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Preparing a Generation
of Leaders for Virginia 2020

While we work to create the University of 2020, we are engaged today in educating the women and men who will begin to take leadership positions in society by that time. What can we expect of this generation of leaders? Our entering class provides much cause for optimism.

Members of the Class of 2005 are fully representative of our diverse society. With approximately 2,985 members, the class includes 345 Asian-American, 272 African-American, and 79 Hispanic-American students, as well as 167 students from abroad. Fifty-four percent of this year's entering students are women. Slightly more than 80 percent ranked in the top 10 percent of their high school class, and the class's mean combined SAT score was 1313. Nine of our first-years scored a perfect 1600.

It is not intelligence alone that distinguishes our students. They actively seek not only academic challenges but also opportunities to serve others and to make a difference. Furthermore, they possess an uncanny ability to integrate intellectual insights with a passionate engagement in issues of the time, a combination that can only add to the public good. A few examples illustrate this point.

Rotunda Walkway Photo Working with the Center for Digital History and the Carter G. Woodson Institute for Afro-American and African Studies, English and American studies major Brandi S. Hughes (College '01) was a major contributor to the online archive called "Race and Place," which focuses on the Jim Crow era of racial segregation in Charlottesville. For her work, she won a prestigious Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship for graduate study; she was one of only eighty-five exceptionally promising students to receive this honor.

Third-year Echols Scholar Bradley P. Barnett (College '01) became the twentieth University student to receive a Harry S. Truman Foundation Scholarship. Mr. Barnett pursued a wide-ranging undergraduate program, completed the prerequisites for medical school, and graduated a year early. Yet it was his work with Charlottesville's homeless that was the deciding factor for the Truman Foundation Committee. He organized a group of students to work at a local homeless shelter and compiled a collection of essays and art that reflects their experience.

Third-year law student Cristian DeFrancia produced the film Mirror to History: Confronting War Crimes in Bosnia, which won the award for Best Political Documentary in the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival. A volunteer for the American Bar Association's Task Force on War Crimes, Mr. DeFrancia was awarded a public service fellowship from the School of Law and received sponsorship from the ABA and the Lawyers' Committee for Human Rights for the project.

Working with John Bonvillian, head of the linguistics program in the Department of Psychology, Nikki Kissane (College '01) developed a simplified sign language that is easier to learn, use, and understand than existing sign languages. Her 500-word lexicon will facilitate communication with stroke victims, children with autism or mental retardation, and individuals with cerebral palsy.

Rocket Photo
 
 
Setting Their Sights High

It took three years of effort for less than half an hour of excitement, but it was well worth it for students in Gabriel Laufer's undergraduate Mechanical and Aerospace
Engineering Design class. They designed and assembled
a complex payload of instruments that was carried into the upper atmosphere on an Orion rocket from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on the Eastern Shore. The payload consisted of infrared sensors, temperature and pressure monitors, and data transmitters, all housed in an aluminum skin containing a parachute and pyrotechnics for separating the heat shield and the rocket. Once separated from the rocket, the payload took temperature measurements of the land and water during a four-minute free fall before parachuting into the ocean, where it was recovered. The flight was a stunning success for the students.

"The flight lasted only twenty minutes, but it accomplished a great deal," Mr. Laufer says. "It proved to the students that they are capable of handling a major engineering problem, and it also demonstrated the capabilities of this new infrared sensing package for future atmospheric research projects."

The Infrared Sensing Experiment is an ongoing project supported by nearly $600,000 from Litton PRC, the Virginia Space Grant Consortium, NASA Wallops Flight Facility, NASA Langley, and Orbital Sciences Corporation. Students already have begun to analyze their data and prepare and refine their instruments for next year's launch.
Our students are widely respected for their thoughtful involvement in community affairs. Their commitment to others is the reason that Madison House, the independent, nonprofit organization that has served as the public service outlet for generations of University of Virginia students, received one of eleven Governor's Community Service and Volunteerism Awards this year. It is why Nursing Students Without Borders has made several trips to El Salvador for health care outreach. It is why the University ranks seventh in the number of Peace Corps volunteers, with sixty-three alumni serving as of January 2001.


Enduring Student Self-Governance

The Honor System, the cornerstone of the University's tradition of student self-governance, has once again proved effective in the face of formidable challenges. Last spring, with a computer program he developed, physics professor Louis Bloomfield detected possible plagiarism in scores of student papers for his popular class, "How Things Work." As a result, 148 cases have been referred to the Honor Committee. The students on the committee have shown that they are capable of handling this number of cases, which by the end of September had resulted in two expulsions, the dismissal of forty cases, and ten students awaiting trial. Four accused students have left the University voluntarily. Honor Committee Chairman Thomas Hall observes that this incident demonstrates the continuing relevance of the Honor System in an era when incidents of cheating are increasing nationwide. "The fact is, the University is drawing a line in the sand," he said. "There's a recognition that we're doing something here to address this issue in ways that other institutions are not."


Inspiring Students and Transforming Lives

Educating superb students is both a privilege and a challenge. Faculty are constantly revising and updating their curricula, offering new programs to broaden and reinvigorate the educational experience. This past year, the Department of Computer Science and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering collaborated in introducing a new major in computer engineering, the College of Arts and Sciences readied a major in Jewish studies that began this fall, and the Board of Visitors approved a new master's degree in digital humanities.

The University is continually exploring ways to harness new technology in its teaching. In the School of Architecture, students and faculty increasingly use digital terrain modeling, computer graphics animation, image processing, digital video production, and a host of other high-tech tools to produce visual reconstructions of buildings and to analyze designs. With the assistance of the University Library's Electronic Text Center, professors in two classes--one in English, the other in religious studies--loaded most of their course material into Palm PCs, including out-of-print and unpublished writings, court records, and other primary sources. While no substitute for traditional books, these devices greatly expanded the types of material covered in class.


Katherine Dirks Photo
 
Katherine B. Dirks
 
A Balanced Dynamo

Jefferson Scholar Katherine B. Dirks (College '01) made it look easy. A government honors student who is deeply interested in immigration and citizenship policy, Ms. Dirks was also an Echols Scholar and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. During her years at the University, she was president of the Raven Society and vice president of the International Relations Organization, and she devoted much of her time to University Mediation Services, Madison House, and Young Women Leaders, a program sponsored by the Women's Center that pairs student mentors with teenage girls to foster self-confidence and self-esteem.

Despite these accomplishments, Ms. Dirks almost declined to apply for a Marshall Scholarship. "I just didn't think I was Marshall material," she said. It was one of the few things about which she's been wrong.

This year, Ms. Dirks was one of only forty undergraduates in the United States to receive this prestigious award. Created by the British government as a gesture of gratitude for U.S. aid in the aftermath of World War II, the Marshall Scholarship will enable Ms. Dirks to study at Oxford for two years and covers books, travel, and living expenses. She is the eighth University student to receive this honor.

A Student Makes His Mark On The Arts

Ben Levy Photo
 
Benjamin Levy
 

Benjamin H. Levy III (College '01) arrived at the University with a deep love of music, but it was at Virginia that he discovered the power of music to break down barriers, to transform people's lives, and to enrich their experience.

In his second year, Mr. Levy organized a Jewish concert series sponsored by the Hillel Jewish Center. The first concert, "Jazz Sabbath," featured arrangements of traditional Sabbath music performed by the Free Bridge Quintet, the University's faculty jazz ensemble. In his fourth year, he raised more than $30,000 to bring world-renowned pianist Andre Watts to the Grounds for a performance at Old Cabell Hall. Mr. Watts played to a standing-room-only audience February 17, 2001, and offered a workshop for students the next day. The following month, Mr. Levy presented a two-day international conference on music suppressed by the Third Reich. He raised more than $40,000, recruited seventy student volunteers, and brought researchers and performers to Charlottesville from around the world. The highlight of the event was a concert featuring music first performed in concentration camps as well as compositions labeled degenerate by the Third Reich.

In the fall of 2001, Mr. Levy traveled to Paris, where he is using support from a Fulbright Fellowship to pursue further study of music suppressed by the Nazis. While in France, he will work with advisers at the Sorbonne, the Orchestre de Paris, the Bibliothèque nationale de France, and the French Holocaust Museum.


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