'Trending in the Right Direction': Record Spending with Minority-Owned Vendors, New Buildings and Campaign Closing In on $1 Billion

September 18, 2006
Sept. 18, 2006 -- During two days of committee meetings on Sept. 11-12, the Board of Visitors was briefed on a string of milestones reached and projects substantially completed, including the implied achievement of raising the first billion dollars of the capital campaign, setting new records in spending with minority-owned businesses, and preliminary results of a year-long University-wide branding and positioning project.  In the words of one of the presenters, overall the University appears to be “trending in the right direction.” 

A ‘SWAM dunk’ for supplier diversity

Bill Cooper, director of supplier diversity for procurement services, announced that, during just one week in August, U.Va. had awarded over $1 million in contracts to women- and minority-owned businesses. He called this first-ever million-dollar-plus week a “SWAM dunk,” playing on the acronym that refers to small, women and minority business owners. The following week, Sept. 4-8, an $838,000 construction contract was awarded to a minority-owned firm.  The spending of those two weeks alone equaled roughly one-third of the yearly spending on minority-owned businesses during the previous fiscal year, giving procurement services a good jumpstart towards meeting the ambitious goal of 4 percent of total spending going to minority-owned firms during the current fiscal year, which will end on June 30, 2007.  The goal of 4 percent will more than triple the percentage of minority spending in fiscal year 2005 (1.1 percent) and almost double the percentage achieved in 2006 (2.1 percent). 

Board member Warren Thompson noted that U.Va.’s recent recognition by Black Enterprise magazine as one of the 50 Top Colleges for African-Americans “is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in advertising.”

Cooper also noted that when the UVA Marketplace system goes online in December to streamline purchasing for the 1,400 empowered purchasers around Grounds, 12 of the initial 50 vendors in the system will be minority-owned vendors, including six in the high-dollar areas of research and construction. Among the vendors will be Mays Chemical Company, named one of the “Top 100” black-owned companies by Black Enterprise magazine. “This will remove the barrier of having to look for a minority vendor,” Cooper said.  Purchasers “will look for a product, purchase it and then find out they purchased from a minority vendor.” He summarized, “Things are falling into place, and I think that SWAMming is now a part of what we do, rather than something else that we have to do.”

Capital campaign update

Just weeks ahead of the official kickoff of the capital campaign on Sept. 29, Gordon F. Rainey Jr., campaign chairman and BOV member, coyly refused to give an update as to the exact total raised. But he hinted that those who attend the kickoff “will hear a number that we think you’ll like.” The campaign launch  will run throughout that weekend, featuring 53 events, including a groundbreaking ceremony for the South Lawn project and a public fireworks show on the Lawn.

Rainey noted that the day after the kickoff, “the slate is wiped clean and the next billion dollars will probably be the most challenging.”

Health plan changes

Four changes to the U.Va. health plan were proposed for 2007. Expanded dental coverage will pay for a maximum of $1,500 per year, up from $1,000; the period during which one can receive physical therapy will be extended; for children under age 5 who undergo medically necessary dental surgery, charges for anesthesia and outpatient facilities will be covered; and prescription co-pays will increase by $2 for branded drugs, both preferred and nonpreferred, but there will be no change to the co-pay for generic drugs. In the proposal, presented by Yoke San Reynolds, vice president and chief financial officer, costs for the low-premium program will remain the same, while the high-premium program will see increases of 4 percent on average. These changes will be presented to the full board at its next meeting on Sept. 29.

New building plans

David Neuman, architect for the University, presented schematic drawings for three planned building projects. A new first-year residence hall will be added to the Hereford College complex. To address “frequent feedback” by current and past Hereford residents that Hereford’s architecture, featuring small windows and austere interiors of painted concrete block, combined with the location far from central Grounds, has created a sense of “isolation,” the new dormitory will feature more than double the glazing of the existing dormitories, including lounges with window-filled walls that take advantage of mountain views, Neuman said.

The Claude Moore Medical Education Building will be tucked next to McLeod Hall and will be connected to the existing MR-5 building, at the corner of 15th Street and Lane Road. A cylinder shape was chosen to best house a new type of classroom pioneered at MIT. The Technology Enabled Active Learning (TEAL) classroom is laid out like a dining hall. Equally spaced within the room are 18 round tables, each holding eight students, so that students with varying knowledge levels can be grouped together to facilitate peer instruction. Numerous projection screens spaced around the periphery of the room can be seen looking in any direction. The instructor has a workstation in the center of the room, but the flat floor and open spaces enable the teacher to walk amongst the students and interact with them while teaching, interspersing short lectures, visualizations, written exercises hands-on experiments, and discussion questions with electronic polling of the students, all in one setting.

Neuman also presented conceptual drawings of the clinical services building and Health System north parking garage complex, which will be sited on what is now a large parking lot behind and beside Northern Exposure and Kane Furniture on West Main Street.  Board members also toured the newly completed renovation of Cocke Hall, the first segment of the South Lawn project to be completed.

Marketing campaign

The board’s External Affairs Committee also heard the preliminary results of a University-wide branding and positioning project, led by the national marketing firm McCann Erickson. The goal was to identify and distill a message about the attributes of U.Va. that would work to enhance its reputation, raise its visibility and increase engagement among its key constituencies. Eric Keshin (Commerce 1980), chief operating officer of McCann WorldGroup and regional director of McCann Erickson North America, explained the goal of his effort as changing the perception of U.Va. from being seen as “a top public university” to being seen as “a top university that is public.” 

Rankings projections

J. Milton Adams, vice provost for academic programs, presented an assessment of how four proposed 10-year strategies will bear on the U.S. News & World Report college rankings. The four strategies are: to increase educational expenditures per student, thanks to new resources brought in by the capital campaign; add 260 small classes by 2015; bump up the alumni giving participation rate from 26 percent to 33 percent; and to increase or maintain the rating of U.Va. by peer institutions at 4.3 to 4.4 (on a scale of 1 to 5).

Adams projected that the net result of these initiatives would be a gradual rise in the overall U.S. News rankings, from being tied for 24th this year, to being ranked 20th in 2015. However, he cautioned the committee to “take this with a big grain of salt — a huge chunk of salt,” because of all the assumptions that went into this analysis. “But take it that we are trending in the right direction.”