Board of Visitors Funds Initiatives That Will Set U.Va.'s Direction for Next Decade and Raise Its International Profile

October 04, 2008

October 4, 2008 — When University President John T. Casteen III created the Commission on the Future of the University in March 2007 he called it a significant undertaking and told commission members that the University’s survival as a top-tier institution depended on the work they were about to undertake.

He charged them with developing “big ideas” that would ultimately put in motion a new course toward greatness for U.Va.

One and a half years later, the first phase of the commission's work is complete and, on Friday, the Board of Visitors approved seed funding. (For the complete report PDF, click here)

The initiatives support the University’s three overarching priorities: the student experience; science, technology and research, and international programs. The Board approved $4 million for the current fiscal year and an additional $8 million in each of the next two years.

With the approval came the understanding that the University was committing to raise an additional $130 million to ensure that the “big ideas” would receive long-term institutional support.

Casteen said the commission's work will set the University's direction for the next decade.

“This process has been about institutional change and about getting better," he said. "But more than anything, it has been about finding ways that will further distinguish the University of Virginia in teaching, research resources, faculty and student life and international programming, as well as the University’s obligation related to our public mandate and service to the commonwealth.”

It was clear from Friday’s presentation by Arthur Garson Jr., University provost and committee co-chair, that the commission had taken Casteen’s charge to heart.

The initiatives demonstrate that U.Va. is changing the way a major research university operates, Garson said, citing the proposal for a pan-University institute to improve the teaching of higher education.

"It will not only help us here at U.Va., but it will be a model for other institutions of higher education," he said. "I believe that many of the ‘big ideas’ have the same potential for national or global impact.”

Garson detailed four of the initiatives on Friday, all of which will get underway in the next few months. He walked the Board through each program, including mission, challenges and measurements for success.

1. The Jefferson Public Citizens (JPC)/ Milton Adams, vice provost for academic programs, team leader. U.Va. will establish a model academic public service program that integrates undergraduates’ service and research experiences throughout their time at the University.

In the first two years, students will be encouraged to participate in new courses and workshops -- from major public issues to the ethics of community engagement -- that will prepare them for service. In year two, students can apply for admission to the Jefferson Public Citizens program by submitting a proposal for a research and service team project.

The goal is to enroll 250 students in new courses in the first year and 100 students (20 teams) into the JPC program in the second year. Project teams will work with faculty mentors and publish their research in a new University publication, Public.

2. Institute for Faculty Advancement (IFA)/ Sharon Hostler, interim vice provost for faculty advancement and McLemore Birdsong Professor of Pediatrics, team leader. U.Va. will create an institute to recruit the best faculty candidates; to support, develop and retain faculty; to cultivate diverse leaders from faculty ranks; and to develop a University-wide faculty leadership program.

In the first year, the goal is to pilot two leadership development programs for 50 faculty members and to develop school-based expertise in running searches.

3. Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning (CASTL)/ Robert C. Pianta, dean of the Curry School of Education, team leader. The University will expand the scope of CASTL, the Curry School center that focuses on teaching teachers to improve learning outcomes in pre-K through 12th grade. The mission will be expanded to include higher education, with the goal of creating a science of teaching and learning that will transform undergraduate, graduate and professional student experiences in Charlottesville and beyond.

The first-year goal includes writing plans of action with the deans of Arts and Sciences, Engineering, Medicine and Education. In addition, a new journal for the scientific study of teaching will be created. The long-term goal is to provide a better education through demonstrably better teaching.

4. Center for Computation-Intense Research & Scholarship/James Hilton, vice president and chief information officer, team leader. The University will establish a center with two wings – one for the humanities and social sciences and one for the natural and physical sciences – but with one mission: To provide faculty with opportunities to collaborate with each other, as well as with students and staff who are fluent in the methods of computationally intense inquiry. This is the new way of thinking about how information can be visualized digitally and presented in the classroom and for research.

The goal in the first year is to enlist 55 faculty members and 150 students to participate. In three years, the hope is that the University will have expanded its leadership across>
IInitiatives encompassing international programs and science, technology and research are still in development. Garson explained that Gowher Rizvi, vice provost for international programs, and Thomas Skalak, vice president for research and graduate studies – both new in their roles -- will take the next year to focus on a few key initiatives. He gave highlights of what the Board might hear at a later date.

International Programs. Rizvi, Garson said, will be looking at ways to mainstream a global perspective into the classroom and the broader student experience. One idea under consideration is the creation of a center for international studies that would provide a University-wide focus on global education, facilitate collaborative research and host international conferences and workshops.

Science, Technology and Research. Garson said Skalak plans to develop a science and engineering strategy to build strength within and across disciplines. He wants to create a new culture of collaboration at the University that will cross schools and programs.

Casteen said he liked the initiatives selected because they build on the strengths that feed the University’s core mission. “We will remain committed to our core mission – teaching, research and public service -- and our responsibility as Virginia’s flagship university, but these things will make us a better university.”

Board members expressed a great deal of enthusiasm for the commission report. John O. Wynne, vice rector, called the ideas “fabulous” and a good first step toward transforming the University. “You can go to one place and see what the priorities and strategies of the university are," he>
Thomas F. Farrell II, former rector, said the commission's work establishes clear priorities that will provide direction for funding the University’s aspirations.

Garson predicted that in 10 years the University will be a substantially different institution. “Our broad vision is to sustain core traditions and historic strengths, address areas needing improvement, and make the University a more globally oriented institution.”

— By Carol Wood