here.)

Legro laid out the University’s global strategy. Noting it is a work in progress, he said the approach rests on three pillars; identity, academics and outreach.

In terms of identity, Legro said global comparative learning is deep in U.Va.’s DNA, because founder Thomas Jefferson was what he termed “one of America’s original global thinkers.” What is often forgotten in the lore of Jefferson, Legro said, is that he used a “global lens” to study what other countries did before determining what was best for the United States and for U.Va.

The University’s goal is to infuse that ethos into all aspects of the student experience, Legro said, adding that a committee is studying “from soup to nuts” how Jefferson’s global perspective can be ingrained into everything from admissions tours to career counseling and the alumni experience.

To infuse Jeffersonian comparative global thinking into the curriculum, Legro said U.Va. is working on a signature program that will enable people from different disciplines to address problems such as development, global health, international governance and urban sustainability. He said U.Va. also wants every undergraduate to have a global experience before he or she leaves Grounds, be it studying abroad, living with an international student or having an international internship.

To enhance outreach, Legro said the University is looking for better ways to represent U.Va. abroad. “One of the models we are looking at is having a representative for U.Va. in particular areas where we have lots going on,” he said. This person would help with admissions, manage alumni events, help stimulate academic and research partnerships and assist with internship opportunities, among other things. “We are probably going to start in China … but the same model, in some form, will be applied in other key places where we have operations.”

Legro is also traveling to South Africa and Ghana. He will visit with officials at the University of the Western Cape and Cape Town University in South Africa before sailing Saturday to Takoradi, Ghana, via Semester at Sea. U.Va. is the academic sponsor of the shipboard education program.

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