10 Pieces of Advice You’ve Given President Ryan So Far

Collage of images with the text Ours to Shape

10 Pieces of Advice You’ve Given President Ryan So Far

When he took office on Aug. 1, Jim Ryan, the ninth president of the University of Virginia, asked the UVA community to share their ideas for the University’s future.

Through the “Ours to Shape” initiative, more than 600 students, faculty and staff members, and alumni have shared their answers to questions Ryan posed around key themes of community, discovery and service.

Here are 10 things people have said so far.

Have something to add? Visit ourstoshape.virginia.edu to check out many more responses and share your ideas for the University’s future. Or stay tuned to the events page to learn more about Ours to Shape events as they are scheduled on Grounds and off this semester.


How do we create an unparalleled residential experience for students, in and outside of the classroom, and strengthen the sense of community on Grounds, with the greater Charlottesville region and with our alumni?

From Ashley, student and staff member

“I think a great resource for the University is to raise awareness about lesser-known locations and services on Grounds. For example, I don’t think many people know that we have two art museums, including the only museum solely focused on Aboriginal art in the entire world. My experience at the Fralin has been so valuable to me through learning about all that UVA has to offer, as well as becoming friends with more than just students.”

From Sean, student

“I think that it is too common now to feed students what they already want, know and believe in. True knowledge comes from being challenged. Allow and encourage opposing viewpoints, support that a syllabus is final and students need to take personal responsibility for their own success, encourage critical thinking through contested debate, and remember that education is the primary goal of an institution.”

From Jordan, alumna/us

“UVA must be accessible to all residents of the commonwealth, including those who face financial barriers to attend the University. A greater emphasis must be put on affordability, greater assistance to those in need and diversity in representation from all parts and people of Virginia (and beyond)!”

From John, alumnus

“One way to help students learn about the world around them is to involve alumni in such things as career information, planning, etc. I have participated in panels which discussed the legal profession with undergraduates and believe that the students – and the panelists – learned a lot, and it also provided a sense of community among us, young and old.”


How do we best enable faculty to discover new knowledge? How do we best enable students to learn about the past, themselves and the world around them?

From Ross, faculty member

“At a time when too many universities are focusing all their attention on STEM or business, and ignoring subjects that have a less obvious career trajectory, UVA should continue its investment in the liberal arts. The arts and humanities are essential to produce well-rounded students, aware of the country’s and the world’s history, with knowledge of art, philosophy and literature. Such knowledge is vital for the future leaders we hope to produce.”

From Sandra, staff member, alumna and parent

“We need to bolster support for the research infrastructure to permit our incredibly talented faculty to do what they do best and maximize discovery at UVA. Investments in systems and processes which will optimize research productivity need to be made if UVA is to climb in the ranks of the NIH and other extramural funding.”

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From Kyle, faculty member

“To enable a truly successful community of great faculty, UVA needs to better prepare for hiring of dual career families. This means some coordination and/or incentives have to exist at a high level to promote different UVA schools/departments/organizations working together. This will allow recruitment and retention of quality faculty. We are past the days where there is only one breadwinner in a family.”


How do we provide the most valuable service to the commonwealth? How do we help prepare our students for a lifetime of service, regardless of their chosen fields?

From Jim, faculty member

“When I ask my first-year students how many of them have already been involved in community service, usually every hand goes up. I find that many of them seek out opportunities to continue that. Anything that can be done to increase support for activities designed to improve contact and interaction between students and the Charlottesville community, particularly those struggling or in need, should be encouraged and funded. If it’s not already part of first-year orientation, it should be.”

From Kim, staff member and alumna

“UVA has some great programs that allow students, faculty and staff to engage in and with the greater Charlottesville community. Day of Caring and CVC, for example, are great options. However, I don’t think enough emphasis is placed on such events. I would love to see a University-wide food drive that brings together students, faculty and staff, or a community clean-up day. The activities that we have, while great, are very separate. Give everyone the opportunity to serve together, as one UVA community.”

From Emily, student and staff member

“The most valuable service we can provide to the commonwealth is one of a community that values and protects the environment. As the climate is changing, UVA’s vision must adapt as well. Our vision to create responsible citizen leaders must include sustainability. Making sustainability visible in all of our classrooms, operations and our very vision will help students prepare for a lifetime of service in which equity and the environment are at the forefront.”