May 14, 2007 -- John T. Casteen III, president of the University of Virginia, has been elected as the sixth chairman of Universitas 21, a global educational consortium. Among his first official duties will be to welcome undergraduate students from 18 nations to the Universitas 21 Student Summer Conference 2007, which U.Va. will host July 1-13.
Casteen was elected chairman April 21 at the annual meeting of the Universitas 21 board of directors, hosted this year by McGill University in Montreal. The 10-year-old consortium comprises 20 major research universities from 12 countries. U.Va., which joined the consortium in 2001, is the only member from the United States.
As chairman, Casteen will lead the annual meeting of the board of directors, which includes the chief executives of the member schools; will oversee the Birmingham, England-based Universitas 21 Secretariat, which handles the organization’s day-to-day workings; and likely will visit many of the U21 member institutions.
“I will work with member institutions on the range of U21 collaborations that benefit all of us,” said Casteen, who succeeds McGill University principal Heather Munroe-Blum as chair. “We have important decisions to make about both the immediate future and the longer term. U21 has continued to grow in recent months. Its programs are well established throughout the world. We have a chance now to make good decisions about the remaining few memberships reserved at the beginning for universities, and also about what kinds of activities will most benefit the member universities going forward.
“My own role is to sustain the work begun by previous chairs and strengthen the consortium’s position as one of the leading and most extensive international higher education networks. U21 began as an enterprise committed to collaborative research of global significance, to teaching and to knowledge transfer. Those three components really define the mission.”
The network hopes to add new members in the near future, as well as to encourage collaborative activities to address issues with global focus and perspective. Recently, it launched a research project, “Water Futures for Sustainable Cities,” which brings together a multi-disciplinary team from around the world to seek answers to one of the 21st century’s fundamental challenges.
“With President Casteen at the helm, the network looks forward to engaging with colleagues both within and [outside of] the network as we demonstrate the practical application of academic endeavour to the world in which we live,” said Jane Usherwood, Universitas 21 secretary-general.
In 2005, the University of Virginia hosted Universitas 21’s inaugural Undergraduate Research Conference, which has since become an annual event that rotates amongst the member schools.
This July, U.Va. will welcome at least 80 undergraduate students from 17 member schools, plus 10 junior faculty members, to the two-week summer conference. The program, titled “Leadership in a Global Society,” is designed to help participants understand and develop their own personal leadership skills by exploring the lives of leaders from different disciplines and different areas of the world, and will include lectures, group discussions and activities, field trips, active learning activities and service learning opportunities. Participants will also be offered cultural and recreational trips, including outings to Washington, a Richmond Braves baseball game and the annual July 4 naturalization ceremonies at Monticello.
The program for junior faculty will focus on improving their teaching and research skills.
For more on U21, visit its Web site at www.universitas21.com.