Seeking professors for a newly conceived university, Thomas Jefferson wrote that he was "anxious to receive none but of the highest grade" for his founding faculty. Today, as then, the quality of its teachers, researchers, clinicians, and scholars defines the University's worth. The President's Commission on the Future of the University recognizes faculty excellence as a key element of the outstanding U.Va. student experience, one of three priorities the commission identified.
Enriching the Student Experience
One way the commission proposes to enrich the student experience is by creating new opportunities for undergraduate research, international study, and public service. Faculty members translate their research interests into meaningful and challenging educational experiences for students. At the same time, they develop new ways for students to collaborate with them and fellow students as part of the learning process.
Rug with Yé'ii Figures (detail)
First half of the twentieth century
Diné (Navajo peoples),
probably Lukachukai, Arizona
Bequest of Mrs. Anne Brossman
University of Virginia Art Museum
The University's ability to draw on first-class research for educational purposes is evident in the U.Va. Bay Game, a unique large-scale simulation of the Chesapeake Bay watershed designed to teach students how the actions of different stakeholders — such as farmers, land developers, watermen, and citizens — affect its environment. Faculty members from ten departments and seven schools compiled the data and thousands of equations needed to create this high-tech teaching tool. Structured like a game with role playing, collaborative teamwork, and simulated systems, the Bay Game is a model for sustainability efforts and for identifying novel solutions for restoring watersheds worldwide. Students in two courses taught by Mark White, associate professor of commerce, and a January-term course taught by David Smith, professor of environmental sciences, tested early versions of the game, which was presented to the public on Earth Day.
David Evans, associate professor of computer science, uses examples from his National Science Foundation-funded research on improving the security of RFID chips — now used for everything from remote car locks to reusable fare cards — to demonstrate theoretical principles in his courses — and students respond enthusiastically. Three have been finalists for the national Computing Research Association's Outstanding Undergraduate Awards, recognizing excellence in computing research. Their projects include studying privacy vulnerabilities in Facebook and demonstrating a security hole in the world's most popular RFID chip. Since joining the School of Engineering and Applied Science in 2000, Mr. Evans has won five U.Va. teaching awards and was named a 2009 Outstanding Faculty Award winner by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.
U.Va.'s faculty commitment to education is reflected in the University's rankings. Five U.Va. schools are in the top fifty in U.S. News & World Report's 2010 edition of America's Best Graduate Schools: law (tenth), business (fifteenth), education (twenty-fourth), medicine (twenty-fourth), and engineering (thirty-seventh). For the first time, BusinessWeek named the McIntire School of Commerce the nation's best undergraduate business program. And for the second consecutive year, the Princeton Review ranked the faculty at the Darden School of Business as the best in the country for their commitment to teaching.
As part of the Commission on the Future's initiatives, the Curry School of Education's Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning (CASTL) will extend its scope to include higher education. Led by Robert Pianta, dean of the Curry School, CASTL researchers now conduct research in more than 475 schools in twelve states to help improve learning outcomes in prekindergarten through twelfth grade. Once employed in selected classrooms, CASTL's model of evidence-driven evaluation will transform student experiences at U.Va. and will be offered to educators worldwide.
Adding to the Store of Knowledge
Falmouth, Jamaica, is celebrated by historians as one of the Caribbean's last locales with intact colonial architecture. At the Falmouth Field School in Historic Preservation, directed by architecture professor Louis Nelson, students earn credit in applied historic preservation during a unique hands–on learning experience in historic building documentation and renovation.
In such diverse fields as medicinal chemistry, Tibetan studies, U.S. colonial history, special education, and a score of others, University faculty members conduct some of the leading research in the world. The quality of these research programs is indicated by the funding they attract. Research proposals are subject to intense scrutiny by panels of reviewers and face stiff competition.
At the Curry School of Education, Commonwealth Professor of Education Carolyn Callahan and assistant professor Holly Hertberg-Davis received funds from the U.S. Department of Education to implement a new program to support low-income and minority high school students in advanced placement courses. Associate professors Tonya Moon and Catherine Brighton were awarded a grant from the Department of Education to improve minority representation in gifted programs and interest those students in math and science. In partnership with the American Psychological Association, associate professor Robert Tai received a National Science Foundation grant to study the contributions of specialized public high schools to the development of scientific researchers.
Marcia Invernizzi, the Edmund H. Henderson Professor of Education; and research scientist Karen Ford at the Curry School received National Center for Education Research funds to create a Spanish version of their successful Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening Assessment. The program will help teachers determine whether Spanish-speaking children are having difficulty reading English because the language is unfamiliar or because they might have underlying reading problems.
Outside funding is often directed to well-established programs with a proven track record. For the fourth time, the Lilly Endowment awarded a grant to U.Va.'s Project on Lived Theology, a long-term research program directed by religious studies professor Charles Marsh. The project explores the relation between Christian spiritual beliefs and social practice. Mr. Marsh also received a Guggenheim Fellowship that will support his biographical work on German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
With grant funding from NASA and the U.S. Air Force, mechanical and aerospace engineering professor James McDaniel will lead an ambitious effort to develop the analytical tools needed to design jet engines that can propel aircraft to twelve times the speed of sound. These aircraft are one element in NASA's plans to replace the aging space shuttle.
Funding for a new Center for Catalytic Hydrocarbon Functionalization is advancing U.Va.'s research on alternative energy. A U.S. Department of Energy grant established the center, headed by Brent Gunnoe, professor of chemistry, who is developing technologies for converting methane gas and other hydrocarbon and fossil resources into readily transportable, higher-value, liquid fuels.
Brooks Pate, the William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of Chemistry, received an initial grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to create a new multi-institutional research center: the Center for Chemistry of the Universe. The center will provide insight into the chemical reactions occurring under extreme conditions in space, such as ultracold temperatures and intense radiation. Studying these reactions, which yield molecules that make up the building blocks of life, will increase understanding of life's origins. The center forges a collaboration between leading scientists in the field of astrochemistry from U.Va., the University of Arizona, Ohio State University, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.
The University strengthens society and serves the public by conducting the fundamental research that provides the foundation for technological, economic, and social progress. Faculty members apply their expertise to address issues of current concern.
Rob Kelly, professor of materials science and engineering, advised the committee overseeing the memorial to the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon. Using his knowledge of corrosion, he helped select the type of stainless steel for the 184 metal benches at the heart of the memorial. Charles A. Holt, the A. Willis Robertson Professor of Political Economy; and William Shobe, director of the Center for Economic and Policy Studies at the University's Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, helped design the nation's first auction of carbon dioxide emission allowances held by the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. The initiative regulates emissions from power plants in ten northeastern states.
Faculty members also convene groups to exchange ideas. During the year, conferences included a Miller Center of Public Affairs panel featuring California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell, who spoke on the nation's infrastructure needs; a School of Law panel on the international role of the United States in the global credit crisis; an Institute on Aging conference on Alzheimer's disease; and the Women in Leadership and Philanthropy program's first Women in Leadership Conference, featuring a keynote address by entrepreneur Sheila C. Johnson.
The Natural History of Carolina,
Florida and the Bahama Islands
Hand-colored engraving, c. 1731
Albert and Shirley Small
Special Collections Library
University of Virginia Library
The University also held the Sustainability Symposium on Climate Change and Health as well as the inaugural U.Va. Venture Summit, a gathering to promote the translation of information and discovery from the University into products and services that benefit society.
Honoring Their Accomplishments
Several eminent individuals have made their intellectual home at the University of Virginia, including Julian Bond, chairman of the board of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and professor of history; former Governor Gerald Baliles, now director of the Miller Center for Public Affairs; and Rita Dove, Pulitzer Prize winner, former poet laureate of the United States, and the Commonwealth Professor of English.
Recognition these faculty members gained this year reflects a lifetime of service to society. In 2008–09, Mr. Bond was named a Living Legend by the Library of Congress, Governor Baliles was selected Virginian of the Year by the Virginia Press Association, and Ms. Dove received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Library of Virginia.
Other faculty members were recognized for contributions that advanced knowledge in their disciplines. Retired chemical engineering professor Elmer L. Gaden, Jr., won the Fritz J. and Delores H. Russ Prize for pioneering research that enabled large-scale manufacture of antibiotics. The Russ Prize is the engineering equivalent of the Nobel Prize.
Kenneth Abraham, the David and Mary Harrison Distinguished Professor of Law; Judy S. DeLoache, the William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of Psychology; and Timothy Wilson, the Sherrell J. Aston Professor of Psychology; along with President John T. Casteen III, were among 229 new fellows elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Four University professors were named fellows by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, an honor bestowed on current members by their peers. They are Robert G. Bryant, Commonwealth Professor of Chemistry; Shu Man Fu, the Margaret M. Trolinger Professor of Rheumatology; Gabor Szabo, the Charles Slaughter Professor of Physiology; and Judith M. White, professor of cell biology.
In 2008–09, five U.Va. faculty members were selected for Guggenheim Fellowships, the most ever awarded to the University in a single year: Francesca Fiorani, assistant professor of art history; Risa Goluboff, law school professor; Deborah Lawrence, associate professor of environmental sciences; Charles Marsh, professor of religious studies; and Lisa Russ Spaar, associate professor of English. Ms. Lawrence also received a Fulbright Fellowship to extend her studies to focus on land-use transitions in the tropical forests of mainland Southeast Asia. She was also named a Jefferson Science Fellow by the U.S. State Department. The program brings six to eight tenured professors of science and engineering to the State Department to advise officials on science issues.
Another award for promising young faculty is the Pew Scholarship in the Biomedical Sciences. Kevin Janes, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, was one of just seventeen researchers nationwide to be selected for this award. John Quale, assistant professor of architecture, was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to conduct research in Japan in the summer of 2010. He will also be the Thomas Jefferson Fellow at Downing College, University of Cambridge, during the 2010 spring semester.