Saturday, September 20, 2014

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U.Va. Board Extends Sullivan’s Employment Contract to 2016

The University of Virginia Board of Visitors voted unanimously Friday to extend the five-year contract of President Teresa A. Sullivan for a sixth year.

Sullivan’s contract will now run through July 31, 2016.

Rector Helen E. Dragas asked for the motion to be put forward at the conclusion of the board’s three-day meeting this week.

“The president and her administration have been vigorously addressing many of the vexing questions that face the University and all of higher education – including issues of sustainable funding, academic quality, and new delivery methods,” Dragas said. “Despite what you may read or hear elsewhere, this board and this administration are working hard on exactly the things that demand our attention. We can’t afford to expend our energies and our time elsewhere. And we are all working together.”

Citing the board’s extensive discussions about proposed changes in its governance, and noting the president’s leadership in launching a robust strategic planning process and developing long-term financial plans that will protect and advance faculty excellence, Dragas said the board has demonstrated its commitment to the University’s future as well as its partnership with Sullivan and her administration.

“We recognize that these initiatives will take time to advance and accomplish,” she said. “There are no silver bullets, but this extension is a clear indication of our commitment to our working partnership with President Sullivan.”

Vice Rector George K. Martin made the motion to extend Sullivan’s contract. “I strongly believe that we have a great president in Terry Sullivan,” he said. “She has clearly done an excellent job of leading our University and engaging faculty, students, parents, and alumni. Our University community has confidence in her and has trust in her.

“This board shares that confidence and trust.”

After the vote, Sullivan expressed her gratitude for the contract extension and for the vote of confidence it represents. “This extension will allow us to take a longer view as we continue working together to plan the University’s future, identify priorities, and marshal resources to achieve our goals,” she said.

The strategic planning effort comes at a critical time for the University, she said. “We will be asking ourselves questions that are fundamental to the University’s mission now and in the years ahead – questions about the distinctive value of residential education, innovation in the classroom, what it means to be a public university in the 21st century, and how we can identify and align the interests our schools share so they can effectively work together to distinguish the University.”

Sullivan Lays Out Need for Faculty Support

In her preliminary remarks to the board on Thursday, Sullivan said U.Va. is heading into a period of transformation – not only an institutional transformation as it undertakes an extensive strategic planning process, but a human transformation.

“Our faculty has reached a generational turning point, because many of our top faculty members who came to U.Va. 30 or 40 years ago and enjoyed illustrious careers here will be retiring soon,” she said. “Over the next five to seven years, we will be recruiting and hiring large numbers of faculty to replace retiring faculty and to keep pace with our plans for modest enrollment growth.”

The need to attract and retain top faculty means offering competitive compensation and outstanding facilities for teaching and research, she said.

While U.Va.’s various schools will have different requirements for their faculty, Sullivan put the cost of improving salary competitiveness among AAU institutions at about $65 million. Some of the funds have already been identified, she said, but faculty should be an important focus going forward.

“Many partners will need to come to the table to make this happen,” she said. “I believe that supplementing faculty salaries through endowments and raises must now become the highest priority for the Board of Visitors, for our foundations, and for our donors.”

Medical Center Operating Board Meeting Highlights Nursing

Nursing was a focus at Thursday’s Medical Center Operating Board, as leaders from the Medical Center and the School of Nursing highlighted successes in improving patient care and challenges tied to a national shortage of nurses.

U.Va.’s School of Nursing ranks among the top 2 percent of U.S. nursing schools, moving from No. 19 to No. 15 since 2008 in U.S. News & World Report rankings, Dean Dorrie Fontaine said. Meanwhile, the Medical Center has seen general improvement in recent months in nurse-sensitive patient quality indicators, said Lorna Facteau, chief nursing officer.

Both the Medical Center and School of Nursing are working to deal with a coming national retirement wave among nurses. Since 2008, Fontaine said, 25 percent of the Nursing School faculty has departed, largely for retirement. The school has hired six faculty members over the past year and is seeking to hire six more.

Those new faculty members are helping the school expand enrollment – for instance, its nurse practitioner program has grown from 77 students in 2007 to 115 in 2012.

The hope is that many of those nurses will come to work at the Medical Center, which expects an increasing number of retirements beginning in 2020, Facteau said. The Medical Center is developing a plan to strengthen recruitment and retention among nurses, especially in specialty areas such as cardiology, vascular care, thoracic care, cancer and neurosciences.

Fontaine and Facteau emphasized ongoing partnerships between the Medical Center and the School of Nursing to improve nursing care for patients. One example cited by Fontaine: a $759,000 Macy Foundation grant to jointly train nursing and medical students, which can help strengthen the relationships between nurses and doctors. “We should be solving problems together,” Fontaine said.

In other board updates:

• Those beautiful glass doors in the Rotunda that face the Lawn may once again open for visitors and students, David J. Neuman, architect for the University, told the Buildings and Grounds Committee on Wednesday. About $10,000 to change door hardware and add desks and chairs for University Guides, and $60,000 in ongoing expense for enhancing security and extending hours of operation, would put the entrance back into use, he said. The proposal is part of a study to make the Rotunda once again a center for teaching, learning and the U.Va. student experience.

• The project to repair the fireplaces on the Lawn and Range and install a fire suppression system is substantially completed, Colette Sheehy, vice president for management and budget, told the Buildings and Grounds Committee. About 250 tradespeople from Facilities Management and outside firms repaired more than 100 fireplaces and installed 1½ miles of pipe and 650 sprinkler heads.

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