Thomas Jefferson believed that knowledge should be useful. In an 1813 letter to John Adams, he described the University he was planning to build as a place "where all the useful sciences should be taught." His insistence on the practical aspects of learning was grounded in a pressing necessity: the American Republic urgently needed educated young people who could apply their new knowledge to the governance of the nation.
John T. Casteen III
Nearly 200 years after the University's founding, we continue to believe in the importance of teaching "useful sciences," and we continue to meet the needs of the nation—and now the world—by graduating broadly and deeply educated women and men who are prepared to shape the communities they enter when they leave this place.
Universities meet the needs of a changing society by reinventing themselves perpetually. Mr. Jefferson knew this. In an 1804 letter to his friend Larkin Smith, he wrote, "Science is progressive. What was useful two centuries ago is now become useless … what is now deemed useful will in some of its parts become useless in another century." We have been working in the past year to ensure that the knowledge created and shared at the University continues to be useful. The Commission on the Future of the University, cochaired by Leonard Sandridge and Tim Garson, is outlining directions for the University for the next decade and beyond. The commission is defining strategies to enhance excellence in teaching, research, faculty and student affairs, global programming, and to seize opportunities and obligations related to the University's public mandates and its service to Virginia.
Planning of this kind has a long and honorable history here. Beginning with the Rockfish Gap Commission in 1818, commissions have repeatedly given direction to the University. In recent years, two commissions were formed: one to assess the issues of the late 1960s (coeducation, desegregation, enrollment growth, and graduate programs), and a second in the early 1990s to plot our course after cuts in state tax appropriations, leading eventually to our 1995–2000 capital campaign. The work of the current commission is equally important to the University's future, and the time is right for this type of planning. The restructured relationship with the state, a stable financial base for the first time since the early 1980s, triple-A bond ratings, investments from the last capital campaign, and an endowment that stands among the top twenty in the nation let us plan now from a position of strength that we may not have had when similar projects began in the past.
When Mr. Jefferson was making final plans for the University in 1821, he wrote that he wished to see its students "rising under a luminous tuition, to destinies of high promise." Today, the University's exceptional students work hard to fulfill the destinies that Mr. Jefferson wished for them. They regularly win national awards and scholarships recognizing their achievement. During the 2006–07 academic year, undergraduate students received seven Fulbright Scholarships, one Marshall Scholarship, three Goldwater Scholarships, one Udall Scholarship, and one National Security Education Program (NSEP) Boren Scholarship. Our graduate students received five National Science Foundation Fellowships, as well as many other awards and honors. The many examples of exceptional student performance that appear in the pages of this report give us great hope for their future and also for the future of our nation and our world.
Our faculty are perhaps the University's strongest asset. They create new knowledge, conduct important research, teach students and guide their research, and enhance the University's reputation nationally and internationally. The University's faculty includes one Nobel Prize winner, three MacArthur Fellows, and twenty-three fellows of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Four are members of the National Academy of Sciences, twelve are members of the National Academy of Engineering, and fourteen are members of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. Fifteen faculty members in the School of Nursing hold eighteen national academy fellowships, most of which are specific to nursing.
Diversity is important to us here because it enriches human experience and because it is a core principle of University life—the modern realization of our founder's dream of attracting the youth of all states to come and drink the cup of knowledge with us. This year's entering class was the most diverse in the University's history. Participation in AccessUVa, our financial aid program that removes barriers for low- and middle-income students, continues to rise. Some 848 students in this year's entering class are participating, up from 739 last year. Since joining us in 2005 as the University's first vice president and chief officer for diversity and equity, Bill Harvey has led our efforts to promote diversity among students, faculty, and administrators.
We continue to make steady progress in the Campaign for the University of Virginia. As of September 30, 2007, current commitments reached $1.4 billion, and future support totaled $1.1 million. The combined $1.5 billion surpasses the $1.43 billion raised in our last campaign. A remarkable $100-million gift from Frank Batten, Sr.—the single largest gift in the University's history—will enable us to create the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. Mr. Jefferson saw this University as the "future bulwark of the human mind in this hemisphere." Our obligation to our founder and our purpose with this campaign are to fulfill Mr. Jefferson's vision, and to secure for the University a permanent position among the top universities in the nation and in the world.
The feature section in this report focuses on science and technology. Guided by the Commission on the Future of the University, we are investing strategically in science and engineering by building new research facilities, attracting world-class researchers, and creating programs that will stand as models of excellence. This is entirely appropriate at a university founded by Thomas Jefferson, who saw himself as a scientist first. "Nature intended me for the tranquil pursuits of science, by rendering them my supreme delight," he wrote in an 1809 letter to Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours. We are fortunate as a people that Mr. Jefferson found time for additional pursuits—building this University, establishing our Republic, and articulating the fundamental principles of human freedom.
With deep gratitude to Mr. Jefferson, and with great hope for the future, faculty members here go on teaching useful knowledge to strengthen young minds and to ensure freedom in our time and beyond.
John. T. Casteen III