April 14 - 27, 2006
Vol. 36, Issue 7
Back Issues
IN THIS ISSUE
South Lawn gets green light
Five U.Va. grad schools among nation's best
Guaranteed admission program created
U.Va. extends offers to Class of 2010
Digest
Professor held one of the most influential tax posts
What's wrong with the media?
Supermassive black holes
Stellar misfits
Prior new chancellor at Wise
Taking the 'Mud' out of Mad Bowl
Lectures shed light on the arts in the time of Jefferson
U.Va. celebrate historic garden week on April 25
National Physics Day show
Former student activist to speak April 26

Students bring music with a message to Mali

 

South Lawn gets green light

South Lawn
The schematic design for phase 1 of the South Lawn Project, a complex of buildings that will provide a new academic center for the College of Arts & Sciences, was approved unanimously on April 6 by the Board of Visitors’ Buildings and Grounds Committee.

By Brevy Cannon

The much-anticipated South Lawn Project shifted into a high gear when the Board of Visitors approved the design at its meeting on April 7.

The previous day, the project received the green light at the Buildings and Grounds Committee, which heard a detailed presentation from David J. Neuman, architect for the University, as well as comments from President John T. Casteen III, outgoing student board member Catherine Neale and incoming Anne Elizabeth Mullen, and Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences Ed Ayers.

Once the committee made its unanimous vote, Rector Thomas F. Farrell II, acting chair of the committee, turned to Ayers and said: “Dean Ayers, you have your building. Now you’ve got to get the money.” Without a pause, Ayers got to his feet and headed toward the door: “I’ll leave now and start,” he said. “I’ll see you in two months.”

The most ambitious construction project at the University in more than a century, the first phase of the South Lawn Project will add more than 100,000 square feet of academic space and will be the home of history, politics, and religious studies. The cost estimate for this phase is $105 million, and construction may begin in 2007 with completion in 2009.

The College Foundation, an independent organization created by Arts & Sciences alumni to manage philanthropic gifts in support of the school and its programs, has currently raised almost $30 million toward the cost of the project.

“I want to thank the people who have given us nearly $30 million when these drawings were done on the backs of napkins at tables all over America and who had faith that the University would rise to this,” Ayers said. “If we are going to take a bold step forward toward the 21st century that ties us to our past, this is the place.”

Noting that “the sheer intellectual work” put into the project has been extremely impressive, Casteen said, “I believe this is what our publics have been asking for.”

Added Neuman: “We are building for the next century. We think that this building project will function well when it opens, but we also believe that on the buildings’ 100th anniversary, everyone will say that we did a good job.”

The design was created by Moore Ruble Yudell Architects & Planners of Santa Monica, Calif., the firm chosen by the board in 2005. John Ruble, who leads the project’s design team as partner-in-charge, is a 1969 graduate of U.Va.’s School of Architecture.

The project will extend the axis and grid of Jefferson’s original Lawn across Jefferson Park Avenue, reinforcing the atmosphere of community that characterizes the U.Va. undergraduate experience.

“The charge presented to the design team,” Neuman said, “was to seek inspiration from the composition of Jefferson’s original Lawn, including the character and scale of its landscape and architecture, without resorting to imitation.” Given the influence of the College’s academic requirements and the challenges posed by the Central Grounds’ historic architectural fabric and a steeply sloping site, the South Lawn Project will feature a complex, three-dimensional arrangement of buildings and gardens that provides an important link to the Central Grounds.

Among the schematic design’s features are two parallel wings of academic buildings that establish an east-west sequence, linking the College of Arts & Sciences to the adjacent Foster Family historic site and complementing the nearby Medical Center. These buildings frame an outdoor courtyard reminiscent of the pavilion gardens adjacent to the Lawn. The buildings will feature classrooms equipped with the latest technology, gathering areas, flexible workspaces and faculty offices organized to foster collaboration.

A 100-foot-wide pedestrian terrace of lawn spans JPA, extending the axis of the original Lawn and unifying old and new. On all sides of the South Lawn building complex, multiple pedestrian routes lead to interior and exterior stairs ascending to the terrace in order to direct as much pedestrian traffic as possible onto the terrace itself.

The terminus of the South Lawn Terrace is a circular plaza, framed by pergolas on two sides, with an overlook that recaptures the historic view of the distant ridgeline leading to Monticello. On the west side of this vista point, an exterior stair sweeps down to terraces and gardens below.

To the east, a glass-walled conservatory housing a café and a digital resource center is framed by the two porches that serve as entrances to the two wings of buildings that will house the College’s programs in history, religious studies and politics.

As with the building design, the landscape for the South Lawn Project has been carefully planned. The terrace is a formal expanse of lawn floating through adjacent trees and topography. The landscaping also includes a simple system of walls, water retention gardens and other details that both re-interpret and blend with existing site conditions.

Moore Ruble Yudell is working in conjunction with landscape architects Cheryl Barton and Walter Hood, as well as other consultants selected by the University for this important and challenging commission.

According to Neuman the buildings will be LEED certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), a national green-building rating system that recognizes high-performance buildings that incorporate state-of-the-art strategies for sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.

D Abramson
Photo by Dan Addison
On April 5, Gov. Timothy M. Kaine named Alexandria businessman Daniel R. Abramson to replace one-term BOV member Mark J. Kington, a venture capitalist and business partner of former Gov. Mark R. Warner. Kaine reappointed board members Dr. Edwin Darracott Vaughan Jr. of New York City, a Cornell urologist who taught at U.Va.’s medical school from 1973 to 1978; Don R. Pippin of Wise County, a former Norton School Board member and city attorney; and Warren M. Thompson of Fairfax County, president and chairman of the largest minority-owned franchised food operation in the country.

Major ISIS Upgrade
Since the complete replacement of the Integrated Student Information System is not scheduled to be completed before 2010, IBM Global Services was hired to analyze ISIS and recommend interim measures to improve the system. Since ISIS could only handle about 175 users at once, during the crucial first few weeks of each semester, students frequently have been unable to access the system as they seek to final-register and adjust their schedules.

Of IBM’s 20 recommendations, 18 have recently been implemented, and are being load-tested. The changes have improved the ISIS capacity to 2,000 simultaneous users, and have created a database “waitlist,” so that when ISIS is overloaded, scheduling requests will be held in the waitlist queue, and then processed when ISIS regains the capacity to do so.

Performance metrics a priority
The Special Committee on Planning addressed a range of issues related to measuring the performance of the University. Vice Rector W. Heywood Fralin noted that in order to transform U.Va. into a top 10-15 school among publics and privates, the University must make up ground on the private Ivies, who will always have more money than U.Va. in the “arms race” for educational funding. That means that U.Va. must spend its money more wisely than other schools, which requires better performance metrics, some of which are also required under the state restructuring agreement. The committee drilled into the U.S. News & World Report college rankings to understand exactly what criteria are factored into the rankings.

Committee chairman John O. Wynne also noted that it is a “basic fiduciary responsibility” of the board to review the year-to-year performance of the University in certain “basic snapshot [measures,] without getting into micromanaging stuff we don’t know anything about.” Having data to tell a story about how a dollar invested in U.Va. will be spent efficiently is advantagous when asking the General Assembly for funding, and when approaching alumni for donations, noted several members. Furthermore, parents and students will appreciate statistics that demonstrate how well graduates are doing in job placements, said board member Gordon F. Rainey Jr. This effort to better measure performance will be “perceived as impressive by all our constituents— students, alumni, donor base, parents, [and] politicians,” Rainey said.

Gomez John Wynne
Dr. R. Ariel Gomez, vice president for research and graduate studies (left), recommended fostering “a culture of high-impact research publication,” adding roughly 300,000 square feet of research space, and hiring and retaining the best scholars, to improve the University’s research and the rankings that measure it. Board member John O. Wynne (right) responded that U.Va. must rethink how to be smarter at the game of getting better faculty talent, since all top schools are in an “arms race” of fund raising, and he noted that examining the various rankings of university research quality show that “some of it is not just dollars. Some of it is effort.”

Many performance measurements, such as the value added to a student by his or her college education, don’t currently exist or are not well measured nationally or by peer institutions. Thus U.Va. is having to pioneer some performance metrics. The School of Medicine is developing certain measures, such as how well one resident “hands off” patient care to a new resident at the end of an 80-hour shift, said Arthur Garson Jr., dean of the School of Medicine. With such efforts, U.Va. is “taking a leadership position nationally” in developing performance metrics, Garson said.

Where there is a lack of standardized measurement among institutions, Wynne and Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Leonard W. Sandridge emphasized the importance of tracking our own year-to-year performanceand adjusting our performance measures, when possible, to allow comparison with our peers.

Donor Support
For the South Lawn

To date, the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences has raised nearly $30 million for the South Lawn Project. At least $45 million in gifts and pledges must be in hand before the College can break ground. In addition to a $3.5 million gift and two $1 million gifts from anonymous benefactors, the project has received support from the following major donors:

• John L. Nau and Barbara
B. Nau of Houston, $8.3 million
• David E. Gibson of Somerset, $4.8 million
• Thompson Dean of New York, $1.5 million
• John H. Birdsall III and Mary Scott Birdsall of Charlottesville, $1 million
• Joshua P. Darden Jr. of Norfolk, $1 million
• The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation of New York,
$1 million
• Andrew D. Hart Jr. of North Garden, $750,000

Gibson’s gift is part of a $5 million contribution that includes $200,000 for the Miller Center of Public Affairs. Hart’s gift is part of a new $1 million commitment that includes $250,000 for the Miller Center.



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