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Collaborative Focus on Real-World Issues


The solutions to many of the challenges facing society lie at the intersection of distinct disciplines. Faculty members are joining forces to create courses that give students the firsthand experience of working collaboratively to solve real-world problems.

In the School of Architecture, for example, faculty members developed a two-semester course that challenged students to explore Richmond's industrial East End and to imagine ways to transform and reinvigorate the area. During the first semester, historic preservation students in architectural history professor Daniel Bluestone's class researched the social, cultural, and political history of the East End, while landscape architecture students led by architecture professor Julie Bargmann identified ways to remediate the polluted soil and groundwater. During the second semester, architecture professor Maurice Cox and Marlon Blackwell, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Visiting Professor of Architecture, built on this foundation as students designed a brewery, thermal bath, community center, and other projects for the area.

Striking Out in New Directions

The Virginia Business Higher Education Council's Grow By Degrees campaign calls for the state's colleges and universities to award a cumulative 100,000 additional undergraduate degrees by 2025. One way the University is contributing to this effort is through a bachelor of interdisciplinary studies (BIS) degree program offered through the School of Continuing and Professional Studies. It enables adults who have completed sixty transferable hours at other institutions to transfer their credits to the University and complete their degree as part-time students. The School of Continuing and Professional Studies recently announced that it would begin offering the BIS program in the Richmond area starting in fall 2012 through new partnerships with John Tyler and J. Sargeant Reynolds Community Colleges. Currently, the program is available to students on the Grounds as well as at Tidewater Community College and Northern Virginia Community College.

A number of the schools, including the School of Medicine and the Darden School of Business, are revising their curricula to better prepare students for the challenges they will face on graduation. The Darden School, for instance, conducted an eighteen-month top-to-bottom review of its full-time MBA program and has already made more than a dozen changes to its program. These have included a complete makeover of the required first-year schedule to better coordinate classroom and related outside activities and to improve the postgraduation job recruitment process for Darden students.

The growing emphasis on the Grounds on programs with an international focus highlights new directions in education. The Darden School launched a new Global Executive MBA program, while the School of Architecture introduced an interdisciplinary minor in global sustainability.

The University also promotes extensive international exchange programs. There are 2,700 international students at U.Va., as well as 372 international scholars, 230 international faculty, and 377 international professional and classified staff. The University sends about 2,000 students abroad a year, studying in sixty-two countries. All together, about 40 percent of the University's four-year students study abroad.