President Ryan Seeks Ideas and Inspiration From University Community

Collage of people with the text Ours to Shape

President James E. Ryan wants to hear from you.

The University of Virginia’s ninth president today invited members of the University community and beyond to provide their thoughts and ideas about the future of the University, and their aspirations for a shared vision for UVA’s third century.

Coinciding with the beginning of his term, Ryan launched “Ours to Shape,” a program that asks for community input on questions from three thematic areas that distinguish the University’s strengths: community, discovery and service.

The Ours to Shape website includes an introductory video in which Ryan articulates his request for participation and explains why he intends to explore those three themes to develop a strategic vision for the University.

“I consider it to be a real privilege to be a part of the UVA community,” Ryan said. “But with privilege comes responsibility – the responsibility to create opportunities for others and to leave the world a bit better than you found it. I look forward to hearing your ideas about how all of us, together, can do just that.” 

Ours to Shape provides community members an avenue to submit comments or video messages in response to these questions:

  • Community: How do we create an unparalleled residential experience for students, in and out of the classroom? How do we strengthen the sense of community on Grounds, with the greater Charlottesville region, and with our alumni?
  • Discovery: How do we best enable faculty to discover new knowledge? How do we best enable students to learn about the past, themselves and the world around them?
  • Service: How do we provide the most valuable service to the commonwealth? How do we help prepare our students for a lifetime of service, regardless of their chosen fields?

Ours to Shape will be an expansive effort to gather feedback from students, faculty, staff, alumni and supporters of the University that will ultimately lead to a shared strategic vision for the University’s third century.

Ryan began soliciting input soon after his election last September by the Board of Visitors. He succeeds President Emerita Teresa A. Sullivan, who served for eight years.

In the months leading up to his presidency, Ryan visited Grounds multiple times to meet with students, faculty, deans and administrators in the Academic Division, the UVA Health System and the College at Wise.

“I’ve heard about the strong sense of community on Grounds and among the alumni, and the importance of a strong relationship with the communities surrounding UVA. I’ve learned about some of the truly remarkable research underway across the University, and the importance of supporting and encouraging the discovery of new knowledge. And I’ve been heartened by the enthusiastic support of public service and the idea that service should be at the core of our mission, as a public institution,” Ryan said. “I now would like to hear from you.”

Ryan is a 1992 graduate of the UVA School of Law and spent 15 years on the school’s faculty. For the past five years, he has served as dean of the Harvard University Graduate School of Education.

“I have often thought of UVA as our nation’s public university, not simply because our founding was so intertwined with the founding of our nation, but because our university – from the very first days to today – was meant to serve our nation and, now, the world,” he said.

“In thinking about how we can strengthen our community, promote discovery and enhance our commitment to service, my hope is that we do so with an eye toward our collective impact on the world. Universities should be a force for good in the world, and UVA is no exception. Indeed, it is my hope that our university will be known as the one most determined to making the world a better place through the preparation of our students to be ethical leaders; through our research; and through our partnerships with the numerous communities we serve.”

To provide your ideas and comments, visit

Media Contact

Anthony P. de Bruyn

Office of University Communications