Alexander Graham Bell said when one door closes, another one opens. That rings true at the University of Virginia: With renovation complete, all of New Cabell Hall’s doors have opened, even as the iconic Rotunda is closed for renovation.
Among other new things on Grounds for 2014-15, three new deans will lead schools, new majors will engage students and major literary and arts figures will visit U.Va. Several changes offer new opportunities for students, faculty and staff.
1. New Cabell Hall renewed: The early 1950s-era building still known as “New” Cabell Hall has been refurbished inside for the 21st century while retaining its wide windowsills that provide favorite sit-down spots for students between classes. New Cabell holds the largest number of classrooms on the Grounds.
The six-story brick building has undergone an extensive $64.5 million renovation over the past four years. Classrooms have been upgraded with state-of-the-art teaching aids and new audio-visual equipment. The north side’s central staircase has been encased in glass, to bring more light into the building, and two south-facing terraces have been added to the top floor. The courtyard between Old Cabell and New Cabell halls has been completely re-envisioned, including adding an exterior staircase that runs from the courtyard to the fourth-floor west entrance, creating outside access to the courtyard. Add to all this the replacement of the building’s mechanical systems – electrical, plumbing, fire suppression and ventilation – and yes, that includes air conditioning.
2. Rotunda temporarily closed: Renovations to the University’s historic Rotunda have entered the second phase in bringing U.Va.’s iconic centerpiece into the 21st century while safeguarding the features that make it a World Heritage Site. Cordoned off the week after Final Exercises, it will be closed for about two years.
The $50 million second phase includes major and subtle changes in the structure – updating utility systems, restoring historical features, such as the column capitals, and expanding the future use of the building. The new renovations are designed to restore the Rotunda as the center of the University’s academic activity and student life.
3. Three new deans take the reins: On July 1, Ian Baucom began his tenure as the Buckner W. Clay Dean of the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, the oldest and largest of U.Va.’s 11 schools. Baucom takes the helm after serving the past 17 years in Duke University’s Department of English. He was a professor of English and directed the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute at Duke.
Also on July 1, Allan C. Stam became the second dean of the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. Stam comes to U.Va. from the University of Michigan, where he studied leadership, international conflict and global politics as a professor of public policy and political science and director of the International Policy Center at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.
Elizabeth K. Meyer has taken on a two-year term as dean of the School of Architecture. Meyer, Merrill D. Peterson Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University, began serving in the new role on July 15. An internationally renowned design theorist and critic, Meyer came to U.Va. in 1993 and will continue teaching during her deanship. She plans to return full-time to the classroom at the conclusion of her term.
4. Literary master takes up residence: American author James Salter will teach and lecture for the semester as the University’s Kapnick Family Distinguished Writer in Residence in the Creative Writing Program of the English department. The new residency program aims to create an open, unconstrained conversation between students and a literary master. Salter also will give a series of talks – open to all students as well as the community – in which he’ll reflect upon writing and consider what literature is now and what it is becoming.
5. Berlin Wall to be commemorated: Several programs will take place in conjunction with the Virginia Film Festival from Nov. 2 through Nov. 9 to mark the 25th anniversary of the fall of the wall. A section of the wall, on loan to the University, is on display outside Alderman Library.
6. Women’s Center changes its name: The former Women’s Center is now the Maxine Platzer Lynn Women’s Center, in honor of the pioneering alumna whose $3 million endowment is the largest gift in the center’s history. The center celebrates its 25th anniversary this year with several events.
7. Dream the dream of “Les Miserables”: Claude-Michel Schönberg, who composed the music and lyrics for “Les Miserables” and “Miss Saigon” with lyricist Alain Boublil, will come to the Grounds for a three-day residency this fall. Boublil will join him at U.Va. on Sept. 30 for a public event that evening, led by drama professor Marva Barnett, an expert on “Les Mis” author Victor Hugo.
8. Life through Gordon Parks’ eyes: An exhibition of major African-American photographer and filmmaker Gordon Parks’ photography will open at the University’s Fralin Museum of Art in September. Associate professor of history John Mason, who curated the exhibit, will teach a course that will take advantage of the exhibit and various programs, films and guest speakers that will accompany it. For nearly half a century, Parks’ photography, writing and films made him one of the most important black voices in American culture.
9. Office to support doctoral students and postdocs: With a new home on the fifth floor of New Cabell Hall and a new name, the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Affairs (updated website coming soon) will turn a sharper focus on graduate students. The office aims to support students from different disciplines collaborating on novel research problems. A new director of diversity programs will be hired to increase the diversity of the graduate student population.
In addition, to help graduate students and postdocs learn skills for careers outside the academy, Melissa Hurst, director of professional development, was recently awarded a Jefferson Trust grant, in collaboration with the College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, to facilitate a series of training workshops that focus on developing skills for communicating scholarship to public audiences.
10. Three new undergraduate majors expand students’ options: youth and social innovation, global studies and literary prose writing. The Curry School of Education’s youth and social innovation major is designed to prepare graduates to promote youth development outside traditional schools and classrooms. Students will gain substantial hands-on experience working in established out-of-school programs like the Boys & Girls Club, Big Brothers/Big Sisters or U.Va.’s own Young Women Leaders Program, a research-based mentoring program for middle school girls created in 1997 and since widely replicated.
The new interdisciplinary and inter-school global studies major will be housed in the College of Arts & Sciences. It represents an expansion of the global development studies major, a student-created major that has been directed by Richard Handler since 2009. In 2011, in partnership with the Department of Public Health Sciences in the School of Medicine, a concentration in global public health was created. Two other tracks will also be offered: a security and justice track and an environments and sustainability track.
Added to the English department’s concentrations for majors is a new Area Program in Literary Prose Writing. The program will stress not only writing, but also extensive reading and rigorous thinking about the nature of narrative. Students apply in the spring semester of their second year and declare a major in English, although the requirements for the literary prose-writing track differ from the requirements for a standard English major.
11. Law and medicine join forces on new degree: On the professional level, a new dual-degree option, the J.D.-M.D., starts this fall. The program, a partnership between the School of Law and the School of Medicine, joins the J.D.-Master’s in Public Health program to become the second joint degree the schools offer. Students accepted into the program can complete law and medical degrees in six years, instead of the seven years normally required if the degrees were pursued separately. The University is one of only about 20 schools in the country to offer the degree. One student, Austin Sim, is enrolled in the program as it begins.
12. Employees create Staff Senate: The group, which comprises the three Employee Communication Councils representing the Academic Division, aims to give employees a stronger, unified voice on University matters.
13. More healthy choices at U.Va. Dining: A new station, called the Copper Hood, is being rolled out at the three residential restaurants: Observatory Hill, and the Fresh Food Company at Newcomb and Runk dining halls. The stations provide allergen- and gluten-free dining at U.Va.
14. President’s Speaker Series for the Arts: Started last year, the series reflects a strengthened emphasis at U.Va. on the arts and their importance in the community. This year’s guest speaker will ... have to remain a mystery for now, but stay tuned. In about a week, the famous name will be revealed.