Feb. 7, 2007 -- Indicating that the University of Virginia’s obligation is to be as “bold and revolutionary in our thinking and actions” as its founder, Thomas Jefferson, was in his time, U.Va. President John T. Casteen III emphasized the need to prepare students for a global century during his annual State of the University Address on Wednesday in Old Cabell Hall.
The reality that today’s students become global citizens in a global economy “guides academic planning, our building projects and our capital campaign,” Casteen said.
The University currently ranks 10th nationally in the number of students who study abroad. Several new programs have been added in recent years, including U.Va.’s academic sponsorship of Semester at Sea and the availability of study abroad opportunities as part of the intensive, two-week January Term.
“We are making progress, but we need more efficient and effective means to allocate resources abroad,” Casteen said. “This is a top priority.”
In remarks that focused on establishing U.Va.’s priorities for the next decade, Casteen described the process by which the University will undertake comprehensive academic planning and announced his formation of a Commission on the Future of the University, the third such commission in the University’s history.
The first commission, empaneled in the 1960s, focused on guiding the University through desegregation and co-education while the second in the 1990s was in response to the commonwealth of Virginia’s budget cuts.
Casteen has asked Dr. Arthur Garson, dean of the School of Medicine, and Leonard Sandridge, executive vice president and chief operating officer, to co-chair the commission with Robert Sweeney, senior vice president of development and public affairs. The trio will advise 14 or so working committees on funding issues from nonstate resources. These committees, which have not yet formed, will comprise a broad cross-section of the University — students, alumni, deans and faculty members, Casteen said.
“This planning mechanism has a long and honorable history,” he said. “It engages academics as thought leaders on matters within their areas of interest and competence and supports collegial consultation.”
Among the areas that committees or subcommittees will address are the University’s mission; changes within the academy, including such issues as new scholarly disciplines or interdisciplinarity; commitments to the state, including those adopted as part of restructuring; the University’s competitive posture; academic infrastructure; and the physical plant.
Completing the planning by early fall 2007 is critical, Casteen said, in order to avoid losing momentum.
Even as plans for the Commission on the Future of the University are formed, two key searches are well under way — one for a vice president and provost to succeed Gene Block, who will become chancellor of UCLA on or before Aug. 1, and the other a dean of the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences to succeed Edward Ayers, who will become the University of Richmond’s president on July 1.
“Both have been extraordinary and selfless leaders who will leave durable legacies,” said Casteen, who explained that the goal is to fill the vice president and provost position as soon as possible, perhaps as early as mid-semester. He cited several factors in the need to move quickly on this post, including the need for an overlap between provosts, ensuring continuity with the $3 billion Campaign for the University of Virginia and the academic planning process, and the desire to have a new vice president and provost participate in the search for Ayers’ replacement.
Casteen said that a Board of Visitors’ Search Oversight Committee will lead not only the vice president and provost search but will also provide direction throughout the next five to six years when the University enters a transition period with the projected retirements of top leadership, including the president and the executive vice president.
Other issues that Casteen addressed included:
• The Campaign for the University of Virginia. Casteen provided an update on the campaign, which has officially raised $1.12 billion, or about 37 percent of the goal, as of Dec. 31, 2006. The campaign, Casteen said, is about having the determination and discipline to raise the funds needed to be “best in class.” He added that while it is about building new buildings, hiring and retaining top faculty and creating endowments to support excellence, it is also about “concepts peculiar to this place: about the University’s unique origins and its obligation to sustain human freedom by creating knowledge.”
• Human Resource Initiatives. Casteen introduced Susan Carkeek, the new chief human resources officer at the University, and noted that she had recently introduced a professional development program that will help newly hired and salaried employees gain skills to advance in their careers. Such initiatives, he said, are the kinds of investments the University should make in its workforce as it continues to be the employer of choice in the region.
• Student Safety and Security. Casteen noted that student safety remains a concern with several alarming incidents during the fall followed by two sexual attacks on women students last month. He also talked about the bias-incident reporting process implemented last spring, which provided data indicating that the number of incidents reported last fall showed a decline from the number reported during the spring 2006 semester. “Targets of abuse vary from one year to another, possibly in response to national or local issues,” Casteen said. While African-American students had been the targets of abusive incidents in the previous two years, the bias-incident reporting system shows that the most incidents this year have been against students of Asian-Pacific backgrounds and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons.
• Student Financial Aid. Casteen referred to growing support for the University’s innovative financial aid program, Access UVa, and the need to expand the component of that program that assists students from middle-income families, especially those with multiple children in college.
• Undergraduate Research. Noting that nearly half of U.Va.’s undergraduates engage in research, Casteen said it is important to secure additional resources for students and faculty who want to take part in research programs.
• Transfers from Virginia Community Colleges. Casteen cited the increase in applicants and matriculants from Virginia’s Community College System under a new agreement that guarantees admission, based on course and grade requirements, to graduates of VCCS institutions. The number of applicants rose from 483 to 545 between fall 2005 and fall 2006 and the number of enrolled students rose from 138 to 172 in that period.
A streaming video of the State of the University address will be available online at www.virginia.edu/president/. The text will be published later at the same Web site.