Leadership for the Public Good

If one had to characterize the University's purpose in a phrase, it would be to serve the public good. Mr.Jefferson envisioned an institution that would not only engage society, but also be engaged by it. His University's purpose would be, he wrote, "to form statesmen, legislators, and judges . . . to expound the principles and structure of government . . . to harmonize and promote the interests of agriculture, manufactures, and commerce, and by well informed views of political economy to give a free scope to the public industry."

The University of Virginia continues to fulfill this responsibility. Now, perhaps even more than at the beginning, the University's role, both as conservator of tried values and as a catalyst for change, is to sustain the public good.

Collaborating with Business

Universities create, preserve, and disseminate knowledge, but until recently this activity was largely restricted to the academic community. University researchers typically discussed their work with colleagues and shared their findings with students, but did not always reach the larger audience capable of taking this research and using it to create new products, new industries, and new jobs. In this sense, universities were a vast, untapped national source of wealth.

The isolation of academic research has not posed a problem because American business could afford its own proprietary research and development. But as the price of progress - the cost of developing new globe-spanning technologies, powerful lifesaving drugs, and more efficient sources of energy - increases, collaboration between these two research communities has become essential, both to create a competitive economy and to sustain our standard of living.

This year, the University has worked on several fronts to create bridges between the academic community and private enterprise. In 1994, we reached an agreement with MicroAire Surgical Instruments, making the company the first tenant at our North Fork Research Park, a 525-acre tract near the Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport. "We're excited to welcome MicroAire, which is precisely the kind of industry we want," commented University Rector Hovey S. Dabney. "It's clean, it will provide good jobs to local people, and it will interact with the physicians and other researchers at our Health Sciences Center."

The North Fork Research Park has been designed to provide space for research, business, and light industry in an environmentally safe setting. Our fifty-three-acre Fontaine Research Park, south of Charlottesville, already houses the Health Services Foundation, highlighting this park's potential as a center for medical research and patient care.

University professors help businesses act on the latest management theories. For instance, James G. Clawson, an associate professor at the Darden School, advises GE Fanuc Automation, one of the country's leaders in industrial automation. Clawson was assigned the daunting task of tearing down organizational barriers within the company's bureaucracy and speeding decision making. "It was a perfect fit," reports Robert P. Collins, CEO and president of GE Fanuc. "Now we're trying to clone Jim Clawsons all through our company."

Strengthening Local Government

The issues facing local governments are growing in number and complexity. Homelessness, crime, violence, and drug abuse - no longer restricted to our nation's largest cities - have joined such traditional but no less vexing issues as zoning and taxation on the agendas of city and county governments everywhere. To meet these challenges, local officials need information and exposure to the best practices. Universities, with their faculty expertise in teaching and information technology, are ideally suited to provide these services.

In 1994, the General Assembly created the Virginia Institute of Government to be a resource for local government. Housed in the Richmond office of the University's Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, the institute will train local government officials and offer a library and electronic data base of current information requested by governments.

Support for Education

Jefferson's belief that the future of democratic government rests squarely on an educated public is well known. In 1779, even before the end of the American Revolution, he called for the creation of a system of public school districts, warning that even under the best forms of government, "the most effectual means of preventing [tyranny] would be to illuminate, as far as practicable, the minds of the people at large."

At the University, this mission has been adopted by the Curry School of Education. One area in which the Curry School has assumed national prominence is in helping teachers use computers in their classrooms. This year, the federal Office of Technology Assessment cited the Curry School as one of the four best university programs preparing teachers to use technology and sent representatives to write a case study based on Curry School efforts.

The Curry School helps local school districts by way of the Instructional Technology Pilot Project, which allows Albemarle County teachers to make better use of Internet resources. Glen L. Bull, an associate professor of education, and Timothy M. Sigmon, director of advanced technologies at the division of Information Technology and Communication, created an information server capable of carrying digitized images, computer graphics, and sound. "There is a range of up-to-date instruction resources on the worldwide network," Bull said. Images from Library of Congress and Smithsonian exhibits, including the recent "Treasures of the Vatican" exhibit, can easily be viewed using the new equipment. Bull and Sigmon were recognized for their achievement by the Society for Technology and Teacher Education.

Other departments are also working to promote the continued vitality of our primary and secondary schools. Noting the cross-disciplinary nature of much scientific research, Stephen T. Thornton, a physics professor, has joined J. Preston Prather, an assistant professor of science education, in developing a program that lets teachers approach physics, chemistry, and earth and space science as an integrated unit rather than as separate subjects. This method seems to work as well with grammar school students as it does with professional scientists, who often cross disciplines in their research. The two-year-old project has paid off in higher achievement scores, student interest, and teacher enthusiasm.

Clinch Valley College: Creating Educational Networks

Clinch Valley College is working with four local community colleges to develop a 2+2 common admissions program. Students admitted to these community colleges would pursue a program of study designed jointly with Clinch Valley. On successfully attaining their associate degrees, they would move on to Clinch Valley. This program would enable Clinch Valley College to extend the benefits of a baccalaureate program to a greater number of young citizens without expanding its resource base as rapidly as might be required if students attended the College for four years.

After a national search, L. Jay Lemons became Clinch Valley College's fourth chancellor in thirty-five years. This fall, Lemons was installed as chancellor.

Bringing People Together

Although computers enhance the efficient flow of ideas, they are not substitutes for the immediacy and richness of personal contact. Jefferson constructed his academical village purposefully to promote the mix of perspectives vital to a democracy. The University keeps this tradition alive on a larger scale by inviting notable speakers to the Grounds to exchange viewpoints with students and faculty.

One of the most striking events on-Grounds this season was a talk given by Maya Angelou, acclaimed writer and educator, who stressed the need for African Americans in her audience to find poetry in their lives. "Poetry teaches you fundamentally that human beings are more alike than unalike," she said. Other writers visited the Grounds this year to meet with students, most notably Mark Strand, 1990 United States Poet Laureate, and Peter Matthiessen, noted fiction writer and naturalist.

Another guest on Grounds this year was alumna and astronaut Kathryn C. Thornton (GSAS '79), the recipient of the Women's Center's 1994 Distinguished Alumna Award. Thornton, who has walked in space three times and helped repair the Hubble Space Telescope during her last assignment on the Space Shuttle Endeavor, came to Charlottesville to talk about career opportunities for women in NASA.

Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko of Japan came in July for a luncheon in the Dome Room and a tour of the University Grounds. Their visit was part of a sixteen-day tour of the United States.

Go on to the VII. Builiding for the Future
Return to Table of Contents