University of Virginia Executive Vice President and Provost Liz Magill has been chosen to serve as the ninth president of the University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League institution that traces its founding back to 1740 and – like UVA – features a history intertwined with the growth of the nation.
Magill has served as UVA’s chief academic officer since August 2019, when she became the first woman to hold the position. She previously was the Richard E. Lang Professor of Law and Dean of the Stanford University Law School. Before Stanford, she was on the UVA School of Law faculty for 15 years, serving as vice dean, the Joseph Weintraub-Bank of America Distinguished Professor of Law, and Elizabeth D. and Richard A. Merrill Professor.
Working in partnership with President Jim Ryan and his executive team, Magill during her time as provost has advanced UVA’s academic mission, supported the continued rise of the research enterprise, guided efforts to strengthen ties with the local community and led the ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I am tremendously excited and humbled to help write the next chapter at the University of Pennsylvania, one of the country’s great comprehensive universities,” Magill said. “At the same time, I am grateful for my time at the University of Virginia, a place and community that have truly changed my life. I have been privileged to work alongside so many inspiring colleagues – many of whom I am proud to call my friends.”
Once formally elected by the university’s governing board, Magill begins her role as Penn’s president on July 1. She succeeds Amy Gutmann, who announced last year that she would conclude her tenure after leading Penn for 17 years.
“Liz Magill took on an academic leadership position at a critical time for UVA, helping us to launch several key initiatives from our strategic plan and moving them forward even throughout the pandemic,” said Ryan, who originally became colleagues with Magill when both were serving on the School of Law faculty.
“Her wise and decisive actions have ensured the safe continuation of UVA’s teaching and research mission, and she has been an incredible partner to me, to our faculty and deans, and to the University’s leadership team. Although she’ll be greatly missed here on Grounds, it’s heartening that she will bring her considerable talents to Penn, which I know will flourish under her leadership. I’m deeply grateful for Liz’s service and her friendship – and I know she’ll always be a Hoo at heart.”
Ryan on Thursday also announced that Ian Baucom, the Buckner W. Clay Dean of the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, has been named to serve as the executive vice president and provost for UVA, succeeding Magill. Baucom has served in his current role since 2014.
“UVA is incredibly fortunate, and I am personally grateful, that Ian will be stepping into the role of provost,” said Ryan. “He is a widely respected and deeply admired scholar and dean, and he will be key to ensuring a smooth transition in UVA’s academic leadership. Ian has already been extraordinarily successful at the College in expanding access to UVA, recruiting and retaining top faculty, working across schools on new initiatives and implementing a new curriculum. I’m excited about working with him and looking forward to the energy and experience he will bring to the role.”
Baucom said he looks forward to working with Ryan to advance Ryan’s vision for UVA.
“It’s such an honor to have the chance to continue to serve the University in this new role and, most particularly, to work more closely with President Ryan,” Baucom said. “I’m grateful and thrilled.”
Ryan and Baucom also announced the appointment of David Hill as interim dean of the College. Hill is a professor of psychology in the College and a former department chair and associate dean.
Baucom said Hill’s extensive knowledge of and long record of service to the College will help ensure a smooth transition as a national search for a permanent dean of Arts & Sciences gets underway.
“I want to express my immense gratitude to Dave Hill for stepping into this role,” Baucom said. “He has very graciously delayed his retirement to serve as interim dean. The College is in great hands with Dave at the helm.”
Magill’s Return to UVA as Provost
In the summer of 2019, Magill returned to UVA after seven years at Stanford, arriving to a university led by a relatively new president in Ryan, who, during his first year in office, had guided the development of a new strategic plan – the “Great and Good Plan” – and was in the early stages of advancing its initial priorities.
Ryan welcomed his new provost – and former Law School colleague – as an indispensable partner in the work, describing her as a person with “razor-sharp intellect with excellent judgment, deep empathy and unfailing integrity.”
Magill said her initial weeks as provost were exhilarating and challenging as she sought to learn about UVA’s academic operations, meet new colleagues and students, and determine how best to support the University’s ambitious research enterprise.
“Coming back here was a compelling opportunity. The chance to work with Jim and his team, to move UVA forward, was deeply meaningful to me.”
Accomplishments in Office
Magill took office with a keen focus on engaging with University deans, faculty and schools in order to strengthen relationships and promote collaboration. She cites those partnerships, as well as her role in hiring five new school deans, as some of her greatest accomplishments during her time as provost.
“I am proud of the tight partnership we have been able to form between the deans, the provost’s office and the president’s office, one that I believe will continue after my departure,” Magill said. “By creating an environment where we work together, we’ve been able to advance the teaching, research and service missions together – in each of the schools and the University as a whole.
“I have been lucky and grateful for the daily partnership across the entire leadership team, President Ryan of course, and also our chief operating officer, J.J. Davis, and Dr. Craig Kent, UVA’s executive vice president for health affairs. The University Board of Visitors has also been wise and provided crucial support to the leadership team. Each of us have had very different roles helping run and govern a large university, and we have been able to work together to accomplish some extraordinary things over the past couple of years.”
Magill also pushed forward on several initiatives of the strategic plan, including efforts to enhance the quality and diversity of UVA’s incoming classes, provide expanded access to global experiences for UVA students, promote innovation in teaching, and move from prominence to preeminence in key research areas. In addition to her role in hiring the deans, she hired several academic leaders from enrollment to budget to academic strategy, and, partnering with President Ryan, recruited the new vice president of student affairs and chief student affairs officer. Part of her charge from the time she started, she also led the development of a new internal budget model – the University Financial Model.
“Liz is an outstanding academic leader, and it has been an enormous privilege to be a dean under her leadership,” said Ian H. Solomon, dean of the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. “She is outrageously smart, incredibly organized, instinctively helpful and tirelessly devoted to excellence in our academic mission. She has also been a superbly generous mentor and role model for me personally. I know I am grateful for her service to UVA, and I think I speak for all of my fellow deans in thanking her for expertly navigating the academic ship during a uniquely challenging time.”
Responding to the Pandemic
The role of a university provost already is complex. But, as Magill experienced, the job and many others at UVA would become exponentially more complicated and demanding with the emergence and spread of the COVID-19 pandemic beginning in early 2020.
For the months following the earliest indication of the spreading threat – and continuing today – Magill has collaborated with other leaders to coordinate the University’s pandemic response. The work, she said, has been incredibly challenging and rewarding at the same time.
As Magill noted, COVID presented a unique challenge to a research university: COVID could stop the University from delivering its core missions of teaching, research and service. At the start of the pandemic, Magill’s team moved 4,000 classes from in-person to online and helped design a program to keep the research mission moving forward. Magill has participated in discussion and debate that informed literally hundreds of decisions made along the way. Almost all of them, she said, required input and considerations of how they would influence public health considerations for the UVA and greater Charlottesville communities; the teaching, research and service missions of the University; and immense operational and logistical and financial implications.
Along with others, Magill the provost and academic leader finds herself in daily meetings and discussions with epidemiologists, physicians, researchers and others she might previously have infrequently crossed paths with, drawing on an array of experiences and expertise needed to help guide UVA through a global challenge fearsome enough to have previously ground the country’s economy to a halt and cost the lives of more than 800,000 Americans.
“This pandemic has changed almost everything about running a university – but not all of those changes have been negative,” Magill said. “The pandemic forced us to strengthen the muscle of collaboration as we made dozens of sweeping decisions that schools and University units would have never made together otherwise. Those partnerships will outlast this pandemic and will help University leaders, deans, faculty and staff find new and more effective ways to serve our students and advance our core missions as an institution.
“For me personally, as hard as COVID has been, I have relished the opportunity to work with and learn from so many experts and leaders in fields like medicine, public health, engineering and so many others. This university is home to some of the best people working in higher education anywhere, and our success navigating the pandemic together is evidence of that.”
Dr. Mitch Rosner, chair of the Department of Medicine, has spent countless hours during the pandemic in partnership with Magill, Davis and other medical and academic leaders to explore topics from testing protocols to residence hall visitation and travel recommendations. Rosner said Magill consistently brings good humor and an eagerness to learn from everyone to each encounter.
“Liz is incredibly smart, but also a very good listener,” Rosner said. “She can very quickly assess these complicated challenges and has a true ability to ask just the right questions to help bring clarity to an oftentimes confusing situation. We’ve been very lucky to have her on our team and our side during this ongoing pandemic.”
An Emotional Departure
While she is excited for the next chapter, Magill speaks candidly about what UVA and Charlottesville mean to her and her family. She also cites her time here as essential preparation for her next role as a university president.
“My time at UVA as a student, a faculty member, and now as provost, has laid the foundation for how I view and approach academic leadership,” Magill said. “I learned everything I know about academic leadership at UVA Law School. The model set there for what an academic community can be is in my DNA.
“It also makes it more difficult to leave a place my family and I consider to be our home,” she said.
Magill says she is looking forward to exploring “one of the best cities in the world,” in Philadelphia, but she knows there are some things that only Charlottesville can offer.
“I’ll miss Bodo’s, for sure. The egg bagel on sesame with cheddar, in particular. I will miss the beauty of Grounds. The Rotunda, the Pratt Ginkgo – I love the Pratt Ginkgo. But the thing I’ll miss most are the people – the talented and dedicated and selfless people I’ve had the opportunity to meet and work with in my own office and in so many other quarters of the University.”
As she prepares to leave the University, Magill said she is optimistic about its future.
“I am thrilled about the appointment of Ian Baucom to be the next University executive vice president and provost. He is a fantastic leader who is closely aligned with the goals of the University’s strategic plan and President Ryan’s vision for a university that is great and good,” she said.
“Because we are a public university, service to the commonwealth and the wider world has been central here at UVA since the very beginning. It’s one of the things that makes the University a model of what all higher education institutions can be and something I will certainly be bringing with me as I prepare to lead at the University of Pennsylvania.”