Thomas C. Katsouleas, the new executive vice president and provost of the University of Virginia, stood in the shade of Old Cabell Hall Tuesday afternoon as hundreds of faculty, staff and students lined up to meet him.
“It’s wonderful to see everyone here,” said Katsouleas, sporting a tie with the “V-Sabres” logo after just two weeks in his new position. “It’s so nice of all these people to come out to welcome me.”
As far as U.Va. President Teresa A. Sullivan and longtime administrator Wayne Cozart, executive director of the Jefferson Trust, know, this was the first public event held to welcome the University’s chief academic officer.
“The provost touches every part of academic life. I wanted to give him a chance to meet a lot of people,” Sullivan said. “It’s great to see so many students here.”
When James Aylor, former dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science, approached, the two men – colleagues in the engineering field – extended their handshake into a bear hug; Katsouleas served as dean of engineering at Duke University, prior to joining U.Va., and is the Robert C. Taylor Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering here.
“It’s great to have friends here already,” Katsouleas said, “and I’m sure I’ll make many more.”
U.Va.’s Engineering School was well-represented among the welcoming crowd. Carolyn Vallas, the school’s assistant dean for diversity, clutched her cell phone as she stood in line, awaiting some important news: the imminent birth of her grandson in California. Lo and behold, the message came in. A colleague next to her suggested she tell the provost; Katsouleas, therefore, was one of the first to congratulate her.
When several faculty members from the Engineering and Society Department introduced themselves, the provost exclaimed that the area is “dear to his heart.” At Duke, he reshaped the engineering education and research focus to address society’s challenges and prepare students to lead and innovate upon graduation.
Siva Vaidhyanathan, Robertson Professor in the Department of Media Studies, and his wife, Melissa Henriksen, associate director for University engagement in U.Va.’s Applied Research Institute, were among the first in line, shortly after 4 p.m. Vaidhyanathan, author of “The Googlization of Everything,” mentioned how quickly things change on the Internet, saying some parts of his book were out-of-date a month after it was published in 2011. Katsouleas suggested he write op-eds, a strategy Vaidhyanathan agreed with, saying that’s what he’s been trying to do.
Tim Freilich, director of Madison House, was eager to tell the provost about the student volunteer center’s latest initiative: to align their community service with the curriculum. “We want to tie what they’re learning as volunteers to what they’re learning in the classroom,” he said.
The occasion also provided an opportunity for other U.Va. community members to meet new people. Maria Ivanova, a lecturer in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, and John Brister, a procurement analyst in Procurement and Supplier Diversity Services, started a conversation as they waited in the receiving line.
“This is a good community here,” said Brister, just two weeks in his new job.
While the provost met and chatted with those in line for at least an hour and a half, people mingled on the Lawn nearby, eating hors d’oeuvres and drinking water refreshingly flavored with strawberries and cucumbers or lemon and basil, perfect for a hot summer afternoon.