2012 Annual Report, U.Va. Office of the President


Shaping the future

From the President

We have reached a watershed moment in the annals of American higher education. Our colleges and universities, especially the public institutions, now face a daunting combination of pressures. They include the progressive erosion of funding, the demand for greater affordability, intensified focus on efficiency, and the promise and risks of emerging technologies. These pressures may push some universities to the brink of collapse, while other universities will adapt to the new realities of our era and consequently emerge as stronger, more productive engines of teaching, research, and service.

U.Va. is uniquely positioned to emerge as a leader at this defining moment. Our University combines the intellectual resources of a major research university with an intimate undergraduate experience, one in which professors and students work side by side in the shared pursuit of knowledge. We straddle the ground between the two chief functions of universities—teaching and research—and by combining strength in both areas, we offer a rare brand of education to our students. To sustain our traditional excellence, and to reach new heights of achievement in an era of constrained resources, we have identified three priorities for our immediate attention: faculty, curriculum, and research. We must pursue these priorities while continuing to offer superb clinical care to patients from the Commonwealth of Virginia and beyond.

We face a looming wave of retirements in our faculty. Many professors hired 30 or 40 years ago have become U.Va. legends for the quality of their teaching, research, and scholarship. Now is the time for us to hire the next generation of teachers and scholars who will follow in the footsteps of our current faculty. This is a generational turning point for the University, and committing adequate resources to the task is our top priority.

As we renew our faculty, we need to reinvent the liberal arts curriculum to meet the evolving demands of the 21st century. U.Va.’s brand of liberal education prepares our students to be critical thinkers, to write clearly and persuasively, and to integrate multiple perspectives before arriving at informed decisions. We must also, however, consider the emerging knowledge and skills our graduates will require once they leave the Grounds. Shaping a curriculum that combines general education with specialized skills for the new economy is our second priority.

A robust research program enriches the student experience while leading to discoveries that improve society and boost the economy. To continue to excel in the years ahead, we need to think strategically about our research investments and identify defined areas in which we want to develop deep expertise. Refocusing our research and scholarship is the third priority.

You will hear from faculty leaders across the Grounds about each of these priorities in this report. Together with alumni, parents, students, and others who care about this University, we are shaping a bright future for U.Va.