Rainey: Campaign will be ‘defining event’
The U.Va. Difference
By Dan Heuchert
IUVA: The Board has been very attuned to the academic mission of the University in what it’s trying to achieve, especially in science and technology. Can you tell us where the board hopes this will lead once we make this investment?
Rainey: The University long has enjoyed a national reputation in the humanities. Our reputation has not been as consistently strong in the sciences. That is not to imply criticism. It is simply a fact. We can’t be all things to all people at all times, but the University is making a major commitment to research and to science and technology. Our aspiration is to be a great research university. That is easier to say than to do. To attract world-class scientists to our platform will require investment in both facilities and resources to support their research. The board has made a major commitment to research, and we are making good progress. Success begets greater success. We are beginning to attract to the University those leading in the creation of important knowledge, which will attract more scientists and more exploration. Creating knowledge is what this is all about, and exposing our students to that knowledge to prepare them for the world of tomorrow.
IUVA: Do you think that’s one of our challenges — the fact that most of our alumni seem to have backgrounds from the humanities and liberal arts, and here we are trying to seek their support for other areas?
Rainey: I think our alumni and friends fully understand and support these initiatives and recognize the importance of science and technology in the upcoming campaign. These are areas impacting all of our daily lives and, in many cases, livelihoods. One of the most exciting aspects of chairing this campaign is that we have an opportunity to preserve and enhance the best of our traditional strengths while at the same time propelling the University to higher levels of achievement in fields that will have a powerful impact on our students in the world of tomorrow.
IUVA: What is the role of athletics at the University?
Rainey: It is an important role. I wonder how many bright young people make a college decision influenced, at least in part, by their perception of a college’s athletics programs? I don’t know the answer, but I know it is a factor. And this is not just prospective athletes — this includes applicants who might be influenced to come to the University of Virginia because they take pride in our stadium or our arena, or they think Al Groh or Dave Leitao are great coaches, or they just enjoy watching competitive Division I athletics. Athletics are an important part of the college experience. It is not the most important part, but it is important. The most important thing is providing all of our students with an opportunity for a first-rate education.
IUVA: How should athletic fund raising fit into the overall campaign?
Rainey: The key on athletics is to keep it in perspective. We have a large segment of our alumni who think it is very important, but at the University of Virginia we are not going to lose our soul over athletics. I believe we have done a good job keeping athletics in balance with maintaining very high academic standards. I know that some on the faculty think we spend too much money on athletics. I suspect faculties everywhere take that point of view. But I know a good many members of the faculty who like to see the University competitive in everything we do, including athletics.
IUVA: Should we continue to emphasize across-the-board excellence in athletics?
Rainey: Absolutely. We are striving for excellence at the University in everything we do. Some years ago, there was a proposal to
IUVA: One of the challenges of this campaign is that we have so many major capital projects among our goals. How important is it that we provide these new environments — for everything from the Health System to teaching space to the arts?
Rainey: Very important. The South Lawn, for example, is extremely important to get funded and built because one of the University’s greatest assets is the undergraduate experience. That is what many people believe differentiates the University from its peer institutions. To preserve and enhance that experience, we need the additional classroom and faculty facilities that will be provided by the South Lawn project.
IUVA: It seems like many people see the arts as a way of reaching out to audiences and alumni the way athletics does now.
Rainey: Our focus should always be first on the students. If you are a young man or a woman with a gift in the performing arts, whether it be music, dance or drama, we want the University to be an appealing place to pursue those interests. We have work to do in these areas, and we have undertaken that work. The University is committed to advancing our programs in music and the performing arts and to providing the facilities to assure that we can attract the best and brightest applicants whatever their interests may be. Investment in programs and facilities in these areas will enhance the reputation of the University, but more importantly, will enhance the quality of the educational experience. In the end, it is not the buildings, but what goes on inside those buildings, that matters most.
Rainey: I talk to a lot of alumni all over the country these days. There may be a few out there who had a bad student experience at the University, but I have never encountered one. It is often said of those educated here, “They just never seem to get over that place.” The University does have a way of getting into the bloodstream of its alumni and friends and that is why I know we will succeed in this campaign.
IUVA: So you see the campaign, then, as helping us to create the foundations to sustain that experience — as you say, to create the classrooms and new opportunities like the arts.
Rainey: Absolutely. We want the University to attract the very best young people in America and, increasingly, the world. If we stay focused on offering the most diverse and intellectually stimulating student experience possible, the rest tends to take care of itself.
IUVA: Tell us your views on supporting the research enterprise at the University.
Rainey: I don’t think we can achieve what we envision if we are not regarded as a great national research institution. A major commitment to research is among the more important things our board has done in the past few years. The board has made a major investment in research and in recruiting to the Grounds those who will create new knowledge in areas important to the future of our country and the world. Our provost, and others, are deeply engaged in efforts toward this end, and I think you will see some exciting announcements in the future.
2005 by the Rector and Visitors