Teaching and Research at the University of Virginia
"Our intention is that professors shall be of the first order
in their respective lines which can be procured on either side
of the Atlantic"
on his vision of the
University of Virginia
October 29, 1822
the academic year 1999-2000, the Faculty Senate of the University
of Virginia, chaired by David T. Gies, focused on the relationship
between classroom teaching and scholarly research. After considerable
study, comment, revision, and discussion, the Senate has produced
this short document which we hope will underscore not only our
commitment to high-quality teaching and research, but also to
the undeniable connections between the two which enrich our lives
and those of our students.
WHY DO WE TEACH?
Teaching has several important objectives. Among the most vital
students to attain a deep and comprehensive understanding of
the subjects they are studying.
students learn how to break down and solve intellectual problems
in a variety of disciplines.
within these students a keen analytical capacity, and the ability
to articulate their insights with clarity, precision, and conviction.
a life-long love of learning and inquiry.
students for careers and contributions to society.
DO WE CONDUCT RESEARCH?
stimulates intellectual activity and produces new knowledge for
the future. Competition among universities for innovation and
research funds is fierce, and it is essential for a first-rank
university to maintain the focus and discipline necessary for
meeting the challenges of a new century. More than half of all
the nation's basic research is conducted at America's research
universities. Research leads to:
Sustaining economic development and global technological leadership.
Educating a knowledge-based work force.
continued medical breakthroughs and improving public health.
young minds alive to new ideas.
DO TEACHING AND RESEARCH MATTER?
Active research keeps the learning process current and alive.
Students who work in classrooms or laboratories with instructors
engaged in scholarly research are not merely passive recipients
of "yesterday's wisdom." They encounter the latest thinking
on the subjects they are studying. This is particularly important
in our fast-changing world when intellectual breakthroughs on
all fronts are occurring with increasing speed. Students at
the University of Virginia have the opportunity to learn directly
from those who are at the forefront of new scholarly revelations.
Instructors conducting active research programs communicate
the excitement and passion of scholarly discovery.
Carlos M. N. Eire, a recipient of the Board of Trustees Teaching
Award in 1990, puts it: "Nothing can quicken the pulse of a
class more effectively than an anecdote or conclusion drawn
from the teacher's original research." Many instructors report
that the best teaching takes place when they themselves are
grappling with a new insight, a new text, or a recent scientific
engaged in research can more readily convey to their students
the structures and processes of scholarly inquiry itself.
teachers describe a problem they have confronted in their research,
and outline the ways in which they approach the solution to
that problem, students gain a personal glimpse of the scientific
method at work.
Teachers engaged in research find themselves stimulated by
student responses to their work, and the result is often an original,
collaborative project involving student and teacher together.
in biomedical engineering regularly work with clinical and teaching
faculty at the Medical School and the School of Nursing. Together
they design, develop, and test new medical devices and techniques.
Faculty members conduct research with students in order to translate
advances in patient care directly into the clinical setting.
WHY DO UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS CARE ABOUT RESEARCH?
The University of Virginia has many of the best research scholars
in the world on its faculty. Increasingly, this faculty is finding
ways in which the classroom itself becomes a kind of dynamic research
laboratory, and the student assumes an active role in the creation
of new knowledge.
representative example is History of the US 403: Digital History
and the American Civil War, a course co-taught by Professor
Edward L. Ayers, the Hugh P. Kelly Professor of History, and
William G. Thomas, the Director of the Virginia Center for Digital
History. Students in this course investigate the possibilities
of writing a digital history of the American Civil War. They
conduct all the research in the experience of a wide range of
people ‹ Northern and Southern, black and white, male and female,
soldier and civilian ‹ in the American Civil War. They build
large Web sites, oversee and execute all the design issues,
and work with technical staff as well as with their professors.
The goal of the class is to create history using the new medium
of digital technology which would nevertheless meet traditional
expectations of scholarly excellence and integrity. Student
response has been extremely positive; as one student wrote:
"HIUS 403 was the best academic experience I have had at the
University. Not only was I encouraged to explore a topic that
I was interested in, but every minute challenged me to think
about history in a new way."
when asked about his participation in an undergraduate research
project with- in quantum mechanics, UVA alumnus Francis Collins,
the head of the Human Genome Project and a major figure in genetics
research, replied that his "most intense experience" as an undergraduate
was with that research.
attend a top research university and to share a classroom or laboratory
with some of the finest scholars in America sparks a fire of enthusiasm
which cannot be replicated elsewhere. Stephanie Lynn Taylor, a
recipient of one of the Faculty Senate Undergraduate Research
Awards, evoked the moment when learning becomes living scholarship
as she described her research on an eighteenth-century French
scientist: "I wish I had the academic terminology for that click,
that flaring moment when my interest became forever ignited, when,
as they say, I encountered my biographical subject....But I don't
think there is a vocabulary for that moment."
These are the kinds of moments that the faculty of the University
of Virginia seeks to inspire in students. Having felt that "flaring
moment" in their own programs of scholarly research, hey bring
their passion and enthusiasm for intellectual inquiry into the
classroom, and they encourage students to embark upon their own
personal voyage of exploration and discovery. Outstanding scholars
not only teach their students at UVa the most important new things
but it is their work which is taught to students around the world.
The Faculty Senate
University of Virginia