Advisory Board’s Diverse Perspectives to Guide UVA Karsh Institute of Democracy

View of the Lawn from the Rotunda

Photo by Dan Addison, University Communications

The University of Virginia’s Karsh Institute of Democracy today announced its inaugural advisory board, a diverse roster with members ranging from a former Supreme Court justice to the co-founder of the Reddit social news aggregation site.

The advisory board features a breadth of personal and professional experiences – business, law, academic, political, philanthropic, service, entrepreneurial, journalism – as well as a current UVA student.

Led by Professor of Politics Larry J. Sabato, the chair, and School of Law Dean Risa Goluboff, the vice chair, the Karsh Institute advisory board includes 26 members who collectively will provide guidance to the work of an institute established for the study, teaching and promotion of democracy.

“The range of perspectives and innovative ideas they contribute will be invaluable to the Karsh Institute in all its endeavors to strengthen democracy,” Melody Barnes, executive director of the Karsh Institute, said. “I’m looking forward to engagement with a board that values and models principles critical to democracy and our work, including pluralism, tolerance and respect for the rule of law.”

UVA President Jim Ryan said: “I am grateful to the advisory board for their willingness to serve the Karsh Institute and its mission. As the University continues to lead in addressing the challenges facing democracy, the accomplished board members will bring critical experience and a broad diversity of viewpoints from across the political spectrum to help us stay at the forefront of this important work.”

The Karsh Institute of Democracy was established in June with founding support from Martha and Bruce Karsh. Overall, UVA plans a $100 million investment in nonpartisan work intended to strengthen democracy, taking full advantage of UVA’s position as one of the nation’s top public universities and its unique historical link to the nation’s founding.

The public-facing institute will foster participation and civil debate on issues of national importance; support and amplify research, study and discussion about the underpinnings of democracy; and engage in public outreach focused on practical impact and action for students, community members, policymakers and other local, state and national leaders.

Its work will include augmenting and accelerating collaboration among several highly regarded UVA schools and centers already dedicated to the study of democracy, including the Center for Politics, the Democracy Initiative in the College of Arts & Sciences, the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, the Karsh Center for Law and Democracy, the Miller Center of Public Affairs, the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, and the teaching and research of many faculty members across Grounds.

Sabato, founder and director of UVA’s Center for Politics and University Professor of Politics, will chair the inaugural board.

“Democracy is under assault at home and abroad, and we need institutions working to combat that,” Sabato said. “Using academic inquiry and real-world outreach, the Karsh Institute of Democracy will become one of those bulwarks. The new institute is an exciting enterprise that has already drawn widespread support from prominent scholars and leaders.”

The inaugural board members are:

  • Alumnus Larry J. Sabato (chair), founder and director, Center for Politics; University Professor of Politics, UVA.
  • Risa Goluboff (vice chair), dean, School of Law; Arnold H. Leon Professor of Law, UVA.
  • Alumnus William J. Antholis, director and CEO, Miller Center, UVA.
  • Deborah Archer, president, ACLU; professor of clinical law; co-faculty director, Center on Race, Inequality, and the Law; co-director, Arthur Garfield Hays Civil Liberties Program, New York University School of Law.
  • Melody C. Barnes, executive director, Karsh Institute of Democracy; W.L. Lyons Brown Family Director for Policy and Public Engagement, Democracy Initiative; J. Wilson Newman Professor of Governance, Miller Center of Public Affairs; senior fellow, Karsh Center for Law and Democracy, UVA.
  • Alumna Megan Barnett, vice provost for academic initiatives, UVA.
  • Ian Baucom, Buckner W. Clay Dean, College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, UVA.
  • Lonnie G. Bunch III, secretary, Smithsonian Institution.
  • Alumna Laura Farish Chadwick, vice president, William Stamps Farish Fund.
  • The Honorable Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, president, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
  • Alumnus Lawrence D. Howell, co-founder, EFG International.
  • Alberto Ibargüen, president and CEO, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
  • Alumnus John C. Jeffries Jr., David and Mary Harrison Distinguished Professor of Law; counselor to President Jim Ryan, UVA.
  • Alumna Martha L. Karsh, co-founder, Karsh Family Foundation.
  • The Honorable Anthony Kennedy, justice (retired), U.S. Supreme Court.
  • Alumnus Peter Kiernan, CEO and founder, Kiernan Ventures.
  • Yuval Levin, senior fellow, Beth and Ravenel Curry Chair in Public Policy and director of social, cultural, and constitutional studies, American Enterprise Institute; editor in chief, National Affairs.
  • Alumna Sandra Wicks Lewis, community volunteer, philanthropist.
  • Fourth-year student Sarita Mehta, student member, Board of Visitors, UVA.
  • Alumnus James B. Murray Jr., managing general partner, Court Square Ventures; founder, Presidential Precinct; member, Board of Visitors, UVA.
  • Alumnus John L. Nau III, president and CEO, Silver Eagle Distributors L.P.; founder and president, The Nau Foundation.
  • Alumnus Alexis K. Ohanian, co-founder, Reddit.
  • John M. Owen IV, Ambassador Henry J. and Mrs. Marion R. Taylor Professor of Politics; faculty fellow, Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture; faculty senior fellow, Miller Center, UVA.
  • Margaret Spellings, president and CEO, Texas 2036; U.S. Secretary of Education, Bush Administration, 2005-09.
  • Larry D. Terry II, executive director, Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, UVA.
  • Craig Volden, professor of public policy and politics, Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy; co-director, Center for Effective Lawmaking, UVA.

“Making democracy vibrant, resilient and effective has never been more important, as countries throughout the world face urgent questions about the future of government and American institutions face their own challenges,” advisory board member Cuéllar said. “The Karsh Institute can help develop the ideas, networks, and talent to help us safeguard and strengthen democracy for future generations.” 

Karsh Institute advisory board member Mehta looks forward to contributing her perspective as a current UVA student and student member of the Board of Visitors.

“It is a real privilege to work alongside such incredible people, both at UVA and beyond, as we grapple with such challenging but important questions,” she said. “Representing the student perspective is no easy task, but it is something I believe to be paramount as we think about the future of our nation and democracy. Being a part of such an important endeavor, which stands to benefit my generation and all the generations to come, is a great honor. I am really excited for all the work that lies ahead.”

Martha Karsh said she is thrilled about the new advisory board members, and both energized and inspired by the role they will play in advancing the Karsh Institute. “Simply put, this board is a world-class ‘brain trust,’ and I am confident it will help steer the work of the institute in strategic and impactful directions.”

The advisory board’s first meeting will be in January, when members will review the Karsh Institute’s program and operations plan, provide feedback, and discuss the upcoming building for the institute in the Emmet-Ivy corridor.