Board of Visitors Approves U.Va.’s Strategic Direction

November 15, 2013

The University of Virginia is one step closer to implementing a clear and detailed roadmap for the future, following Board of Visitors approval Friday of the core elements of a new strategic plan.

The “Cornerstone Plan” builds on U.Va.’s commitment as a public university while setting goals in new strategic areas that distinguish the University from its peers.

“It crystallizes a vision and set of strategic directions that will equip the University to move boldly into its third century,” President Teresa A. Sullivan said. “This plan focuses on the development of leadership among students, faculty and staff; leadership in pedagogy, clinical care and research; and leadership in higher education. It will bring national and international recognition to the University and to the commonwealth.”

Five “pillars” form the foundation of the plan, supported by 15 individual strategies. Together, the pillars articulate the University’s broad vision for the future while the strategies identify specific action items to make that vision a reality.

“The University of Virginia enjoys a position of strength and prestige earned over time,” Rector George Keith Martin said. “Our new strategic plan embraces, but does not rest upon, this reputation. It sets the bar higher. It challenges us to build upon our accomplishments while identifying exciting new frontiers.

“On behalf of the board, I extend thanks to the many people who contributed to this collaborative process.”

The pillars, which won board approval Friday, are:

  • Extend and strengthen the University’s distinctive residential culture;
  • Strengthen the University’s capacity to advance knowledge and serve the commonwealth, the nation and the world through research, scholarship, creative arts and innovation;
  • Provide educational experiences that deliver new levels of student engagement;
  • Assemble and support a distinguished faculty; and
  • Steward the University’s resources to promote academic excellence and affordable access.

Pillar one – focused on the student residential culture – serves as an example of how the strategic plan builds on traditional U.Va. strengths while identifying new leadership opportunities for the future. The University enjoys a sterling national reputation for offering a distinctive, compelling residential experience enriched by the historically significant Grounds and built upon fiercely guarded traditions of honor and student self-governance.

To extend that residential culture, three of the 15 strategies would support the pillar.

The first targets student leadership development, already a strength, for further enhancement by making “the development of ethical leaders a central theme of curricular, co-curricular and extracurricular programs.” The proposed strategy calls for creation of the Meriwether Lewis Leadership Program to provide curricular and extracurricular leadership experiences for undergraduates beginning in their second year. It also directs the University to investigate ways to integrate student leadership potential into the admissions process.

The second strategy supporting the residential culture pillar outlines plans to develop a system of “total advising” that combines high-quality academic advising, career advising and coaching, and an online portfolio, and fosters relationships between current students and U.Va. alumni.

“Higher education in general struggles to adequately meet the evolving and growing advising needs of students,” Sullivan said. “Our approach to total advising seeks to address these needs on several important levels, and provides an opportunity for U.Va. to play a lead role nationally.”

The third strategy recommends developing programs to train, teach and counsel University alumni – a “lifelong university” that would offer courses and connections with alumni that strengthen their relationship with U.Va. while providing them knowledge and skills that benefit their professional and personal lives.

Sullivan and Executive Vice President and Provost John D. Simon stressed that an effort already in process – the generational replacement of faculty, which was begun in parallel with the planning process and is embedded in its components – will play a pivotal role in allowing the plan to meet its potential. Due primarily to an expected wave of retirements, the University expects to replace as much as half of its faculty in the next seven years.

“The pillars of this plan and their supporting strategies are designed to promote the success of our students and our faculty,” Simon said. “The generational replacement of our faculty extends across all of our efforts, however, and getting this right will put us in the best position to succeed in many strategic areas.”

“Faculty members have been engaged in the process since the beginning,” Faculty Senate Chair Dr. Christopher Holstege said. “This new plan represents a tremendous opportunity for shared success, among students, faculty and the entire University community. We look forward to playing a part in bringing it to life.”

Sullivan told board members that their approval of the direction of the plan begins a process of continuous planning for U.Va., one that will be guided by goal-setting for strategies, and measures of reaching them and of gauging their payoff. The University, she said, will stand ready to adjust the strategies to reflect changing circumstances or to take advantage of opportunities that arise.

Specific targets and metrics will accompany each strategy, while a set of broad aspirations overarches the entire effort. Among the aspirations:

  • For a University that takes its place among the consensus top 20 academic institutions in the United States;
  • For a research University that is counted among the top 40 university recipients of competitive federal research funding;
  • For a learning community that offers an unparalleled educational experience;
  • For a residential University that is known for providing the best comprehensive advising for students; and
  • For a prudent and efficient University that is recognized for its stewardship of resources.

Five-year budgets for each of the 15 strategies will be incorporated each year into the University’s budget development process, which includes review and approval by the Board of Visitors. Funds for the Cornerstone Plan will come from a combination of sources, including operating revenue already part of the University budget; philanthropy; funds identified through organizational excellence efforts; and reallocation of current resources.

Sullivan launched the planning process more than a year ago at the board’s request, and chaired the Strategic Planning Steering Committee. With Board of Visitors participation, led by the Special Committee on Strategic Planning, co-chaired by board members Frank B. Atkinson and Linwood H. Rose, the steering committee established a series of working groups to delve into the issues that would inform the final plan contents.

More than 10,000 University stakeholders provided input along the way, through working group meetings, public forums, board meetings and other avenues.

Find a full version of the Cornerstone Plan, including details on all 15 strategies, here. Find the resolution in support of the plan here.

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