August 13, 2012 — The challenges facing the University of Virginia and all of higher education are serious and numerous. U.Va. academic leaders are united and eager, however, to take on the job.
Deans of all 11 schools, the University Librarian and Executive Vice President and Provost John Simon, delivered a letter to President Teresa A. Sullivan that identifies goals and lays out a process by which U.Va. can map out the best route ahead.
"In doing so, we must define our current strengths and weaknesses, develop strategies that advance and differentiate U.Va. from our peers, and then execute these strategies aggressively, yet with a flexible and learning mindset, to move the University forward," reads the letter, dated July 25.
Sullivan shared the letter on Aug. 6 with the Board of Visitors, promising more details at both the board's retreat this week in Richmond and at the next regular board meeting in September. She also suggested that key ideas highlighted by the academic leaders align with the work of two new Board of Visitors committees – the Special Committee on Governance and Engagement and the Special Committee on Strategic Planning.
"The letter shows that our academic leaders are all on the same page and are ready to work with everyone – faculty, staff, students, alumni and visitors – to move ahead with real purpose," Sullivan said. "This is part of the process of deciding exactly where we want to go from here and how we plan to get there."
The letter states that U.Va. leaders must examine macro-level issues and then focus on strategic decision-making to be able to answer the question, "What do we want the University to be in 10 years?"
The macro issues center on relationships between the commonwealth and the University, and between the Board of Visitors and the academic and executive leadership of U.Va. Governance issues, the subject of intense scrutiny since the June resignation and reinstatement of Sullivan, are included in this category.
The letter from the deans and provost says the University also must engage in strategic decision-making that defines a "unique vision" for U.Va., develops strategies for making it happen within available resources and includes assessments to determine if goals are being met. The letter focuses on five key strategic planning areas: faculty, curriculum, global prominence and impact, research and financial sustainability.
"The deans and I agree that these are the areas that will determine the future of the University of Virginia," Simon said. "If we do this right, U.Va. won't be just a good university or one that survives. This will be a preeminent university and model for the rest of higher education."