In September, the University of Virginia’s Board of Visitors endorsed several goals articulated by UVA’s Racial Equity Task Force and requested that UVA leadership develop a plan for funding, implementing and measuring progress toward those goals.
Faculty members, students and staff have made significant progress toward those goals even amid challenges posed by the pandemic. Special focus has been on efforts to increase the diversity of the student body and faculty, consistent with the University’s 2030 Strategic Plan.
Some of the most notable achievements to date include:
- Increased matching funds for Blue Ridge Scholars Program and University Achievement Awards: In December, President Jim Ryan announced an additional investment of $10 million in strategic matching funds to support the Blue Ridge Scholars program and University Achievement Awards. Board of Visitors member John Griffin established the Blue Ridge Scholars Program in 2014 to support undergraduate students with exceptional academic promise and significant financial need. The University Achievement Awards are designed for Virginia students who have a history of overcoming adversity, are first-generation college students, members of an underrepresented minority or ethnic group, come from a low or moderate-income family or have been raised in a single-parent household.
- Secured a $5 million grant for a new academic program on Race, Place and Equity: The grant, funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and announced in January, will create educational programs related to “Race, Place and Equity,” and will also help fund 30 post-doctoral fellows and three faculty members working on a broad range of topics related to racial equity. University funding will be used to help recruit the most promising of these fellows onto the faculty. A design committee, including specialists in on-site learning, subject matter experts and representatives from community partners, will convene this spring to develop curricular elements of the program and work with faculty members on their course plans. Faculty members who will lead first-year College Advising Seminars within the program will also take a workshop this summer to learn more about local history and the fundamentals of community-based learning.
- Increased funding for the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: Earlier this month, the University increased funding for this office, which is led by Vice President for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Community Partnerships Kevin McDonald. McDonald’s role also expanded to include community partnerships, helping to coordinate a variety of community-based efforts around UVA.
- Established a Naming and Memorials Committee: Ryan and Provost Liz Magill tasked the committee with outlining principals and protocols for naming or renaming buildings on Grounds, and making recommendations about the status and contextualization of memorials.
- Began a review of faculty promotion and tenure policies and procedures: Several schools, along with the provost’s office, have begun a review of promotion and tenure policies and procedures as part of a broader effort to improve faculty hiring, mentoring, promotion and retention.
- Began a review of staff opportunities and equity in promotion and salary practices: Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer J.J. Davis and her staff have begun a review of promotion and salary practices for UVA staff.
- Dedicated more faculty positions to issues of racial equity: Ian Baucom, dean of the College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, recently dedicated 10 tenure-track positions to scholars working on racial equity across a wide range of disciplines. In December, the University also announced $16 million in investments supporting the Carter G. Woodson Institute, which is home to the African American and African Studies interdisciplinary major in the College and works to enhance the research and teaching of African American and African studies at UVA.
- Began the development of a minor in Native American Indigenous Studies: A proposal is now under consideration by the College of Arts & Sciences Committee on Educational Policy and the Curriculum.
“These steps are encouraging, and I believe they will provide both immediate and long-term benefits for the University,” McDonald said. “I am looking forward to working with President Ryan and many others across the University community to sustain this progress.”
McDonald and his colleagues are creating a website, which will launch this month, that will track progress against the University’s goals.
“The progress we have made toward improving equity and opportunity at UVA is heartening, even as we recognize we have more to do,” Ryan said. “I am grateful to all those across the University who have brought these initiatives to life. Our community will benefit from this work for generations to come.”