Building Bridges

In his first address to the Class of 2022 as the University of Virginia’s president, Jim Ryan had some advice for UVA’s newest students. 

“When in doubt, build a bridge,” he said.

He urged students to live connected lives. He asked them to reach out to each other, to professors, to UVA employees and to Charlottesville’s neighboring communities.

“Don’t be afraid to engage with people or ideas that are different from you. It is one of the best ways to sharpen your thinking and even change your own mind,” he said. “When in doubt, build a bridge, even if you are not sure where it is going.”

This idea isn’t limited to new college arrivals: faculty members reach across disciplines to solve complex problems, students make connections across cultural divides, staff members make a difference in our local communities. 

Here, find just a few of these stories. Read about a student with a troubled past who is working with inmates to show them that a better life is possible. Learn about steps the University is taking to be a better partner to Charlottesville and surrounding communities. See how alumni are banding together to create better access to water in the developing world.

Know of someone who is building a bridge at UVA? Let us know at


Appalachian Students Reach Back, Offer a Hand Up

Austin Widner grew up in Saltville, where five generations of his family have farmed tobacco. Now a fourth-year student, he is helping to build community among Appalachian students and alumni, and to increase applications to UVA from the region. Header Art: Austin Widner

Josh Pritchett’s Improbable Journey from a Prison Cell to UVA

Josh Pritchett was in and out of jail so often during his troubled youth that he lost count of how many times he was incarcerated. Then he learned about a dynamic UVA class that is based in the prison system, reached out to the professor and forged a new path to success.