Report of the President

During the last decade, the University of Virginia has made tangible progress toward fulfilling its founder's intention of creating a "bulwark of the human mind in this hemisphere." The institution Thomas Jefferson founded has emerged as the foremost public university in the nation, joining a select group of universities known throughout the world for the excellence of their programs and for their intellectual vigor.

Every member of our University community can claim a share of credit for these accomplishments. At the same time, we know that excellence in higher education cannot simply be achieved and held. Excellence is a process, a mode of thinking, and an ongoing exercise in planning and improvement. It is also important to remember that we do not seek excellence for ourselves, but to preserve the standing of this institution and to serve better the people of Virginia and beyond who come here to teach and learn.

Never before has the University of Virginia been able to exert such a constructive and widespread infiuence. Members of the faculty, who have orbited Earth and probed the mechanisms of the smallest cells, are recognized for their pioneering achievements in many fields. Research done here in cancer vaccines, microchip fabrication, and global warming has shaped and improved the lives of people far from the Grounds, and new advances are being made every day.

The long-range consequences of transferring knowledge, skills, and wisdom to students are even more significant. In the fall we assembled what may be the strongest student body ever enrolled in a public institution in the United States, making it possible for our accomplished faculty to engage our students at the very highest levels.

John T. Casteen III

Of the current undergraduate student population at the University, fully 79 percent were ranked in the top 10 percent of their high school classes and 50 percent had an A or A+ grade point average. U.Va. was the first choice of 71 percent of applicants who were accepted at other institutions.

Alumni, faculty, and friends of the University have contributed in record numbers to the Campaign for the University. Encouraged by this success, the Board of Visitors raised the overall campaign goal to $1 billion in February 1998. In fiscal year 1997- 98, the University received $129 million in philanthropic support. Gifts and pledges to the campaign reached $739 million, including some $76 million in future support. This trend shows no sign of abating.

The Best, Five Years Running

The University of Virginia has ranked first among public universities and in the top twenty-five of all universities in the country in U.S. News & World Report's annual ratings for five consecutive years. Individual schools and departments also scored high in the magazine's survey of America's best graduate programs. The School of Law ranked eighth, the Darden School placed tenth, and the Curry School nineteenth in the national survey. Programs in English, architecture, psychology, and history all placed in the top twenty.

While it is absolutely critical to the University's fiscal health, this remarkable philanthropic outpouring has symbolic as well as concrete importance. It reveals broad and enthusiastic support for the academic values of the University of Virginia. Campaign contributions so far have funded one-third of the total number of the University's endowed professorships, 367 new endowed scholarships for undergraduate students (including one funded by faculty and staff), 168 academic endowments, $31 million in unrestricted endowment funds, and 77 new endowed graduate fellowships. Thanks in large part to funds raised during the campaign, the University has invested $340 million in its physical plant over the last eight years. We are grateful to the campaign's co-chairs, Edward C. Mitchell Jr. (Col '63) and Thomas A. Saunders III (Darden '67) for their tireless efforts to convey the importance of the campaign to the mission of the University, to our friends, faculty, and alumni.

Making Every Dollar Count

Donors to the University of Virginia have every right to expect meaningful and efficient use of their donations. A counterpart to the Capital Campaign has been our effort to achieve greater financial independence through careful fiscal planning and increased efficiency. The University of Virginia already ranks as the most efficient of the top twenty-five universities in the United States, public or private, according to U.S. News & World Report. We are recognized nationally as a model for effective management. But efficiency, like excellence, is a moving target; it constantly must be tracked and measured. This ethic of self-scrutiny now has become a part of our institutional culture.

Although U.Va. was ranked first among public institutions for the fifth consecutive year in U.S. News & World Report's annual national survey, and in the top twenty-five of all universities, this year the University is ranked fifty-second among all universities in "faculty resources" -- defined in large part as the ability to pay faculty -- and sixty-third in financial resources, defined as the average spending per student. This startling discrepancy between the overall ranking and the level of resources in some ways is a point of pride: it confirms that the University of Virginia is exceptionally efficient, producing high-level results with fewer assets than its peers. But the same discrepancy poses a liability for the University in recruiting and retaining good teachers and researchers and poses challenges in maintaining high-quality in programming and facilities over time. Only high marks in other areas -- such as faculty and student quality, alumni satisfaction, and academic reputation -- produced a tie (with the University of California at Berkeley) for the top public spot this year.

In an era of declining state tax support, only the extraordinary success of the Capital Campaign and the prudent stewardship of all resources have maintained the University's margin of excellence.

Charting a Course for the Future

Faculty Leaders Guide Planning for the University's Third Century

The driving force behind the University strategic planning initiatives are four planning commissions, each charged with assessing current strengths and weaknesses, determining benchmarks, and setting priorities for implementation. Each commission is headed by an outstanding faculty leader:

• Robert Chapel, who heads the Fine and Performing Arts Planning Commission, has been Drama Department chair since his arrival at U.Va. in 1990 and a steadfast advocate of student involvement in the arts.

• Anita Jones, University Professor of computer science, will lead the Science and Technology Planning Commission. Jones recently returned to the University after a three-year leave of absence overseeing science and technology research for the Department of Defense.

• Rebecca Kneedler, associate dean for academic affairs at the Curry School of Education, leads the Public Service and Outreach Planning Commission. She served as Faculty Senate chair in 1996-97.

• Brantly Womack, chair of the Division of Asian and Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures, leads the International Activities Planning Commission. He is an expert in contemporary Chinese politics.

While many of our goals have been achieved, we do not now find ourselves at a stopping point. Rather, successes have won us a vantage point to identify directions for further improvement. If our intention is to continue to build on the strong base developed in the last decade and to become the nation's premier public institution in every sense, then we cannot be afraid to acknowledge areas of weakness. The University can be seen as a semi-mature institution: mature enough to have made hard choices and dramatic progress, yet young enough to show surprising potential for growth as well as obvious needs. A hard look at what we have accomplished and our aspirations for the future suggests four areas where we must plan to improve: science and technology, the arts, public service, and international initiatives.

 

Virginia 2020: Agenda for the Third Century

Announced in March 1998 and endorsed unanimously by the Board of Visitors in May, long-range planning in these areas began in earnest at the University-wide retreat in September and is now well under way. What follows are brief discussions of the rationale behind the selection of the four areas.

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY: Setting Higher Standards

The University has a number of excellent science programs, including physiology, the National Science Foundation's Center for Biological Timing, and environmental sciences, but many of our basic science programs need new support if they are to compete with similar programs at other top universities. It will require hard work and significant new resources to stand eye-to-eye with the world's first-tier programs.

Science departments in arts and sciences, engineering, and medicine have begun reviewing their programs, and their findings will be assessed by visiting teams of distinguished scientists. This external review will result in new recommendations for improving each department and will serve as the basis for a much broader examination of the sciences as a whole. Some programs may be merged. Others may need to forge interdisciplinary bonds to retain their standing in the overall assessment. Plans will take shape after we have conducted our self-evaluation, undergone critiques by outside experts, and developed a clear direction for the next ten or fifteen years. Once we have that knowledge, and have agreed upon a vision for the future, we will begin accumulating the resources to make our goals become realities.

Some things, we know already. One is that, in addition to strengthening the basic science departments, the University must promote the advances in scientific knowledge that arise from interdisciplinary research. The planning process will identify ways to stimulate scientific investigation between and among disciplines. Much good work has been done in this area in the last few years, and we intend to build on the collaborative and interdisciplinary strengths that have emerged in science, medicine, engineering, and the humanities.

STRENGTHENING THE ARTS

Our second area of focus is the fine and performing arts. The University lacks a comprehensive plan for the arts. The facilities are uneven and, in some cases, severely inadequate. The dean and department chairs in arts and sciences have begun work to identify strengths and weaknesses in these disciplines. Examples of excellence include the Bayly Art Museum's collection of Old Master prints, the Heritage Repertory Theatre's summer productions, the music department's computer composition laboratory, archaeological investigations of an ancient city in Sicily, and an interdisciplinary study of ancient Pompeii using computer models. The arts programs have made these advances under less-than-ideal conditions. Departments lack sufficient scholarships and fellowships to compete for the most talented students. Although more than four hundred endowed professorships have been established at the University, only two faculty members hold endowed chairs in all the arts programs. Yet few areas touch more students, including non-majors. Each semester, the courses in music, art, and drama attract more than 4,600 enrollees.

As a first step toward correcting these deficiencies, a team of architects and faculty members are drawing a conceptual physical plan for an Arts Precinct that incorporates the programmatic as well as physical needs for the arts. The project focuses on the art department, the Bayly Museum, the drama department, the architecture school, and the fine arts library. The arts departments will develop around a completely rebuilt Fayerweather Hall and other new structures located near the Culbreth and Helms theatres and the School of Architecture. The Bayly Museum, which is too small for our growing collections, may revert to another use. The department of music will move from Cabell Hall and will benefit from the addition of a concert hall and other performance space. Completion of this project will entail the largest construction project the University of Virginia has ever undertaken, and the net result will be a revitalized center of University and community activity near the heart of the University Grounds.

 

IMPROVING SERVICE TO THE COMMONWEALTH

From Tidewater to Northern Virginia, citizens are looking to the University for the value of its teaching and research and for leadership in determining future priorities. The third commission of the U.Va. 2020 initiative is dedicated to improving our performance in these areas of public service and outreach to residents of the Commonwealth and the region.

The University of Virginia is distinctive among comprehensive institutions that belong to the Association of American Universities in the limited number of off-campus, part-time, and other adult degree programs it offers. This is an area in which we clearly can improve. We need to be creative and fiexible in the delivery of these neglected services, so that they benefit the maximum number of Virginia's citizens. Other first-rate universities run highly successful programs of this kind. We can, also. As a first step, I have asked the faculty and provost to develop a pilot project to enroll part-time adult students in degree programs. Substantial progress toward these goals has been made. Pending approval by the Faculty Senate, part-time degree programs for adults could begin in 1999.

As part of this effort, the University will examine the relationships between research and public service and between research and industry. Increased access for private industry to the University's diversity of resources will boost the region's economy and return value to the Commonwealth.

Two research parks developed by the University of Virginia Foundation already support close ties between industry and University faculty and students. The parks have been met with enthusiastic response from the technology and biomedical industry. Another promising venture is the Virginia Gateway initiative designed to improve the fiow of technology from the University to industries within the state. Many more such opportunities exist. To raise these issues to the level of attention they deserve and to facilitate development of these crucial relationships with private industry, I have appointed Gene Block vice president for research and public service. Less than a year after taking this on, Mr. Block is actively building the understanding and cooperation that results in exciting new ventures and strong economic investment in our region.

INTERNATIONALISM IN THE CURRICULUM

Exporting Excellence

Countries seeking to prepare future leaders for business, research, and government find the Jeffersonian plan of education practiced at the University of Virginia particularly attractive. Representatives of the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science, and Community Development met with University administrators in the spring about the possibility of establishing a selective, fully coeducational university in this Middle East emirate. The Board of Visitors approved discussions between Qatar and University officials in July.

A second team visited the country in late October specifically to explore human rights questions. General impressions were positive and further negotiations are now under way. A decision on the cooperative agreement is expected in 1999.

President Casteen, Nathaniel Howell, and representatives from Qatar discuss possible alliances for higher education in the region

Finally, we are working on coordinating and expanding our international initiatives to give students here the global perspective they need to thrive in the twenty-first century. As telecommunications and the Internet create an ever-smaller world, the University intends to advance as an agent of enlightenment in the new global society.

We already do a great deal in this arena with international programs at the Darden School and the McIntire School and substantial research projects in Pompeii, Brazil, Denmark, and Ghana, but we do not make adequate use of what is done abroad to build a stronger University here at home. The challenge is to gain a comprehensive understanding of these activities so that we can build on our strengths in such areas as foreign languages, South Asian studies, Middle East studies, religious studies, and business.

As part of this initiative, we are exploring the possibility with the emirate of Qatar of establishing a campus in Doha, capital of that Persian Gulf nation. This program would build on the University's strong Arabian Peninsula and Gulf Studies Program. Former United States Ambassador to Kuwait, W. Nathaniel Howell, who directs this program, has been at the forefront of this effort.

Since its beginning, the University has dedicated itself to providing students with the knowledge and skills needed to become effective members of a democratic society. In the last years of this century, we are now members of a global society as well. As the top public institution in the country, the University must expand its programs to encompass a broader constituency.

As the four commissions and the entire University community begin efforts to advance these disciplines, we will study our competitors closely and establish new and higher benchmarks against which to judge ourselves. We will engage all members of this community -- faculty, students, alumni, and staff -- to develop a comprehensive, well-coordinated plan for progress in each area.

 

A New Era

This is a rare and wonderful Academical Village. In its daily reality, it both resembles and differs from the rhetorical formula that we all know. It lives and breathes, and it changes over time. The University of Virginia is again entering an era of great possibilities to define and achieve our vision of excellence. Being first rate involves tough self-discipline. We must direct new resources toward areas of real need and, sometimes, away from areas that are in decline. Moreover, any one group of leaders, no matter how brilliant or far-sighted, cannot achieve this alone. Excellence must be defined, sought, and continually supported by all constituencies of the University.

The accomplishments of the past decade have, in their way, enabled us to rise to the challenges before us. The steps we take today will create new opportunities and new challenges for the generations that come after. Accordingly, I ask you to join with me in adding our efforts to the legacy of the University's past. It takes time to plan -- we cannot expect to do everything at once. It takes time to build resources. We know this: together we accomplish things today we could not even imagine in 1990.

Sincerely,


John T. Casteen III
(President's Office Home Page)



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