UVA Announces President’s Council on UVA-Community Partnerships

Row of businesses on the downtown mall

Photo by Sanjay Suchak, University Communications

The University of Virginia has created the President’s Council on UVA-Community Partnerships to work with UVA President Jim Ryan on issues including jobs and wages, affordable housing, equitable health care and youth education.

The council will be a more long-standing iteration of the UVA-Community Working Group, which Ryan established last fall to examine how the University could strengthen its relationship with surrounding communities. Members, listed below, served on the UVA-Community Working Group and include community leaders and faculty and staff members. First-year student Zyahna Bryant of Charlottesville will serve as a student member, succeeding recently graduated law student Toccara Nelson, who served on the original working group.

The council will meet with Ryan three to four times each year while inviting additional community members and UVA faculty, staff and students to be involved in smaller groups to work on specific initiatives.

The council’s co-chairs are Brennan Gould and Erika Viccellio. Gould is president and CEO of the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation, which supports numerous nonprofits, public and private organizations working to improve quality of life in the Charlottesville region. Viccellio is the executive director of The Fountain Fund, which provides financial education, loans and other support to former inmates.

The co-chairs expect that the council will provide accountability in addressing community priorities and will oversee specific initiatives that help make those goals a reality.

“In our work with the UVA-Community Working Group, we identified institutional accountability as foundational to any other work,” Viccellio said. “We are all deeply committed to that.”

“Last fall, the UVA-Community Working Group included broad representation from the community and from UVA,” Ryan said. “As the group continues its work under the auspices of the President’s Council on UVA-Community Partnerships, they will cast an even wider net to draw in more voices from the community.”

Initially, members will form four working groups focused on specific initiatives within the four priorities the UVA-Community Working Group identified in its report: jobs and wages, affordable housing, equitable health care and youth education. The City of Charlottesville also has adopted these issues as priorities.

“Those four priorities are broad, and there is so much to do in each one,” Viccellio said. “We wanted to start with specific goals, based on needs the community identified.”

The four initial working groups will focus on:

  • Local Economy, examining how UVA can work with small businesses in the community to fulfill procurement needs.
  • Pipelines and Pathways, growing UVA’s employment pipeline, providing better access to underrepresented groups and ensuring that current employees have opportunities for promotion and growth.
  • Housing Supply, developing ways for the University and the community to work together to create and maintain more housing for low-income residents. Members of this group will team up with an existing group at UVA that has already been working on affordable housing issues.
  • Early Childhood Education, emphasizing affordable, accessible, high-quality and equitable educational experiences for young children up to age 5.

A separate working group that brings UVA Health System leaders together with community members is focused on improving billing and collection practices. Additional working groups will be formed as needs change.

“The University and community have important work to do together to make a difference for local residents,” Gould said. “The establishment of the council will ensure that this work is carried forward.”

The council’s work, like that of the UVA-Community Working Group, also will consistently emphasize community feedback. The report’s four broad priorities, for example, were based upon input from the community from more than 75 channels, including face-to-face meetings with hundreds of residents and an online questionnaire with more than 3,000 participants. Meeting sites ranged from local barber shops and libraries to the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail.

“Each working group will include representation from those already doing that type of work in the community and those who are directly impacted,” Viccellio said. “Each one will also consult broadly with the community. We are very committed to an open, transparent and engaging process.”

The council is already planning a community town hall in the spring to provide a status update about each of the working groups being formed now.

Members of the President’s Council on UVA-Community Partnerships include:

  • Elizabeth Beasley, director, community partnerships at the UVA Health System.
  • Zyahna Bryant, UVA student representative.
  • Harold Folley, community organizer for the Legal Aid Justice Center.
  • Bonnie Gordon, associate professor of music, faculty director, UVA Equity Center.
  • Brennan Gould, president and CEO, Charlottesville Area Community Foundation (co-chair).
  • Charlene Green, manager, Charlottesville Office of Human Rights.
  • T. Denise Johnson, supervisor of equity and inlcusion, Charlottesville City Schools.
  • Mark Lorenzoni, founder, Ragged Mountain Running Shop.
  • Cristine Nardi, executive director, Center for Nonprofit Excellence.
  • Louis Nelson, vice provost for academic outreach and professor of architectural history.
  • Ridge Schuyler, dean of community self-sufficiency programs, Piedmont Virginia Community College.
  • Lorie Strother, SWaM (small, women- and minority-owned business) contract administrator at the University.
  • Erika Viccellio, executive director, The Fountain Fund (co-chair).
  • Juandiego Wade, career counselor, Albemarle County; member, Charlottesville School Board.
  • Dr. Michael Williams, associate professor of surgery and director of the UVA Center for Health Policy.
  • Amanda Williford, research associate professor, Curry School of Education and Human Development.
  • Barbara Brown Wilson, assistant professor of urban and environment planning, School of Architecture, faculty director, UVA Equity Center.